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As with many things, the more SEO changes the more SEO stays the same. I call these unchanging principles the “10 Commandments of SEO.”

It’s a good idea to review these essentials so that you have proper context for evaluating the latest tips and trends. After all, if you forget the basics, you might find yourself misunderstanding new techniques or end up doing things that you don’t even need to be doing at all.

1. Thou shalt research your market.

Ask yourself the following question:

• What is your brand’s purpose?

• Who is your market? Where can you find them online?

• Is there a niche or location market that you want to tap into?

• Who are your competitors, and what are they doing?

• How much time are you willing to spend on marketing your business?

• What are your SEO goals?

2. Thou shalt not neglect mobile and voice search.

If you aren’t mobile friendly, Google won’t give you a second glance when it comes to rankings. The reason for this is simple: The vast majority of internet users own smartphones and use them frequently.

Load speed, font size, contact information and a format that is optimized for a smaller mobile screen are a few of the key factors to keep in mind.

Optimizing for voice and local SEO is also important. Think about semantics and the long-tail keywords that make mobile voice searches different from those that are initiated from a desktop.

3. Thou shalt focus on quality content.

It’s quality over quantity. If your readers decide you’re not giving them anything valuable, they’ll bounce right away.

4. Thou shalt spend wisely.

Successful SEO is a blend of knowing when to spend and when to lay low and let the search engine do the work for you. You might be able to see more immediate results with pricey keywords, but organic search might be the strategy that leads to long-term success and a higher return on investment (ROI).

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The trick is to approach SEO from a big-picture perspective with the long game in mind. Research and patience are your friends.

5. Thou shalt be wary of keyword stuffing.

Keywords drive SEO, so the more the merrier, right? Wrong! Search engines use keywords to rank you, and they also use keywords to bounce you. Put too many keywords into your content, and the search engine will assume you’re trying to manipulate its algorithm.

6. Thou shalt honor search engines.

We don’t know all of Google’s metrics, so it’s impossible to create the perfect SEO strategy. Instead, honor what we do know is important to Google:

• User experience: If you want a great ranking, make sure that visitors find your site accessible. Repeat visitors mean that Google makes more money too, so you can bet it’s paying attention.

• Click-through rate (CTR): The higher your CTR, the better. It means users received enough value on your website to keep exploring.

• Page speed: Three seconds is all you have before visitors start to back out of a slow-loading page. Two seconds is optimal.

• Mobile optimization: Is your site mobile friendly? If not, don’t expect to be ranked at all.

• Keyword use: The title still maintains the highest level of significance for Google, so make sure your keywords are snuggled in there.

• Content: Quality content with a sprinkling of relevant keywords wins.

• Quality backlinks: Strive to create content that inspires popular and authoritative sources to link to you.

7. Thou shalt use analytics.

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One of the gravest SEO sins is not studying performance. Google Analytics is one of the easiest and most comprehensive tools you can use. It allows you to track traffic to your site and tells you how that traffic is arriving so you can adjust your strategy accordingly. Best of all, it’s free.

8. Thou shalt not be jealous of the competition.

Smart businesses don’t envy their competition; they learn from them. Successful competition means that your market is thriving and it’s time for you to get in on the action. The goal, though, isn’t to take away from your competitors, but to build something better of your own.

Start by looking at their site. What are they doing right, and what can you be doing better? What niche can you cater to that they don’t have a grip on yet? What are their weak spots, and how can you strengthen yourself in those areas?

9. Thou shalt have patience.

SEO isn’t just one thing; it’s a combination of strategies and techniques that work together. Plan on about four to six months before you really start seeing solid results. Tweak your plan along the way, and don’t rush. Hasty reactions can kill a successful SEO strategy.

10. Thou shalt revisit the 10 Commandments of SEO.

A solid SEO foundation is crucial in the world of digital marketing. These 10 commandments will help you lay the foundation for success. SEO can feel like a tricky business, but it’s one that can be easily navigated when you have the tools to succeed. If you ever feel like you’ve lost your footing, come back to these 10 commandments, and remember how to find success in the first place.

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