The 3 Pillars of Search Engine Optimization

Fundamentals of SEO

This article will serve as a short overview and reference guide for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Generally speaking, there are three core elements to doing well in the search engine results. 

Three Pillars TL;DR

  • Technical: Behind-the-scenes factors around performance and crawlability of your site, including speed, sitemap, navigability, and mobile-friendliness.
  • On-page: The content on your page that affects your ranking in the search engine, including E-A-T, all forms of content, tags, and more. 
  • Off-page: Things not on your site that influence your ranking like backlinks, social media, and more. 


These are elements behind the scenes that drive the performance and crawlability of your site. Your site should have a clear and easy structure for search engines to be able to crawl and index your pages. The schema of the site and URL structures should make sense. Depending on the type of site you may have to structure things differently, but in general, you’ll want to break down your site into relevant topics or chunks and make it easy to navigate between topics and go deeper within a specific topic. Other things that will impact your technical SEO include:

  • Website speed - how quickly your site, pages, and content load

  • Mobile-friendliness - Google now uses “Mobile-first” indexing given the proportion of users on mobile devices these days. You’ll need to ensure that your site is set up and optimized for mobile, whether that means making a responsive design or having a separate mobile site.

  • XML sitemap - this list of all pages and content on your site. This should be easily readable and digestible for Google to crawl.

  • Navigation - how easy it is to navigate on your site between different topics and pages. Ideally, you should probably have a "meganav" at the top of your site so people can easily toggle between topics. Another strategy to optimize navigability is to use “breadcrumbs” which allows the user to track their path through the site and go backward or forwards more easily

See our article about technical SEO.


This is the content that is on your site, including all text, images, tags and more. The overall strategy here is simple - meet the intent of the searcher/user with high-quality content. Within this there are some things to know including:

  • EAT - stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. A commonly used acronym representing three of the most important elements of SEO. Google is looking to show websites that prove expertise in their field, have authority based on a variety of factors, and are trustworthy.

  • Tags - It’s important to have relevant tags on your pages and content, like titles and descriptions

  • SEO writing - your content should have SEO in mind by including relevant keywords throughout the text and be easy for users to read. You are optimizing for both the search engines and users.

  • Images - images on your site and in your content can be helpful so use them where appropriate.

Learn more about on-page SEO


All the things not on your site that help build your authority and trust with the search engines. A key element of off-page SEO is backlinks, the links from other sites to your website that demonstrates to Google that other sites value your site.

  • Link Building - one of the most challenging but rewarding parts of SEO is link building. This is the process of getting reputable and relevant websites to link to your website or content. The more reputable and relevant websites you get, the more the backlink will help your domain. For example, if you are in the credit card business and you have the Points Guy write an article about why your card is the best, that backlink will be tremendously valuable.

  • Social media - building out your social media presence will further establish your internet presence and boost your SEO.

See more on off-page SEO.

Learn More about Digital Marketing and SEO

These pillars are just the tip of the iceberg for SEO but capture some of the most fundamental elements of SEO. To learn more in-depth from our industry experts, see our related courses:

How to Learn Digital Marketing

Master digital marketing with hands-on training. Digital marketing refers to marketing a service or product through online platforms such as social media, search engine websites, blogs, and email.

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