The 5 Pillars of SEO

Jun 01, 2016


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Article ImageSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing field of marketing. As an SEO professional, you should be aware of how fast everything can change. Because SEO efforts are directly tied to Google's algorithm, tactics are never set in stone.

There are a few aspects of SEO that over the years have solidified themselves as the foundation of any campaign. This is because Google's changes are at their core about trying to provide the best user experience. Therefore, if you align your SEO efforts to improving user experience (and searcher intent), then you can rest relatively sure that your work is future safe, no matter how Google alters their algorithm.

Here are the five rules that always have an impact on your SEO campaign.

Be Relevant

Have you ever clicked a link, been taken to a result different than what you were expecting, and been happy? Probably not. Google always wants to return the most relevant results in search.

The updates to Google's algorithm over the past few years have changed the world of SEO. Before Google was much worse at detecting manipulative links, and relevancy was not a priority criterion for ranking in search results. Before Penguin, an SEO campaign could get away with link quantity over quality. This is no longer the case, as relevancy is now the key to success in the world of SEO.

Not only will your site suffer in rankings if you do not make relevancy a pillar in your campaign, Google will actually punish your website if you manipulate the relevancy of your website or content. Keyword stuffing is a perfect example of this. While that tactic used to work, it is now one of the quickest ways to get your site de-indexed.

Relevancy should be the guiding metric of your campaign. You will have to research your niche, your customer demographic, and be diligent in your keyword implementation. Remember that everything in SEO is connected. Knowing your niche and demographic will inform your keyword research, provide insight into what type of content needs to be written, and improve your use of thematic keywords in relevant content.

Once you have an idea of what users will deem relevant on your website, for your content, and your link building efforts, your SEO campaign can finally begin.

Know Your Niche

Being aware of your niche goes hand-in-hand with relevancy. If you don't know who you are marketing to, how can you possibly ensure you're providing the right experience for searchers? This may seem like a "too obvious" rule to mention, but it can make or break any SEO campaign. And all too often we think about the technical within SEO, and forget about the humans.

You need to be able to implement keywords that your customer demographic use to find your products or services. If content marketing is part of your SEO campaign, you will need to know what kind of content your visitors will be attracted to and find useful. You have to be a master of your niche while understanding that your niche is not static. Knowing your niche also means keeping up on trends, keywords, and verbiage, as well as recognizing opportunities to produce truly relevant and unique content.

Niche marketing is target marketing. You are focusing on a specific group of people who will use your products or services. In theory, niche marketing should be more efficient than general marketing tactics as you are targeting people who are already interested in your market.

Think Outside the Box

No matter your niche, you are likely to have some serious competition-especially if you are a newer business that hasn't established a foothold in your market. You may be competing against companies that have been around for decades and already have a loyal customer base. How do you even begin?

You better be creative. While there are some highly technical and tedious aspects of SEO, it also offers endless opportunities to think outside of the box. Take keywords, for example. Are people on the east coast using the same search terms as people on the west coast? You are going to be forced to get creative and utilize keywords that will benefit your website.

Social media is another great platform where you can flex your creative marketing muscles. You can create Facebook exclusive content, be involved in your community, or create contests and giveaways. There are countless ways to reach your audience, all you have to do is think of them.

Stay Up To Date With Best Practices

Each major Google update is quickly followed by updates to SEO tactics. The most recent example of a major algorithmic update that affected change was the "RankBrain" update, where Google placed a priority in search results to sites which are mobile friendly.

Changes in Google's algorithm aren't the only guidance SEOs should take from the search engine giant. When Matt Cutts, Google's former head of web spam, declared guest posting was dead, it set a reactionary response across the web, and content marketing in the SEO world changed nearly overnight. While the statement Cutts was truly making is not quite so cut-and-dry as "guest blogging is dead," it was enough that the SEO world had to be proactive and alter their marketing campaigns.

These are examples of best practices that were updated due to changes in Google's algorithm, or by statements from Google's thought leaders. If you want to succeed in SEO you have to keep up to date with changes in the SEO world. In this case, it really is that simple.

Be Proactive

The final rule is a little more abstract than the previous four. There is always something that needs to be done in any SEO campaign. It is not likely that you are going to be ranking number one for all your keywords. Your competition is also going to be going after the same keywords, so there is always more research that can be done, better keywords to implement, and endless topics to brainstorm for your content.

Because the SEO industry changes so often and in unexpected ways, your work is never complete. It is also tacitly understood that nothing in an SEO campaign works forever. Whether you are producing content, building links, or performing keyword research, you can bet that your tactics will have to be changed multiple times throughout an SEO campaign.

I would again encourage you to be proactive and consider searcher intent. Anytime you optimize a page to target certain keywords, ask yourself "is this page the best result for this search?"

Your SEO wheels should always be spinning, even if you aren't always gaining traction. Every tactic or strategy you eliminate brings you closer to a process that will finally yield results. It is important to recognize when a tactic is no longer effective and it comes time to switch gears.

SEO and Google

With Google being the never ending source of frustration (why am I not ranking yet?!?!?), it can be easy to view Google as the "enemy." In reality, everyone is working toward the same goal; making sure people in search find exactly what they are looking for.

In this way you should always try to abide by the guidelines that Google has deemed paramount in providing useful and relevant search engine results. Keeping in mind the five rules, there are ways to work within Google's guidelines while boosting your rankings. No one will say SEO is easy, but if you always know what pillars to fall back on, no matter what changes occur within Google's algorithm you will always have a solid foundation in order to achieve your SEO goals.


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Converting the five pillars of SEO into actionable strategies can be complex and difficult. Each pillar represents an abstract philosophy or ideal. However, within these guiding principles you can derive actionable techniques. Relevance may be the most important pillar as it impacts all aspects of SEO. Beginning with relevance, we discuss how strategies are put into practice, with examples of how a company can become and remain relevant within their market and their desired target audience.
Take a deep dive into the third pillar of SEO: Thinking Outside of the Box. From link-building to newsjacking, this is everything you need to know about getting creative with your SEO.