Plan your link structure. Start with the main navigation and decide how to best connect pages both physically (URL structure) and virtually (internal links) to clearly establish your content themes. Try to include at least 3-5 quality subpages under each core silo landing page. Link internally between the subpages. Link each subpage back up to the main silo landing page.
Great analysis and tips, Rand. Your first tip was to focus on branded search... but when it comes to small-medium businesses, there's a limit on how much brand search-demand one can produce. Are you saying that google search will eventually become an engine made only for entities/businesses we already know of? Where does that leave the whole discovery process?
Google is moving into more and more aggressively commercial spaces, like jobs, flights, products, all of these kinds of searches where previously there was opportunity and now there's a lot less. If you're Expedia or you're Travelocity or you're Hotels.com or you're Cheapflights and you see what's going on with flight and hotel searches in particular, Google is essentially saying, "No, no, no. Don't worry about clicking anything else. We've got the answers for you right here."
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Use social media. Build a presence on social media networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc. All of these activities help to get your name out and website address out on the internet. Read about how we doubled our social media audience in a week. Add share buttons to your site to make it easy for people to share your content. And write content worthy of sharing.
Well as noted in the post it is not just above the links that was only one key part of a wider strategy. This website in question has deep levels of content. So it is not just about a blog section, they have numerous high quality content sections we have developed over time. It would not be advisable ever to attack competitors sites with low quality links.
Paid search advertising costs money, which at first may seem like a disadvantage, but these costs can easily be managed. With cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) campaigns, you spend as much or as little as you want. You can adjust your campaign budget at anytime, so if your business is going well, you can spend a little extra to drive traffic to your website and catch the attention of new customers.
So if you're in the local space and you're saying, "Gosh, Google has really taken away the ability for my website to get the clicks that it used to get from Google local searches," going into Google My Business and optimizing to provide information such that people who perform that query will be satisfied by Google's result, yes, they won't get to your website, but they will still come to your business, because you've optimized the content such that Google is showing, through Google My Business, such that those searchers want to engage with you. I think this sometimes gets lost in the SEO battle. We're trying so hard to earn the click to our site that we're forgetting that a lot of search experience ends right at the SERP itself, and we can optimize there too.
Though a long break is never suggested, there are times that money can be shifted and put towards other resources for a short time. A good example would be an online retailer. In the couple of weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays, you are unlikely to get more organic placement than you already have. Besides, the window of opportunity for shipping gifts to arrive before Christmas is ending, and you are heading into a slow season.