After so many years in the web marketing industry, if there is anything consistent between all the companies I've worked for, it's the need to see resultsnow. Understandably, this comes out of a short-term gain mentality that is indicative of the quarterly-earnings report approach. For any size company, making money and paying the bills are the biggest stressor and so focusing on the short term seems reasonable. For success with regard to search engines and organic traffic, this approach can end up showing short-term gains but put your company at long-term risk.
Once ranking well on search engines became a traffic driver, every online organization wanted to uncover the secret trick to ranking well. These methods were then forcefully implemented in the competitive hopes of outranking your competitors and stealing their business. Keyword stuffing, link spamming, and all sorts of methods became popular as ways to "trick" or "convince" the engines to rank one's business well. But as I'm sure you've all been aware, the engines work hard to keep these methods secret and, when applicable, downrank or remove offenders from the index.
As I've repeated elsewhere, good search marketing is a partnership between the site and the search engine. An engine's success is completely dependent upon the quality (or accuracy) of their results for a search. Therefore, it's in Google's best interest to find the right result as they see it and not have results chosen by the businesses. This keeps Google impartial at the search level and has been part of their ongoing dominance in the industry. Google uses robots (computer programs) to crawl and index sites and so they look at over 200 factors to determine its ranking. When someone fools Google into thinking their site is a better search result than what Google thinks, this can show enormous short-term gains. Companies love to see this! But Google, and the other engines, loses their impartiality when any site fools the robots into ranking well.
I've spoken before about polluting the river. But the real question is how does a company focus on improving rankings in engines without tricks, tips, or tactics to force them to rank higher? I've always felt the key is to ask what Google is looking for and build your strategy around that. Google wants quality results so, to date, the single greatest thing a company can do it provide unique content that you can get nowhere else. This is the "slow burn"...as it takes a lot of focused time and effort to craft and publish unique content on one's own site (not to mention rarely do companies invest in copywriters as they should). Your site may be the best result, or the best looking result, but if you have very little content, incorrect content, or old content, your site is not considered a valuable result for a search.
It seems obvious to point this out, but I have a number of clients who still fail to see the overall strategic and competitive benefits of a copywriting strategy. But if an organization is writing consistent and unique content, then over time this will accumulate and begin being an authoritative resource on the content topics. This will generate more inbound links (from sharing for example) or better rankings. Google begins seeing the site as something worth showing to searchers and not just another business looking for money.
The Slow Burn has a nice secondary effect...in that it helps prevent rankings declines. With a strong library of content that is refreshed regularly with new content, you continue to build authority, provide yourself a constant stream of content marketing assets, and begin to appear as the educational, informative subject matter expert on your field. There are many great tactics to support this approach, but it really comes from the business client and their confidence in their product or service. There is really no better person to write this content though. Whether it's a blog, an article like this one, or regular Facebook customer engagement, an SEO campaign will only be successful over the long term when the marketing is done to benefit the customer and not the engine. So in a sense, we succeed in SEO by ignoring SEO.
This may seem counterintuitive or absurd if you view SEO as a marketing channel like any other. But unlike other channels, SEO is utterly dependent upon the search engine's opinion of your site. And the best way to get that engine's love and affection is to give it what it needs: helpful content to the intended search. Be unique, be generous, and be consistent in your writing. There are plenty of great tips to good content writing (contact me at email@example.com and I can help with this) that helps attract visitors (those Top 10 lists are gold!). But if you just set up an ongoing process of providing fresh, new content once a month or more, your rankings will gradually and consistently grow. But moreover, they are less likely to decline the next time the engines decide to alter their algorithms to penalize the SEO tricks and link networks that were build artificially or non-organically. Be smart! Writing good content is hard but more than anything, it's your key to differentiating your business and catching the attention of the engines. Good luck!