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Go ahead and mark this down as the unpopular answer to the common question of the day. When people ask me what the secret sauce is in any truly successful search marketing program, whether through search engine optimization or PPC, my answer is never greeted with enthusiasm. The answer: manual effort.
People always want the path of least resistance. They want to hear about the easiest way to make something successful while putting in the least amount of effort. Unfortunately, the answer to the question regarding search has been made the least popular answer in marketing. Between Penguin, Panda, and other things that are happening with the Google algorithm, the ideas that used to drive SEO in particular have changed from the automated processes and systems of the past to the labor-intensive manual efforts of today.
In PPC, much of the same has been happening, though not nearly as clear as with SEO. There are still many automated PPC services and programs that work well, just not as well as the manually monitored and adjusted systems. In many cases, particularly for those who work with thousands of keywords, the automated systems still make sense overall. The time it takes to tweak such campaigns manually is often too much as the improved results may not even be noticeable.
Back to SEO. Google rewards manual effort. They like content that has been written thoughtfully with the visitors firmly in mind. They do not like spun or syndicated content. The do not like bulk links that took no effort to get. Links that are earned from high-value sources are golden; one link from a respected and relevant publication is more powerful than a thousand low-effort spam links. They like social signals that are organically generated. Real people sharing real content with their real friends – that’s much more powerful than bulk retweets or +1s.
If you want to mix the right ingredients to make the perfect secret sauce, you have to be willing to put in the effort or pay someone else to do it for you. Any system that is “turn key” or “autopilot” will fly your search marketing right into the face of a mountain. Turn your targeting computer off and use the force if you want to destroy the Death Star.