The Four Pillars of SEO

SEO’s Four Pillars

Since 1995, I’ve been involved in SEO and have always focused on long-term strategies. It’s not that I haven’t tried black hat SEO, but I have. Over the years I have tried many different ranking factors. Every site I promoted using black hat SEO has been penalized.

SEO's Four Pillars
SEO’s Four Pillars

I won’t talk about SEO strategies that could eventually cause you problems. Instead, I will focus on white hat SEO.

I divide modern, safe SEO into four pillars:

1. 1. Quality content

2. 2. Site organization

3. Authority

4. 4.

These are the areas you should focus your efforts in. Let’s take a look at each one individually.


1. 1. Quality Content

Let me say, before we start, that many SEO “experts”, even after Panda Penguin & Hummingbird, still disagree with me about the importance of quality content being a key ranking factor. Many will cite exceptions where pages rank high for competitive terms with little or no on-page content. There are exceptions, but they can often be explained by page authority as the main ranking factor that keeps the page at the top.

Unworthy pages may rise to the top of search engines with black hat SEO if they lack authority. But this is not a long-term strategy. Google considers bounce rates and site time spent important indicators. Bad content will not be able to hide among the top 10. Poor content cannot be hidden in the top 10. This is done by the actions and inactions of search engine users. They vote based on how long they spend on a site or page, and whether they visit other pages while they are there.

Google also monitors what visitors do after they click the back button to return to the SERPs. Are they able to refine their search (indicating that they didn’t find what they were looking for) or do they move on to something else (indicating that they did).

Let’s first consider what topics visitors are interested in and how we can help them find it.



What Your Visitors Want to See

The most important aspect of creating content for websites is to decide what visitors want. I love spying on my competitors for content ideas.

This is an easy and inexpensive way to do this. Subscribe to the RSS feed of your competitor and monitor it for new content.

Feedly allows you to group RSS feeds from different competitors and make them one feed. Feedly will notify you when new content is added to all sites.

RSS Feed Reader is an extension that Chrome and Edge Browsers have, and it does a great job.


The following screenshot is from RDD Feed reader. It shows two feeds that I subscribed to.


You can see each feed individually by clicking on the link in left sidebar. To view the feed for that website, I clicked on ezSEONews. If I click on the All Posts link, I can also view all feed items in one list.

This is a great way of finding new content ideas. You can let your competitors research what their readers are looking for, and then use their ideas to improve your site. This has the added benefit of allowing you to comment on their articles. That can result in more visitors to your site.

Google Alerts can be used to monitor keywords within your niche. You could create an alert on Google for a website that is about the collapse of bee colonies. You will be notified immediately if new items are found in the SERPs related to bee colony collapsing. Notifications can either be sent by email or included in RSS feeds that you can add to your feed monitoring software. Once you’ve set it up, you will be able to keep your finger on the pulse of your niche. Any breaking news is delivered right away and you can then create your own “breaking news article” for your website. You can quickly share new stories via social media and attract both backlinks as well as traffic.

BuzzSumo is a paid tool that I highly recommend.

This is the tool I use to search for popular content within my niches.

To show you how it works, I have included the results of typing “juicing” below.


BuzzSumo returned 1,841 articles about juicing. Each article includes lots of information. Particularly interesting is the number and frequency of social interactions for each article. You should look at content that has a lot of Twitter or Facebook interest.

Buzzsumo (paid edition) allows you see the number of users who shared each piece of content, as well as the links to that content. This is a great tool for backlinking.

Buzzsumo’s biggest problem is its price. Buzzsumo is not affordable and likely beyond most people’s budget for their first online business. There’s no cheaper option that I can find. However, even if you don’t have a subscription, you can still use it to perform a few searches per day to find the most common content. However, you won’t have all the data included with that tool.

These tools are fantastic, but it’s also useful to see what people are looking for on Google. Keyword research tools can be very useful in this area.