The debate rages about whether SEO is dead with each successive Google update. The simple truth is that SEO will never die, but marketing tactics have to evolve quickly as search algorithms become increasingly sophisticated.

The changing landscape often leaves website owners in the lurch, wondering why their website suddenly lost position, even after paying big bucks for SEO services only a few months ago.

Here's a harsh truth: If your website drops in rank, it's usually your own damn fault. You demanded instant results, and the most reliable way to achieve fast results is through risky manipulation schemes...the same schemes Google works hard to shut down with each tweak and update.

When an SEO specialist promises fast results, you might want to run the other way. A legitimate and knowledgeable SEO company will explain that building a solid foundation takes time, but lasts. No matter what changes Google makes, web presence built on quality content, organic links, and authentic relationships with customers will survive.

You also need to understand that your competitors can outrank with either the same long-term strategies or by gaming the system for a fast, but temporary return. It's competition; the only way to win is to constantly step up your efforts. SEO is never, ever finished.

These 5 essential strategies are so legit they'll never earn you a penalty:

1. Epic Content

Good content isn't good enough. Your content needs to be the best on the web. How can you produce the best content on the web? Base your content on what your specific customers are looking for. Put time into thorough research to supply your writers with topics, ideas, and angles they need to write the kind of evergreen content that will dominate your niche for years.

I can tell you from experience that most businesses hire a writer and tell them to write blog posts with zero input. Under those circumstances, very few writers are capable of producing quality posts, copy, or other content, and those who are capable are expensive and worth every penny. The rest, without guidance, will produce the same regurgitated pablum found on every corner of the web. Potential customers won't be impressed, and neither will the SERPs.

2. Video Content

While video may be way outside of your comfort zone, consider that YouTube attracts more searches than Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL combined. Let me clarify that YouTube is not a true search engine. It only searches its own content, and returns only video results. However, the implications are clear – video is popular and valuable. Posting videos on YouTube and embedding them on your site is a great way to be found.

3. Mobile SEO

Since mobile conversion still stinks, despite mobile surpassing desktop search, it seems obvious most mobile sites are not fully optimized. Mobile sites and apps need to be user-friendly even on a small format and optimized for local search.

What Is Mobile Friendliness?

Learn how to make your site mobile friendly for SEO with our FREE SEO guide

Other Mobile SEO areas include AMP pages and Schema structured data. The unifying concepts are speed and information geared to please both users and SERP spiders.

4. Face to Face

No, I haven't gone crazy. Influencer marketing is the hottest buzzword in marketing. It's not by accident that conferences and trade shows have grown into a $14 billion industry.

Influencers are inundated with pitches and requests. Everybody wants their attention. Face-to-face meetings are extraordinary opportunities to meet people who probably would not otherwise give you the time of day on social media. Not because they don't care, but because you're an anonymous text lost among hundreds of thousands of followers. At a conference, it's relatively easy to meet keynote speakers and impress them with your savvy wit and not-sweaty palms.

Pro tip: be prepared, relax, and approach them when you're not freaking out, so you won't act like a gibbering idiot.

I recently found out that Steve Wozniak is going to be at NextCon16, a business conference in Arizona on November 14 – 16. I'm a pretty big tech nerd, and the prospect of meeting Woz in person makes me want to squeal like a 13-year-old fangurl at a Justin Beiber concert. At conferences, you'll pass people you want to meet in the halls, run into them in the coffee shop, and attend the same parties.

Keep your game face on and your remarks prepared. I recently met a personal hero, Darren Rowse, and the photo we asked someone else to take when I could not figure out how to selfie revealed an unprecedented frazzle of crazy hair. Glad it was a Halloween event.

Right now you're asking how this is SEO? Fair question, complicated answer. Networking offers a number of SEO values:

  • Generate social signals – By expanding your personal network, you increase social chatter about your business.

  • Build your authority – Present yourself well, and you increase your authority. In fact, if you have the opportunity to be a presenter, do it. Being a speaker draws influencers to you.

  • Grow your network – When influencers talk to you because they know you and want to continue the conversation, some of their followers will follow you, and you'll all wind up introducing others who jump into the conversation. You can end up making (and cross-sharing) dozens of contacts from a single meeting.

  • Earn backlinks – Links are still a vital component of your SEO strategy, and they are much harder to earn. Increasing your traffic by growing your network and meeting influencers also increases the chance they will link back to you in their I did, in this post. People impress me, and I write about them because I want to.

As I mentioned above, backlinks are still important, and way harder to earn. The only legit way to build organic backlinks is to produce a steady stream of fresh, stellar content, make sure it lands in front of the right eyes, and attracts plenty of traffic and shares. Even if you're producing evidence-based reports, insightful, interesting, and varied media content, you'll need to ensure success by promoting it...and by having a big network of influencers to help you.

What I've outlined are the elements of content strategy: research, authority, value, varied media, technical structure, and amplification. With all the elements in place, you really can't go wrong. The final building block is simply patience. Remember, SEO is the long game. Done right, and it's also your best branding strategy.