Anyone who has ever meddled with SEO has asked themselves a ubiquitous question, “How quickly can I rank for [insert keyword phrase here]? More and more, I’m finding the word “quickly” and “SEO” don’t belong in the same sentence.

We want to believe there’s a magic SEO tactic that, if used, will revolutionize our results. On the contrary, a sound, long-term strategy consisting of great content combined with long-term SEO will win out. Below are 6 tips for ensuring long-term SEO success.

  1. Build links steadily, not suddenly: We’ve known for years that overly aggressive link building can trigger ranking penalties. If Google sees optimization happening too quickly, they may penalize you for what they consider unnatural link building practices. Even successful link-baiting campaigns can sometimes backfire, resulting in too many links in too short of time. In reality, the safest bet is slowly developing high quality links over a longer period of time.
  2. Focus on long tail keywords first, then broaden your approach: Suppose you were trying to rank for the keyword “ipod”. With the competition you face, its unlikely you rank for this word anytime in the next 5 years, even with aggressive SEO. Rather than shooting for the stars and landing on the moon, consider taking a different approach. By starting out optimizing for your primary keyword in addition to a modifier (e.g. color ipod, ipod 60GB, etc), you’re more likely to rank in a reasonable amount of time. Since this modified keyword phrase contains your primary keyword (ipod), you will also slowly start gaining ground on your original target. In a way, you’re shooting for the moon with the intention of gradually working your way to the stars.
  3. Diversify your Target Keyphrases: Sure, your top keywords may be performing well today, but what about a few years from now when your competitors catch up, Google changes their algorithm, or some other external factor pops up? Rather than keeping all your eggs in one basket, begin researching now what you’d like to rank for a year or two down the road.
  4. Create landing pages before you need them: Ever get an idea for a new keyword, but don’t have time to build a page? You may not have the time to fully create and optimize a page at the time, but why not at least create the page, throw a few internal links at it, and come back and optimize it later? I’ve found that this strategy gets the clock ticking with Google, since they obviously place value on the age of the page itself. Even if you can’t get to it for 3 months, you’re better since the page has now been given time to age in the index.
  5. Use Reactive vs. Proactive keyword research: Even the best keyword research will never yield perfect results. That keyword phrase that you thought would be easy to rank for sometimes ends up being more work that its worth. Or worse yet, once you are ranking you discover it isn’t converting to sales. A reactive SEO keyword research method would take a different approach. Rather than doing a perfect job of keyword research upfront, you analyze the traffic you are currently getting and re-optimize your pages accordingly. As I analyze the top keywords bringing traffic to my blog, I’ve realized 90% of the keywords I never intended on optimizing for, it just happened. But once I see it happening, I reoptimize the posts, adding some internal links and on-page tweaks.
  6. Content first, SEO second: Yes, it sounds trite, but if you focus on your content good rankings will follow. Quite frequently, potential clients contact me and ask them to review their website, believing they have an SEO problem. On the contrary, they have a content or usability problem, and SEO is the last thing they should be paying for. It’s important to not get caught in an SEO tunnel vision mindset. SEO will help good companies be better. SEO will do nothing for sites that have nothing to offer in the first place.

What advice do you have for long term SEO results? Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts.