The 4 Basic Areas Of SEO

by Mark Collier April 27th, 2011 

SEO can be broken into 4 major areas. Breaking SEO down into these 4 areas simplifies the SEO process and allows you to refocus your time into the most effective sections of a successful SEO strategy.

1. On Page

Old school stuff that mostly focuses on keyword usage. That doesn't mean using keywords everywhere on the page; it means writing for the user.

Here are the main on page points to spend time on:

  • Keywords on-page
  • Internal linking
  • Use of nofollow tag with internal links
  • Use of images
  • Use of video
  • Outbound link quality
  • Page loading speed
  • Freshness of page (dependent on type of search, is user looking for historical data or news)
  • Most importantly, keyword usage in the following key areas: URL, page name, h1, h2, h3, h4 headings, alt tag, image description, body, internal anchor text, italics, bold, title, page description (debatable), meta keywords (not for Google) etc.

The simple solution to great on page SEO is to create keyword focused content pages, that make use of multimedia, are fresh, contain descriptive outbound and internal links and use keywords in the right places.

2. Off Page (Links)

Links = PageRank, PageRank = rankings, right? That's what we have all been told by Google. So there is no need to go into this one too much. Everyone is fully aware that links are very, very important in ranking well in the search engines. And link building is something that I wrote a 270 page book on, so it probably wouldn't fit in this post but I did create a fun graphic to help you look at the factors determining the quality of a link:

Factors impacting the quality of a link

View full sized image

3. Index-ability

Can the search engines find and index your content with ease, here are the main areas to focus on:

  • Use of XML and user sitemaps
  • Have you submitted your sitemap URL to each individual search engine?
  • Use of 301's, 404's, etc
  • Server uptime
  • Use of canonical tag
  • Presence of robots.txt file
  • Site structure (tree like)
  • Using hard to crawl media like Flash and videos without a transcription

A lot of these factors are quite technical and can be hard to get but for most small sites, having fresh content, that links to other content on your site and having an automatically updated XML sitemap is enough.

The need for these other factors is only relevant when you have a large or multi-lingual site.

4. User Behavior/Social

For me this is the most exciting area of SEO because I believe that these are the metrics that the search engines will use the most in the future. At the moment they are being used but for me they don't get much attention probably because the amount of data available and the length of time the search engines have been using these factors means that at the moment they aren't weighted heavily in the engine's algorithms.

But as they are tested more they will be used more in the algorithms.

The key to ranking well in this area is about knowing what factors they use and reacting so instead of the list I have created a handy table to help you out:

Factor Action
Time spent on page Lots of high quality content, well laid out and use of images, videos and audio
Bounce rate Link to new and old articles, use related posts plugins, have a great user focused site structure
Traffic trend Having your traffic constantly improving and showing a natural gradually increasing traffic trend
Social mentions, likes and links Get yourself on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, etc and get to know how to use them right
Method of leaving site Just make sure its not through the backspace button
SERP CTR Create great, click-able page titles, URLs and descriptions
Searches for your website/brand name Create a great, recognizable brand, market it well and do offline promotion too

Summary

I hope this helps you to refocus your SEO efforts on the most important areas and for the SEO newbies reading this, I hope it simplifies all the information you are being flooded with.

I know I have deliberately left out factors in each of the four areas but the point of the post was not to create a list of factors but to focus on the important ones. If you think I have left out a really important factor then leave a comment with the factor and the reason why it should be included.

Mark Collier

Mark Collier is the author of Link Building Mastery an ethical guide to link building. LBM covers 86 powerful link building strategies and includes 15 experts interviews with link building experts such as Tamar Weinberg, Ann Smarty, Marko Saric, Yaro Starak, etc. You can grab your copy of Link Building Mastery here.

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6 Responses to “The 4 Basic Areas Of SEO”

  1. Kristi Hines says:

    Looks like you covered all of the bases. I like the visual map of how to judge link quality!

  2. Good stuff! Interesting how the Map and SEO bring everyone to the same table, same rules. Seams to be working out ok, too bad we don't have Human SEO. Well, actually there is one but it's in Japanese ;)

  3. michael b. says:

    "use of nofollow tag with internal links"

    Where does this fall within your on-page strategies?

    It does not funnel more link juice to the remaining links on the page?

    I struggle to find a reason why ppl would still employ the use of the no follow tag?

    Where's the benefit?

    Nice post.

    -mb

    • Mark Collier says:

      It's about smart use of links and PageRank sculpting. Maybe you want to show people you have a privacy policy but you know it wont show up in the search engines. As a result you would use to nofollow tag for links pointing to the privacy policy. This would mean that the other search engine optimized pages would have more internally passed link juice and the privacy policy page would have less.

      But the overall traffic benefit is positive as the privacy policy can still be found by users but as per normal can't be found in the search engines. And the other pages with additional link juice get more search engine traffic.

      Hope that helps

      Mark

    • John says:

      I am also confused on your nofollow point about internal links. Matt Cutts posted a video answer saying nofollow was a waste of time for internals.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SAPUx4Beh8

  4. Kelly Clark says:

    I am not sure how search engines will be able to measure the user data for a site without some type of tracking/analtyics loaded on it. I think other social ranking factors (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are absolutely going to influence rankings and have already started to.