Who wouldn't want a millions of dollars' worth of free advertising? The truth is you can find "free" advertising for your business if you're willing to work for it with a long term SEO strategy-the longer you work at it, the more it will pay. While there may be ways to rocket up the search rankings, the best investments are made to pay off in the long term.

A long term SEO strategy for rising up the search rankings will involve factors that you can control and build on. In addition, the more you build up a base of customers who are heavily invested in your products and services, the more likely you'll build a lasting and influential SEO strategy. Here are four strategies for rising in the search rankings and staying there.

Build A Strong Content Marketing Strategy

One of the best long term strategies for rising in the search result ranks is to create content on your website that is relevant to Google searches. While incoming links will help, and we'll get to that shortly, you can save yourself a lot of time by writing content that is both focused on a specific topic and helpful to readers who will provide links because of the quality of your content, such as blog posts, rather than based on link swapping.

Bob Tripathi suggests at Search Engine Watch that a content marketing strategy is the best way to rise in the search results and stay there. He suggests working with a team of content writers: "give your writers a list of topics to write about, without necessarily thinking of keywords. This ensures that your writers are producing topical, focused content without obsessing over keywords, you aren't suffocating their creativity, and their flair for writing emerges"

Dharmesh Shah wrote on HubSpot about his successful article that ranks #1 on Google: "if your home page contains keywords like 'technical selling', it drives up the relevance for this particular search.  The reason my blog article is ranked #1 on Google for 'successful technical selling' is in no small part because of the title OF ONE OF MY ARTICLES ('Successful Selling Tips For The Technically Gifted')."

Create Content Around For Specific Keywords

Don't leave your keyword strategy to chance. Research specific keywords and phrases so that you can focus on ranking high in your specific niche-even if those keywords just inform the kinds of topics you address. Mix in both long tail and popular phrases, but beware going too broad. If you don't match an exact phrase in your research, you may end up thinking there is more interest in certain keywords than there really is.

There are plenty of keyword research resources around that you can use to stay on top of the latest trends and rankings. Though keyword lists are not flashy or quick, building a strong brand around a series of keywords will contribute to your long term SERP success. In addition, the more you research keywords, the more you'll learn about your competition and how you compare to their rankings. What can you learn from them? What can you do better?

Work On Your On-page SEO

By building a strong website with relevant content, you'll encourage visitors to build links back to you and make your site more attractive to search engines. Remember, if your content isn't spot-on, top notch backlinks may not even pay off.

This means you need to think of your website as a tool for attracting search engine traffic, rather than relying primarily on backlinks given on someone else's whim. Brian Halligan suggests, "you need to set your website up like a 'hub' for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, the blogosphere, and social media.  I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip."

One of the most important parts of optimizing your website is still writing top notch title tags for your pages. Mark Jackson wrote at Search Engine Watch: "the title tag of your website should be written specifically for every page of your website. Opinions will vary on this, but you should begin your title tag with the most important/competitive (one with the highest monthly search volume, and one which you feel that you might have a chance in hell to rank for) keywords/phrases."

You can also optimize your images with keywords, add a site map, and link to relevant pages so that search engines know how to crawl your site.

Build The Right Kinds Of Backlinks

Don't just search for the top ranked pages on Google and ask for backlinks. You need high quality backlinks from legit sites that will survive Google's algorithm changes. Beware relying on sites that use black hat SEO techniques.

Julie Joyce shares at Search Engine Watch, "visit the sites with a very careful eye. Whereas we used to think that getting a link from any source was a good idea, after Google started notifying webmasters that they had bad links which should be removed, I'd say to be very, very critical."

In other words, finding the legit members of your industry and building backlinks with them will pay off far more in the long term rather than pursuing a series of questionable, high ranking pages for backlinks.

An effective long term SEO strategy is purchased with focused, determined work and attention to detail. However, once you build up a solid content strategy for your niche that is supported by reliable backlinks, you won't have to worry about the next algorithm change or someone else's whim. Your website's ranking in the search results will be within your control.