Ever since Google’s last significant evolution of its search engine algorithm, known as Hummingbird, the marketing world has been treading water trying to understand how to drive search traffic to digital campaigns and websites. In the pre-Hummingbird era, search could be gamed by gaining multiple links back to a page and installing keywords throughout the content. So-called “Black Hat” experts charged a lot of money to get around the rules. In today’s Hummingbird era, it’s no longer only about keywords, but rather having good content with a smart keyword strategy that is relevant to the target audience. Attempting to manipulate the system through meaningless links and keyword overload no longer affects the search results.

While the Google algorithm is extremely complex, SEO itself is not complicated. It’s actually very easy to understand. In sum, Google’s algorithms are designed to serve the best, most relevant content to users. That’s the filter that any company or organization needs to use when deciding whether any particular activity that is part of your online strategy will have an impact on your SEO.

It’s just difficult to execute.

For example, if you’re thinking about blasting a request to bloggers to link back to your site, don’t bother. If they haven’t created good content, it won’t make a difference. Want to change the title of every page on your site to your key search term? It won’t work. Thinking about jamming every keyword into a blog post? If it’s not good content, don’t do it.

The challenge is determining the definition of “good content,” at least as far as Google is concerned. That’s where the hard work begins. Good content is not a subjective evaluation, but rather an analysis that the web page or blog post is relevant to users as measured both by the type of content and the extent of its sharing by other influential users. Let’s break those apart and take a closer look.

The merit of the content is important because if Hummingbird detects that it’s crammed full of keywords, or that it is copied from other sites or even within other pages of the same site, it will quickly discount the relevance. The Google algorithm will see right through those types of attempts to create SEO-weighted pages. Good content needs to be original and unique.

More importantly, good content is also a measurement of how much that content is linked to or shared by influential sites and individuals. When you have created a blog post or web page with good, relevant content, it is vital to share this with your intended audience and with influencers that they trust. This is the hard part. There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing good content and in getting it in front of your audience. Nor are there easy ways to identify trusted influencers and get the content in front of them.

For the content itself, the goal is not just to be informative and provide the types of information that the target audience is seeking, although that is important. The goal is also to have that information shared, whether via social media platforms or through other sites and feeds. That means it must be interesting and sometimes even provocative so that the intended audience takes the next step and slips it into its own networks. It should challenge the conventional wisdom, offer valuable and actionable insights and educate the audience with information not already known. And it must be relevant to the audience.

How do you find the right influencers for your audience? That’s not easy, either. At Bluetext, we do in-depth research into who is talking about the topics and issues important to our client campaigns, and then evaluate each of those potential influencers to determine the size and reach of their audience. These can include industry insiders, trade journalists and columnists, government officials, and academic experts.

A solid SEO strategy takes time and patience, and a lot of hard work. It’s not complicated, but it is difficult.