Here are some statistics about search engine optimization (SEO), that you may not know, but need to:

• 80% of all Internet users go immediately to a search engine when online.

• 30-40% click on the first organic listing.

• 62% of users click a link on the first page of search results.

• 77% of search users choose organic over paid listings when searching; 67% choose organic over paid listings when purchasing.

Yes, SEO is more important than ever for an HVAC Contractor, but only knowing the basics isn’t enough. Things like proper URL creation and tagging are only the beginning.

Today, the key to SEO success is all about creating interesting content that others recommend and link to your site. These are called backlinks. Many SEO experts will tell you that quality backlinks are the key to SEO results (basic stuff aside).

Doug Kessler from Velocity Partners and one of our key experts at the Content Marketing Institute , recently gave us eight content practices for SEO and content creation. Just following a few of these can take your SEO program to the next level.

1. Who are the online influencers in your local market? For example, it could be the local chamber, or possibly a local news site. Build relationships with them. Get to know them and their audience.

2. Then, link to them in your blog posts and tweet their best stuff - or possibly share it on your Facebook page. By promoting them and their activities, they'll start to notice you.

3. When you have a piece of content that their audience would find interesting, ask them to share it (blog about it or tweet about it). Make sure your anchor text is right and already linked (an example of anchor text would be something like "basic air conditioning facts in San Antonio " and linking to the proper article that focuses on those keywords). Only link to relevant articles, not promotional stuff or coupons pages.

4. Take your key pieces of content (maybe your blog posts) and write features for the local media. Ask them for those anchor links (see above).

5. Spread your content around the web in the right places. For example, take your educational guides and do a presentation in Slideshare . Put your videos on YouTube . Share blog posts on your LinkedIn page. Make sure all your links point back to your website or your key educational content.

6. Guest blog on other sites. This may be the most important of all. Backlink only when relevant. Remember, other sites need content just like you do. If you can share valuable content to their audience, they'll love you for it. You can't think too big (think about your local television station as well).

7. Comment responsibly on the best blogs. Why? To get on their radar. If you do this in the right way, they'll start to notice you and ultimately will start to share your content.

8. Put your content links and blog posts into everything: press releases, blog posts, key web pages, your about us page...any where it might be used.

Remember the importance of the Yellow Pages to your marketing years ago? Well, this is bigger than that. But the key to doing any of this is actually having helpful, relevant content from the start. Without that, none of the above will work. If generating thought leadership content consistently for your customers online (possibly in the form of a blog) is not a part of your plans for 2011, think again.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , a blogging/social media service for HVACR contractors. Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. SocialTract is a division of Z Squared Media, LLC . Joe can be reached at joe@socialtract.com . For speaking needs - http://joepulizzi.com.