Ah, the three pillars of SEO. A concept anyone involved with SEO will inevitably have to explain at some point. Usually to a room of people who had no idea their day was about to become quite so confusing. However, during a recent SEO training session, we found the perfect analogy to help anyone understand the three pillars and how they relate to a website.
Let’s dive in…
What are the three pillars?
SEO is often divided into three “areas”:
- Technical – “behind the scenes” features, such as site speed, code issues, mobile-friendliness etc
- On-page – the content on the page
- Off-page – everything outside of your website, such as backlinks, social media etc
Of the three (in my experience, at least), people look most comfortable when we’re talking about on-page elements. After all, it’s the bit that most clients have some kind of experience in creating.
However, content alone does not make for a solid SEO strategy. Ladies and gentlemen… Welcome to the “highly accurate and engaging theme park SEO analogy” (working title).
Why is SEO like a theme park?
I’m glad you ask, reader, otherwise, I would have had to stop writing. Let’s forget SEO for a moment, and think about the three pillars in relation to a physical theme park:
- Technical – the “nuts and bolts” of all the rides, how queues are laid out, which rides are in which areas, how your paths link them all up etc
- On-page – your “theme”. Everything about your park which lets visitors know that this is the right theme park for them and makes them want to explore more.
- Off-page – everything that points visitors to your park, such as road signs, leaflets etc
Let’s not just leave it there though, read on to explore a few of the combinations and see how they relate back to SEO.
Theme park #1: Technically great with strong off-page
Theme park one has some of the best rides out there. Queuing times are really short, the rides are well maintained and the paths between them have been optimised. Road signs point to the park from miles around and potential visitors see leaflets advertising the park across the country.
Except, there’s no theme. Have you ever been on the haunted mansion ride at Disneyland? Strip away the mansion facade and it’s just a huge warehouse. Get rid of all the ghostly decorations, and you’re just sitting in a cart while it slowly trundles around in the dark.
What’s more, the rest of the park is nearly identical. There’s nothing memorable about it, no reason for people to tell their friends, and eventually, people stop visiting.
In website terms, this is the case if your on-page content isn’t strong enough or is inconsistent. Search engine crawlers can access the site really quickly and easily and have loads of pointers from other websites on where to go to find it, but once they get there, there’s no substance and no reason to recommend the site.
Theme park #2: Technically great with strong on-page
You know the drill. The rides are amazing, they’re well maintained, and the park has been laid out excellently. There’s even a theme! This time, everything has been well thought out and the park has been separated into unique zones, so visitors know exactly what they’re getting. The thrillseekers will head for rides with names like “Skullcruncher”, while the less adventurous can make a beeline for rides with names like “The Beeline”. It’s a magical place!
Only, someone forgot to make sure there were any road signs telling people where the park is. Actually, now you mention it, they’re pretty sure they also forgot to send out any leaflets advertising the park at all. So, unless people tell their friends about the park, no one else is coming.
In website terms, this is the case if your off-page efforts aren’t strong enough. You need backlinks to encourage search engine crawlers to discover your site, as well as understand that your website is a great resource for visitors.
Theme park #3: Great on-page with strong off-page
This place looks incredible! The theme is amazing and it couldn’t have been easier to find. Surely a recipe for success? Not quite…
All the rides keep breaking, and the queues for the rides are really long. Sometimes the rides even break down while you’re queuing if you can even find the queue! Plus, someone built all the rides in a straight line and put the most popular rides as far away from the main gate as possible. And everything is written in Sanskrit. Backwards.
Do you see where I’m going with this? In website terms, this is the case if your site is riddled with technical issues. If you don’t fix them and make it as easy as possible for crawlers to access, you make it really hard for them to discover the value of your site.
There are loads of other combinations we could run through, but hopefully, that’s enough to hammer the point home. The only way to get true value from your website is to find the balance between all three pillars.
Yes, technical and off-page SEO can take a little longer to apply and get right, and (let’s be honest) they’re hard to get excited about as a client. But without them, you may be limiting the audience for your amazing content.
So there you have it. The theme park analogy. A useful tool for better understanding SEO? A confusing ramble from the mind of a madman? That’s up to you to decide. However, the next time an SEO specialist recommends a certain task, maybe your mind will fly back here, and you’ll have a better idea of why they’re suggesting it. And it will have been totally worth it…
Looking to strike the perfect balance between these three pillars? Our SEO experts have got you covered! Get in touch today to find out how they can help improve your website.