The Three Pillars of SEO

While Google looks at more than 800 ranking signals, there are three categories that Google uses to rank your website: relevancy, popularity, and integrity. These three primary signals each contain tens, if not hundreds of metrics within them that are analyzed and scraped by Google’s bots to ensure that the highest quality of content.

The Three Pillars connect to the three aspects of SEO:

  • Relevancy as you’ll see ties in strongly to content.
  • Popularity is connected directly to linkbuilding.
  • Integrity is where technical SEO comes into play.

Let’s look at the three pillars of SEO.

The Three Pillars of SEO


Google wants to display the best answers to their users questions and solutions to their problems as fast as possible which is why relevancy to the search query matters in content marketing. Google also looks at the intent of the user’s search in order to provide more accurate SERPs or Search Engine Result Page that currently contains the following:

  • Up to 4 ads
  • Follow by 1 Google Maps ad with the Local 3-Pack on maps immediately after
  • The “People also ask” section for Q&A’s
  • 10 search results
  • And finally, 3 more ads

As you can see, ads are on top, Google Maps nearest to where the search query was made will follow next, and then you’ll begin to see search results from top 10 ranking websites. Although, there is also the Q&A section that can show up to certain queries directly underneath the Google Maps listings.

This means that if someone is looking for a dentist near them, then the top rated dentists with websites that show active, updated content on their site that is easy to read, understand their specialties, and then contact them will rank higher.

An effective Local SEO campaign will provide a variety of useful content on the website that helps inform the user what actions they need to take. We have seen many web designers that simply build a 1 – 10 page website that looks like it could be a template or copy from any other website. At Nickel SEO, we take pride in our work developing custom-made websites for small businesses.

How Does Google Determine Relevancy?

Google looks at a range of variable ranking signals that each hold a different value of importance, including:

  • Keyword Density – How many times a keyword appears on a page.
  • Domain Authority – How many other websites link to that page, where each link holds a varying value based on the referring websites relevancy, popularity, and integrity.
  • Anchor Text Keywords in Backlinks – Anchor text is the keyword highlighted and underlined that made the user click the link.
  • Behavior Patterns – Once a link is clicked to visit your site, the behavior of the user is analyzed by Google to see if they stay on your site, read it, take action, or leave. If a user goes to a website and stays on the page for more than a minute, they must have found something interesting there. If they leave within 15 seconds to return to Google search, then they most likely didn’t find what they were looking for on the site. Google would be less will to send more people searching that same query to the same website.


Popularity is a major ranking factor that could be divided into two subsectionslink quantity and link authorityPopularity is determined by the number of links from other websites and the quality of those links. A link from Forbes will provide a much better signal of popularity than a random blog. Those links need to also only go one way, so no link trading. Generally, the more popular the website, the more likely Google is to continue to send more people to that site. However, that isn’t always a positive signal and Google has learned how to avoid people that game the system.

Have you heard the saying, “All news is good news?” That used to be the case. In fact, there were cases where a business owner used negative press to generate more traffic to his site and boost his “popularity”. More people were going to his site because of the bad news which in turn drove sales to his business as well. Google saw this flaw after awhile and changed their algorithm to solve this problem. Google obviously doesn’t want to serve bad quality results to their user base.

Google looks at the authority of links because of the trust those URLs have built over time. Trust or authority can be built from the following 5 factors:

  1. Established presence – How long has the website been around and how long has the backlink existed? Both of these matter. Older websites that follow Google’s rules and TOS build trust and authority over time.
  2. Link frequency – This is how often you receive links. They can come from social media posts, blog articles, and any other source.
  3. Referrals – This is how many people are referring to your website and services. Yelp and other directories are a good example of this.
  4. Contextual Reference – The anchor text and content surrounding the link.
  5. Content quality and length – The more content and quality of content on your site, the more trust and authority you are able to build.

How to Build Links for Popularity

Backlinks should be built by creating valuable content for the target audience. Here’s a few examples on link building methods:

  • Dentists should provide clear instructions on what to do in case of dental emergencies, answer questions that patients usually have, and reach out to show how they can help and what their patients can do when they aren’t at the dentist to best care for their oral health.
  • A local law firm can build directory links that offer information on all of the top law firms in their field of expertise. Building a hundred links from those directories with key information that makes them stand out will help increase their popularity over time.
  • A cardiologist can contribute to research articles and magazines to get press notice and a boost in search online.
  • A chiropractor with an integrated medical team that offers regenerative medicine in their office can get a spot on Shark Tank or other TV show.
  • Nonprofits could build authority by buying a spot to be listed on Forbes, Inc. or other popular site.
  • Linkbuilding outreach for e-commerce sites like flooring companies can help connect industrial level flooring companies to their nearby flooring company and create a mutually beneficial relationship between the two.

However you decide to take action, each of these can provide value in varying amounts to a clients. At Nickel SEO, we provide these types of link-building strategies and offer them to our clients. Link building is an expensive practice and takes time, exceptional communication and persuasiveness, and of course money. But, the payoff when used properly is exponential.


Technical SEO affects the integrity of your website the most in how Google indexes your website. This can be intimidating to most content marketers and upper level SEO’s. A technical SEO specialist will know how to assess if there are any technical blockers preventing or impeding Google from reading, crawling, or indexing your website. They also know how to deal with any current manual penalties, ensure proper schema write-up across your website, and optimize your website for speed along with many other factors.

A website with high integrity will follow SEO best practices. SEO best practices include ensuring your website is secure, has lightning fast load times, no duplicate content, crawling errors or broken links internal or external, and be mobile-friendly across any device. Simply put, technical SEO includes:

  • Crawlability
  • Indexation
  • Site speed
  • Server errors 5xx
  • Broken links 4xx
  • Redirects 3xx
  • Duplicate pages
  • Mobile friendly
  • Robots.txt
  • Webmaster tools
  • Googlse search console
  • Google Analytics
  • Site security
  • Plugin management
  • Recurring SEO audits
  • Caching
  • Expires headers
  • Schema

Choose an Experienced Complete SEO Team

While some people have experience in all of these different areas, the vast majority specialize in one of these three areas. That’s why it’s best to hire a complete SEO team that can handle the complete picture when it comes to your digital marketing campaign.

Now choosing to hire an in-house team vs. an agency like Nickel SEO can be difficult because it really depends upon your situation. If you’re not interested in paying a team of 5-8 specialists a total of $25,000 – $80,000 per month on salary alone then it’s best to hire an agency like Nickel SEO. Our team can work on your SEO project and build a custom SEO campaign around your needs. To get the help your business needs for real results in sales, call us today!

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