Build a Rock-Solid SEO Foundation

Over the past couple of years, we’ve given you many powerful, actionable ideas on how to get your site ranked in the major search engines. Several of ETR’s experts (including me, if I may be so bold) have shared techniques on keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO) dos and don’ts, link building, and more.

While these are all crucial elements in building targeted traffic (and, ultimately, sales) through the search engines, they are, in fact, building blocks of a larger SEO structure. And they all rely on each other to support the SEO foundation. If any one of these building blocks is missing, the structure will collapse, and you could miss out on profitable search engine traffic. But if you truly understand the relationship between them, you will have a rock-solid foundation for executing everything you learn about search engine marketing in ETR, and will see your traffic and profits soar!

When doing research for this article, I was looking for the simplest and most direct way to explain the building blocks of SEO and how they relate to each other. I found one so brilliant I wish I could take credit for it. But I have to tip my hat to the folks at SEOmoz for the diagram below.

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All of the SEO techniques that you’ve read about here in ETR fit into one of the above cornerstones. Every building block of SEO can be categorized as a technical component, a content component, or a trust component. Let’s dive on in and see what fits where!

Technical SEO Components

The technical components are typically what scare people the most, especially if they are new to SEO. But you don’t need a detailed understanding of how these building blocks work to know what they are and be able to talk to your Web designer about them.

Executing the wrong technical components on your website could result in the search engine spiders being unable to access its content. I have covered some of these problematic components in my “SEO Don’ts” series. The ones to watch out for – and eliminate from your site – include, but are not limited to:

  • Flash graphics
  • Important text inserted in images  
  • iFrames – an HTML element that allows you to “frame” another HTML document within the original
  • Session IDs – a string of nonsense characters appended to the URL that uniquely identifies a visitor’s session

The technical cornerstone of your website is the first one you must address. What you’re doing here is kind of like giving the search engines the keys to your house. Of course, once you let them in, you have to make it easy for them – and your potential customers – to find what they’re interested in. You don’t want them to stumble onto a door marked “kitchen” when it’s the bathroom they’re looking for. This is where the content cornerstone comes in to play.

Content SEO Components

The content components are the ones that are discussed the most. Typically, this is in terms of doing keyword research and writing keyword-relevant articles. It is important to understand the language your potential customers use when searching for your products. If you are optimizing a product page for “key fobs” and everyone searches for “key chains”… well you see the disconnect.

But content issues don’t end there. Information architecture is an often neglected part of the content cornerstone. Information architecture basically breaks down to the navigation and linking structure of your website. It’s like arranging the furniture in your house to create a clear pathway to a door that’s clearly marked “bathroom.” The easier you make it for your potential customers to find your content, the better it will be for the search engines. This includes using things like:

  • Flat site architecture – the fewest number of clicks from the home page to important content
  • Breadcrumb links – a trail of text links at the top of the page showing the user how they arrived at that page
  • Anchor text links within articles – the clickable text part of a hyperlink
  • Universal link menus – navigation menus that appear on all pages of the site, making it easy to access different areas from each page

By using the same language as your customers, and holding their hands as you guide them through your site, you will automatically be doing the same for the search engines.

Trust SEO Components

The third and final cornerstone in a rock-solid SEO foundation is trust. Simply defined, this boils down to links. Building a strong network of inbound links from relevant, trusted sources tells the search engines that your site is also a trusted source for your particular niche or market. When the search engines trust your site, they will be more likely to serve it up in the top of their results pages.

When you break down SEO into these three main building blocks, it’s much easier to see how they relate to each other, and how success can be achieved only when all three are present. If your search engine friends trust you but can’t get in the front door, your site won’t rank. If they can get in the front door but stumble over the coffee table to get to the only bathroom upstairs that you’ve labeled “kitchen,” your site won’t rank. Only if they trust you enough to use your keys and then breeze through the living room to the bathroom will your site rank.

This is your foundation for generating tons of targeted search engine traffic and sales for your website.

[Ed. Note: Search engine optimization should be one marketing element you’re using at your company. For 11 other tried-and-true “profit accelerators” that could add as much as $10 million to your bottom line, check out the brand-new book by MaryEllen Tribby and Michael Masterson.]

After graduating from Florida State University in 1997, Alexis got started in the golden age of the Internet marketing industry working agency-side where she performed everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to web analytics to media buying for several clients. She then took her expertise client-side managing SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) efforts, as well as other print and interactive marketing initiatives for companies in the financial and software industries.