Then you have to get that site to link back to your site. "We do almost all of that with email," says Joyce. "After deciding it is a good site, we write a personalised email and send it. But if we can't find legitimate contact information for the site, we don't bother with them - they probably don't want to be contacted for a reason."
Not every site responds. "I am usually happy with a 5% response rate, but it can sometimes be 30%, and sometimes 2%," says Joyce. "It depends on the industry and reputation of the client. DIY bloggers want to connect to home furnishing sites. But we once had a loan site that no one wanted to connect to."
"If they say they will do it for money and the client will buy links, we will negotiate a no-follow link that does not violate Google guidelines. The link is still good for traffic. Some webmasters say they want $25 to cover the effort to go into their code. Others just say, 'Yes, we did it and here's the link,'" explains Joyce. "But from my experience, linking does not involve big money."
In any event, "Google wants people to think that they can tell the difference between paid and unpaid links, but if a link looks natural, they can't tell if you paid for it," says Joyce. "If you are a small site and have three links, a couple of paid links a month would not be noticeable."
Meanwhile, the search environment is changing. Users are increasingly speaking their search queries into mobile devices, using services such as Apple's Siri and Google Assistant, and getting spoken answers. SEO will have to change to keep up.
"Mobile search now amounts to more than half of all Google searches, and of those, 20% to 25% are voice," says Barry Schwartz, head of web marketing firm RustyBrick. "Those are usually longer queries, such as 'How do I do X-Y-Z?' Your site has to have content that answers those kinds of questions."
"You need to identify the top 10 questions that your customers ask and have a page that answers each of them," Rubin explains. "You must answer each of them clearly and concisely."
"Voice search and mobile search are the future of the web, and therefore any SEO firm who knows what they are doing is working in this area," says Clay. "Find the terms that are important and define them, using 'what is.' Then use schema to define the words further - if it said 'mercury,' put schema around it saying it is the chemical, not the planet."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.