the three pillars of SEO

The Three Pillars of Modern SEO: Content, UX, and (Gasp!)Inbound Links

Link building, the active and intentional strategy to generate backlinks for your site, is not dead for 2018. When paired with a good user experience and solid content, this powerful trifecta can become a massive revenue generator for your business. In order to convert visitors, you must have content that is correctly targeted and paired with their stage in the buying cycle.

This content will drive the user experience, and lead your prospect through the sales funnel, if correctly implemented. In modern search results user experience rules, and content provides the foundation for a a great user experience.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence advance, Google becomes more like a person, and imitates human reactions. This means that content that worked to gain rankings even last year will no longer produce the same results. In order to be successful, you need to not only create good content and link to it, your content must also be in the format Google believes most likely to please the searcher. In order to better understand that, let’s look at the 4 types of people that will be searching and how their expectations differ.

The Four Types of Users

When initially creating websites, we often project on others what we like most on the web. In other words, we create a website for ourselves rather than our ideal prospect, and rarely consider the other types of internet users that make up a large segment of the market we might be missing altogether.

There are four basic types of internet users, and each responds to content on your website in a different way. This is important for two reasons: the first is that you should identify what kind of user your primary target audience is, and create content directed to them first. Then you can look at where there are content gaps on the web, and write content to fill those gaps, but directed at your customer in particular.

The second reason is that you can also identify types of users who might be your potential customers that you are not reaching at all. You can then tailor content geared towards them. This helps you saturate more than one market niche, sparking growth.

Streakers: The first type of internet user is known as a streaker. These users are ready to buy, and they come to your site looking for two things: value and a speedy checkout process. Good conversion pages that allow a quick purchase and a good shopping cart are essentials to appeal to this type of user.

In this case, short but thorough descriptions and speed matter. Studies show that users will leave a website in four seconds if it does not load. This means a responsive site that is ideally AMP compliant is essential. Speed will kill this kind of user, and you will lose them as a customer every time.

Strollers: This prospect is not quite ready to buy yet. They are usually in the consideration phase, and are looking for the final solutions to the pain point, want, or need that brought them to your site in the first place. In this case, short to the point blog posts, a little more detailed product descriptions, or even short how-to videos will appeal to them and keep them as a customer.

Studiers: These users are in the awareness stage of the buying funnel. They are trying to determine what their problem, want, or need really is and are seeking a solution, but they have not yet settled on a particular solution or company. Medium to long form blog posts will help them make a decision, as will more detailed information on the features of your product or service, much different from the simple benefits you can present to the stroller.

These are the users your blog reaches, and they often arrive at your site through multi-thread searches. The great thing about these users is that they will purchase from you if you can lead them through this first awareness phase effectively. They will also share the information they find with their friends and social circles. While social shares are not links, they can lead to organic links from other blogs or curation sites.

Researchers: This is the rarest group of users, but one of the most powerful to reach. They are looking to go deep about your product or service, so white papers, academic research, case studies, and extremely long blog posts that offer comprehensive guides will reach them the best.

These users are valuable because they too, will share your content, but they are often experts in one field or another, and so will offer your content their authority when they do share it. This means the trust the customer has in you goes up exponentially.

Prioritizing content that appeals to the majority of your audience makes sense, but having some in all of these areas means you can reach a larger number of people, which means more traffic to your site, and higher conversion rates.


The Move to Mobile

Besides a strong consideration of the types of internet users, it is more important this coming year than ever before to understand the move to mobile. More people than ever are completing every transaction from discovery to finish on their mobile devices. This relates to more than just speed and the users mentioned above.

This also means our content must be created for mobile as well. When we reach the point that 90% or more of our traffic comes from mobile devices, we need to adjust our approach.

Paginated articles, pop up ads, and content that is not responsive or won’t work with large text accessibility options are all just bad ideas. The content you present must be friendly to every single user, mobile, tablet, laptop, or desktop. However, if you must prioritize optimization for one, mobile should be on the top of your list.


Social Shares

We talked a bit about social shares, but it should be reiterated here that targeting content specifically to those who are most likely to share it is key. Of course, the other aspect of this is that you must consider which content in your niche most often gets shared.

In some cases, this may be video or photo albums, and in others it may be long form content, listicles, or infographics. Once you have determined what content your users are most likely to share, you can develop more of it, increasing their engagement.


Passive Link Building

link building is a pillar of good seo

Ideally, this will mean organic backlinks. Someone writing an article on a particular topic will open a search engine and find your site and your article, since you have already optimized it, and it ranks well in Google.

The user will then link to it as a source in their blog post, article, or even in comments. This creates a back-link to your site that you did not create, but rather earned just by having great content.

This is the ideal kind of link, and the one that Google likes the best. It shows that your content has expertise, authority, and that it is trustworthy, meeting the requirements of the E.A.T. principle of content creation.


Intentional Link Building

Of course, the next step is intentional link building. This is where you get others to link to your web page by providing them with something in return. You can do this a few ways:

  • Content: This is where you provide the website with a guest blog post, interview, or an infographic related to their site, but that also links naturally back to yours.
  • Resource Links: You provide the site with a link to one or more of the resources on your site related to what they do on their site
  • Broken Links: If you search, you can find sites where links on their page are no longer working, and you may have content that fits well with that anchor text. By letting them know the link is broken you are doing them a favor, and your website or blog post is the answer they are looking for.
  • Blogger Outreach: This is time consuming but done correctly, can be one of the most effective ( and safe) methods of generating links. With blogger outreach, you create content for a third party site that links to a page on your site that further supports the content.

By using these methods, and others, you can intentionally build links to your site that help you gain authority in your niche.


Ranking, Traffic, and Conversions

Back linking affects three things related to your site. These are equally important regardless of your final goals.

The first is search engine ranking. All search engines give a certain amount of authority to back links, and the more relevant links you have, the better. The more authoritative those links are, the more authority they lend to your site. The higher your authority, the higher your ranking.

The second is traffic, which is directly related to ranking. The higher you rank, the more web traffic you get. Think of your own Google habits. How often do you look past the first or second page for, well, anything? Almost never? This is the same for people searching for your website. If you rank on the third or fourth page of any search engine, you probably won’t see any traffic from that source.

The third is conversions. This is not related only to ranking and traffic, although having both of those help. What matters to conversion is if your content is good enough to convert visitors into customers. You can rank well and have high traffic numbers, but if your site sucks, you’ll have a hard time converting that traffic to sales.

Link building still matters, and will for a long time unless search engines totally change the way they work (not likely!). For 2018, a happy marriage of link building, content creation, and technically sound SEO that generates a great user experience is the key to success.