Digital marketing, especially SEO, is a fast moving field, so it's easy to get swept up in new trends, advancements, and practices. So easy, in fact, that some of the more basic and fundamental aspects can fall by the wayside. When I work with clients and sometimes even my own SEO team, I frequently find myself reiterating certain pillars of strategy I know to be true. I do this not just because I want people to be mindful of the building blocks of SEO, but because sometimes people try to do too much all at once.

As the head of an SEO agency, I know all too well the problems that arise when people stretch themselves too thin with their strategy. Having a core set of principles to guide your SEO initiatives can help prevent that while also driving your efforts to a winning strategy. Here are 10 commandments to make a healthy and successful SEO strategy a reality.

1. Do Your Research

A well thought out strategy begins with research, and it's the most important step in the optimization process. Before even considering SEO tactics, you need to research your brand's purpose and value, your audience, the market and your industry online, competitors, and every other aspect of your business. Research takes the guesswork out of SEO and helps brands identify what the most successful methods will be for them.

2. Plan Ahead

Guessing as you go doesn't work for SEO, which makes planning ahead really important. Planning out the moving parts of your strategy will give you a timeline of tasks and targets to work with. Without a plan, it's unlikely that any random or inconsistent attempts at SEO will have a lasting effect on online performance.

3. Be Smart About Spending

Pouring your entire budget into just one thing, like ranking for a single/expensive keyword for example, is rarely the best use of your hard earned dollars. If you're working with a set budget, you need to look at strategy holistically and identify the greatest, most impactful value.

4. Utilize Tools and Resources

Making the most of what's available to you is more than just good common sense when it comes to SEO. There are a huge number of tools and resources without which SEO would not be possible. Having a good tool kit to help plan, manage, execute, and track your SEO efforts will prove invaluable throughout the process. For both agencies and individuals developing SEO strategies, tools and resources are a must.

5. Track and Measure Everything

This is something that goes hand in hand with utilizing tools and resources, because most all SEO tools and resources have some kind of tracking feature. Part of what makes SEO so successful for so many brands is that you can measure the impact of everything you're doing in detail. Tracking progress will show what is and isn't working and give you concrete data to fuel your strategy.

6. Be Authentic

SEO is not a spammy practice, even though some people tend to blur the line between the two. The importance of authenticity in SEO and any discipline of digital marketing cannot be understated, because it keeps your strategy focused and effective. You want the way you execute your SEO strategy to be original and reflective of your unique brand.

7. Quality over Quantity

Let's go back to being authentic/not being spammy in your practice. Cranking out an enormous number of content pieces or links that are low in quality and spammy by nature will not earn your website the kind of lasting credibility it needs to be successful. Placing an emphasis on quality-driven efforts is what separates websites that are consistent in online performance from websites that are not. Spend your time and energy on creating quality, not quantity.

8. Cast a Big Net

Even for niche industries, it can really benefit brands and businesses to be well connected. Rather than focus on one platform or specific practice, fan out across the web. Having accounts on multiple social platforms, balancing paid search with content production, all the while connecting with others for potential linking or guest posting are things that will leave a bread crumb trail pointing back to your brand.

9. Keep it Clean

Looking for ways to shortcut the SEO process will only get you in trouble. At best, black hat strategies will get you fast but short-lived results. Investing in dirty SEO practices can get your brand and website in a lot of trouble with search engines, and penalties that come as a result will be difficult to bounce back from. Keep your SEO practice clean and play by the rules, and you'll get the long-term success you're looking for.

10. Give it Time

The greatest SEO strategy in the world won't push your online presence or website into the top rankings overnight. It's easy for clients to get frustrated with SEO not working fast enough, because they're putting money into something they can't yet see results from. What's important to remember is that when done correctly, the benefits of your SEO strategy will take a while to show up. The investment of time you make to a successful and healthy SEO strategy is just as important as your monetary investment.