The SEO triangle

By Julius Honnor and Laura Robertson; March 2019

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is too often thought of as being about the relationship between search engines and websites. But it works best for everyone when it considers content and users as well as search engines.

The SEO triangle is our model for focusing on the needs and wants of users. And avoiding some common pitfalls:

  • If you don’t have optimised content, users will search but they won’t find your stuff.
  • Concentrating only on the relationship between your website and the Google algorithm results in optimised content that search engines know all about, but nobody’s looking for.
  • Not looking at the relationship between your content and search engines means that your lentil salad recipe may be just what users want, but they won’t be able to find it.

Considering all three sides of the triangle means that users search for your content, and find it. And that they are pleased with it when they do.

This is ultimately what everyone wants. Lighting up all the sides of the SEO triangle means that search engines, your users and you are all happy.

Triangulated SEO strategy

A triangular SEO strategy doesn’t need to be onerous, or long. It’s not a 20-page document, it’s a way of focusing your efforts. It’s a way of making awesome content that’s both user-centred and findable.

Answering these five questions will give you most of what you need:

1. Who are we talking to?

Boil down your audience to two or three key groups.

Avoid the temptation to think you need to talk to the whole world and their guinea pigs.

2. What do we offer those people?

Frame what you offer from the point of view of your users. Concentrate not on what you do, but what people get from you, especially if it’s different to what they can get elsewhere.

So, not “we sell shoes” but “beautiful shoes delivered to your door, connecting you to artisan shoemakers, bypassing shoe shops.”

Avoid the temptation to think you need to talk to the whole world and their guinea pigs.

3. What are the keywords for each of those things?

What do your users want to know? This may not be the same as what you want to tell them.

You could ask them directly, or you could research their behaviour. These are some possible tools that might help:

4. What content do we need, in order to rank for those keywords?

SEO, and SEO tools, can help create great content that people want. If you see SEO not as a way of doing marketing but as a way of uncovering intelligence about users, then it can be an important ingredient in creating useful content.

Another way to think about what content will help is to do some competitor analysis. Who does well for your chosen keywords? How can you do better? What other opportunities are there?

Think about competitors in the loosest sense. Who comes up when you search for themes you deal with?

5. Who do we need to link to our content?

So, you have a target audience, you know what you offer them, you know what the keywords are for whatever that is, and you know what content you need in order to come up in searches for those keywords.

Content should be good for your users, and for influencers who may want to link to you.

60% of your visibility comes from external links. But not all links are of equal value. Websites that perform well themselves (on trust, reputation and authority) will get you more points with Google.

Ways to get others to link to you include: offline relationships and networks; asking for a favour; offering to swap links; and creating content specially for other sites.

Play the long game when trying to get people to link to your content. Relationship building can take a long time, but it’s worth it.

Further reading

Bridging the gap

Between SEO, UX and content strategy.

UX and SEO

Why UX is pivotal to the future of SEO.

Seven keys

SEO strategies for content.

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