An effective SEO strategy is the difference between a business easily being found online and getting lost in the noise of thousands of other businesses trying to grab the attention of consumers. Success in SEO hinges on businesses putting together a robust combination strategy that brings together an integrated web of great content, credible links and social signals. Each of these pieces supports the other, providing tremendous value to readers, building authority and brand value and distributing content across new channels.

The first pillar of an effective SEO strategy is onsite content and structure. From the way a site is organized to how the content is optimized, a strong onsite SEO plan includes keyword research, content optimization, user experience, site design and the presence of a blog with great content that’s updated frequently.

The foundation of a SEO strategy is keyword research. A business owner’s first step should be to brainstorm a list of phrases related to his or her business, brand, products, industry, location and customers as well as scan his or her site to generate a list of recommended terms that it currently ranks for or could target. One should also see what specific terms his or her competitors rank well for that he or she might not have thought about. Once he or she develops a list of keywords, he or she should look at his or her website structure, map keywords to the major sections and optimize your content for those terms.

A business owner should also look a business’ Google Analytics to not only see where visitors come from but to make sure they’re finding what they’re looking for. If a high percentage of people are bouncing from the site, it may be ranking for irrelevant terms or the site design may be too complicated. Business owners should ask themselves what people are trying to accomplish and look at ways you can make that easier.

Links are important to SEO because they give Google, Yahoo and Bing insight to the relevancy of a site’s content; the more websites link to a site, the more valuable a site’s content is deemed to be by search engines. More links also builds trust and authority, causing pages to rank higher, driving more traffic. And, while in the past it was about how many websites linked to a website, it’s more about the quality of those links today. If an owner’s business is an expert in a certain industry, press releases are a great way to build links to the site.

As for social media, there was a time when analysts wondered if it would make SEO obsolete. Instead, social media has changed the way we think about SEO and impacted how websites rank in the SERPs. While some businesses feel that social media is a luxury when it comes to marketing efforts, the truth is it is a necessity and has been for some time. Businesses that already integrated social media efforts with their content strategy see the impact of it in terms of leads, referral traffic and revenue. But, it is also invaluable because of social signals, which are a factor in increasing search engine rankings that come from the number of people that like your brand on Facebook, the number of Facebook shares, the number of Twitter followers, the number of tweets mentioning your brand name or including a link to your website and the number of people that have you in their circles on Google+.

Social media is a great medium to help build a brand. A branded social presence can help build word of mouth that gets customers, mentions and links for a business. But, one needs to make sure that his or her profile names and descriptions are branded and link to his or her site, his or her username and URL are linked to the business name and the look and feel of the site carries through to his or her profile layouts and design. But, this doesn’t mean that a business should be everywhere.

Forcibly putting a business on all social media rarely is an effective approach. Instead, one should decide what platforms would be the most effective for his or her marketing efforts by examining the social behaviors of his or her target customers. Spend time online building a following that generates social activity and connects to his or her business goals beyond SEO. An exception to this rule is Google+, which is important to have a presence on from a purely SEO perspective.

Google has been explicit that social signals play a role in its algorithm. Twitter and Facebook matter some, but many of the search results from both networks are restricted. Therefore, the network that’s carries the most weight is Google+. Because of this, one should have a profile that’s connected to his or her site and spend time building his or her audience there. One should share content and make sure that a Google+ button is available for people to like and share your content.

The most important thing to remember about social media and content marketing is that success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that a business owner will need to commit to the long haul to achieve results. But, results pay off. According to Hubspot, 95 percent of marketers who use social media at least six hours per week indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. And, nearly half of the same marketers surveyed saw a benefit of reduced marketing expenses.