SEO has always had an air of mystery about it. It goes back to the early days when it was possible to improve your rankings in Google by using slightly dodgy tactics. Remember keyword stuffing, invisible text and the numerous meaningless directories that linked back to your site.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for some people), those days are long gone. Google is now an incredibly sophisticated search engine with the one aim of helping people find exactly what they are looking for. What it wants is useful information that answers the question that the searcher typed in, so that the searcher keeps using Google because it is so clever at finding them exactly what they want. In their own words, "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
What's the Answer?
So if old-fashioned SEO trickery no longer works, what's the secret ingredient? There has to be a shortcut, that one thing that circumvents the boring, hard work and gets you to the top of page one, hasn't there? That secret sauce that your competitors know about, the one that got them great rankings.
Well, the clue is in Google's mission, and it's the word useful. Yes, it's that simple. It's not easy but it is simple. To succeed in SEO you have to make sure your web pages are useful. That means useful to the people who are looking for them. So you need to understand what they are looking for, the questions they are asking, and provide the answers. And that comes down to your knowledge and experience, and your willingness to help your website visitors by providing lots and lots of relevant, helpful information.
Is it Relevant?
If someone clicks on a link to your site because they are trying to find the solution to a particular problem, and they find a load of content about how great you are and what your products are made of, that's not useful and so it's not in line with Google's mission. If, however, someone is trying to find a specific product made of a certain material and they find that page, then it is useful. That's why it's so important to research what people are looking for and how they make decisions. Ideally you will have different types of content for each stage they go through on the way to becoming a customer, so that your website is useful all the way along that journey. It's called Inbound Marketing.
The Secret Ingredient
So there you go. No clever tricks, no secret sauce, just plain, boring old hard work. In the immortal words of Po in Kung Fu Panda, "There is no secret ingredient".
If you want your business to be the Dragon Warrior of your industry, you need to recognise that it's all down to you, your knowledge and your people. You just have to work hard, keep creating content and remember to be useful.