Sites designed and pages written for search phrases are more likely to come to the attention of their target audience. The SEO discussion does not add a lot to the previous pages. When a site develops content in order to be useful to visitors, then the site also follows the formula to come to the attention of the search engines.
Early web search engines formulas were weighted towards consideration of the inbound links to a site from other web sites. For a summary at Google, see the official Google webmaster blog. Specifically of interest were the keywords and key phrases in the anchor text.
While a popularity contest might be a valid way to gage the relative importance of academic papers — the model for the early Google algorithm — in the larger world, a key-phrase popularity contest proved naive. Inbound links from external sites can be manipulated to game the system, links from blogs, forums, news sites, business directories, website directories and links exchanged with similar sites. As a result, search engines evolved to look harder at the site content and the internal links, the topics of the prior three pages.
In addition to keyword text links within the site, search engines evaluate the content for related words and phrases to determine the page and site content. Just as the content of each page should focus on a single subject in order to help the visitor assess quickly if they are in the right place, the same content focus is how a page is SEO optimized as a key-phrase landing page.
Differentiating the type of link, internal or inbound, to determine the anchor text creates what some consider a natural link structure. For internal links within the site itself, use keywords and key phrases as useful for navigation in the utility navigation, the main menu and other internal links within the text.
For inbound links from other sites, do the opposite, discourage keywords and key phrases. To exercise some influence over external links, provide the HTML complete with the anchor text, like:
Link to us with the following code:
<a href="http://hardcoverwebdesign.com/"> Hardcover Web Design</a>
If you consider the position of the people trying to provide a useful index of the internet, then it's a tough problem, not one that has been solved yet. Not surprisingly, the calculations continue to evolve. Many good SEO practices have become the opposite. As a result, site owners have sometimes found it easier to abandon their domain name and start over with a new domain name than to attempt to get the inbound links into compliance with the latest rules. Given that change is certain, an aggressive inbound link strategy is difficult to recommend.
Consider social networking sites. Buttons clutter many sites so visitors can create inbound links from social media sites. At the same time, links from social networking sites can be purchased from third-party marketing firms priced by the thousands of links. Since the next evolution of search-result calculations are unknown, perhaps the wise long-term SEO strategy is already practiced people who choose to opt out of the personal information monetization industry, what some call social media.