Everyone wants to know how they can be “number one on Google.” Essentially, this question is mother to the SEO industry, and answering it is guaranteed success. While the SEO process is intricate, arduous and never-ending, there are three general areas in which effort should be applied: content, compliance and in-bound link building.

You may have heard, “content is king.” This rings true, indeed, when it comes to ranking in the search engines. One must have fresh content with cohesive language that is updated frequently. The more content one has around a particular subject (or keyword), the more valuable one will be perceived to be by the search engines. If articles and other content are well written and target similar or specific keywords, the content factor becomes fairly self-sustaining. Additional improvements in content include applying keywords to headers andtags that hang out “behind the scenes,” optimizing URLs to contain keywords, and optimizing the content by applying higher density and prominence of keywords within the text.

The second area is what I like to call “compliance.” Basically, the search engines have let us know what we can do to make their lives easier, and incidentally, doing so increases rankings and indexation. As content changes and new pages are added, more effort for compliance must be applied. This includes regular site audits; error fixes; frequent sitemap submissions; keyword, URL and content optimization.

Lastly, there is what weaves the web together: links! Search engines, just like people, use links to hop from page to page, from site to site. The entire web falls to pieces without them and dilutes the user’s experience. Therefore, links are very valuable in search rankings. The most credible and valuable links are those that are coming to your site from other reputable and relevant sites. Think about it like this: when a celebrity is walking down the street, what insinuates her popularity is not how many people she is looking at, but how many people are looking at her. Likewise, search engines determine that a site with many relevant, inbound links is popular among users and gives it a big boost.

This is a basic overview for those of you who are just approaching SEO or who need some help wrapping your brain around the process. Try classifying SEO tasks into one of these areas to help you plan your strategy; it will help keep you organized. Or take a look at what your current SEO efforts are to see if you are addressing the three categories: content, compliance, linking. If not, it will be apparent what you are missing. If so, then enjoy the validation. Cheers!