SEO, or Search Experience Optimization, can be a challenging undertaking for many people. Google, in particular, has worked long and hard to break the spirits of all those who attempt to outsmart their algorithm. It’s fair to say that SEO has evolved quite a bit over the years, far past things like the meta keywords tag. In fact, SEO has changed so much that the “E” has taken on multiple meanings.
Google and Bing claim to have hundreds of rankings signals with thousands of combinations that they change multiple times per day on average. And because search engines are a virtual black box, they like to take advantage of this by dangling carrots out to the public that typically result in more work than it’s worth (prime example being Google and its push for https) and often because they want to nudge the world into their view of the web – for better or worse.
So, it’s no wonder that people are often confused about SEO. If you aren’t working in the weeds, or you’re fairly new to the industry, it can be downright confusing and misleading depending on which paths you travel.
One of the most common questions people ask is, “How do you get your website to show at the top of Google’s search results?” Well, the short and quick answer is to pay for it because that’s what Google would prefer. The longer answer usually begins with, “Well, it’s complicated.”
In the hopes of un-complicating a rather complex process, I’ve come up with The Five Pillars of SEO. These five pillars are the core areas almost everyone should focus on to some degree. Depending on the website, you may need to focus on one or more pillars more or less than the others. If you combine these pillars of the SEO ecosystem with my flexible PEG Framework, you have the beginnings of a very successful SEO framework.
Keep in mind that the following are summaries of the Five Pillars of the SEO Ecosystem. If you’re interested in how these apply to you or a more detailed view of each, please contact me or leave a comment. I likely won’t share more details publicly as a) it will take quite a bit of time to create and b) could cause undue influence via the 5th pillar.
Five Pillars of the SEO Ecosystem:
In the SEO ecosystem, links are like the sun. Before modern search engines existed, people navigated the web by a series of hyperlinks that connected various pages of the web together. Then Larry and Sergey came along and realized the untapped potential of all these links that connected the web. And thus Google was formed.
In the SEO ecosystem, links are like the sun.
It is largely believed that links are one of the most important, if not the most important, signals used in search algorithms today. It’s also one of the more risky pillars as Google has worked hard to devalue many organic links over time and, in some cases, penalize sites for certain types of links. They even concocted a whole algorithm (Penguin) focused solely on “spammy links.”
If links are like the sun, then content is like water. Content is the pillar that everyone thinks they understand the most. After all, what would the web be without content? Well, it’s complicated.
If links are like the sun, then content is like water.
Content comes in a variety of forms: text, images, video, audio, combinations of each, et al. It can also be very subjective and is an area that tends to overlap more with the other pillars. Many people say “content is king” or “just make great content,” but I can assure you there is more to it than this.
3. Technical SEO
A solid skillset in this pillar is like having a skilled plumber, mechanic or surgeon.
If there is a science to the SEO ecosystem, then the technical SEO pillar is often where more “advanced” SEOs tend to shine. Understanding how a website is created, how it works and being able to understand and speak about things from a technical point of view is a skillset many SEOs lack. This can mean the difference in being discoverable or being scalable. A solid skillset in this pillar is like having a skilled plumber, mechanic or surgeon. The beauty (or lack thereof) happens in the details of the execution.
4. User Experience
The sociological aspects of the evolving SEO ecosystem are becoming more critical than ever, especially if longevity and survival are important. User experience is the most recent pillar I added years ago due to the ever-increasing amount of engagement factors that have become more and more baked into the algorithm. While these factors are less likely to have a significant direct effect on long-term rankings, I believe they are a growing implicit factor.
5. The Search Ecosystem
Yes, the ecosystem itself is a factor, and a critical one at that. This is an all-encompassing pillar that puts pressure on everything. Search is a zero-sum game which means there are only so many clicks to go around and changes to the ecosystem can alter everyone’s status and well-being.
Search is a zero-sum game which means there are only so many clicks to go around
Natural disasters or even changes in weather can have adverse effects on the organisms living off of search. If you’re not a student of the ecosystem, you won’t know when the next hurricane or earthquake will hit, or what to do if it does. It’s becoming increasingly important to evolve with your environment.
Remember, this is a great holistic framework to have when thinking about the SEO ecosystem. There are lots of things to consider in each of these pillars – too much for one article. If you execute each pillar properly, you should not only survive but thrive in a search ecosystem that is constantly evolving. But nobody is immune, so make sure you’re prepared for any potential SEO disasters! Or at least make sure you have a quality SEO consultant on retainer.
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re interested in a more in-depth look at each of these pillars or how they apply to you, please contact me, leave a comment or shoot me a note via social media.