The Core Foundations of SEO: Authority, Relevance, and Experience

  • July 8, 2024
  • SEO
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If there’s one thing we SEO professionals excel at, it’s making processes intricate and multifaceted.

This isn’t necessarily a critique.

Search engine algorithms, website coding and navigation, selecting and
evaluating KPIs, and devising a
content strategy are highly complex tasks requiring a wealth of specialized knowledge.

However, despite the intricacies involved, a small number of foundational elements make the most significant impact on SEO success.

Ultimately, there are three core pillars in SEO crucial to achieving success:

  • Authority
  • Relevance
  • User Experience (for both users and bots)

Just as a balanced diet with the right proportions of protein, carbohydrates, and fats is essential for health, a robust SEO strategy requires a balanced integration of authority, relevance, and user experience.

Authority: Do You Matter?

In SEO, authority is the measure of the importance or weight given to a page relative to others for specific search queries.

Modern search engines like Google evaluate a page’s authority using numerous factors or signals.

Google prioritizes authoritative pages to ensure users get accurate, reliable information that best addresses their queries.

Google focuses on delivering the most authoritative pages because satisfied users are more likely to return to Google, thereby increasing exposure to Google’s ads, the primary revenue source.

Authority Came First

Evaluating webpage authority was initially the primary challenge for search engines.

Early search engines relied on human evaluators, but the rapid expansion of the World Wide Web soon made this approach unscalable.

Google surpassed its competitors when Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced PageRank, which utilized links from other webpages as weighted citations to assess page authority.

This approach treated links akin to scholarly citations, considering both the number of citations and the authority of the citing sources.

Links: The Backbone of Authority

The innovation of using web links as a ranking factor quickly established Google as the dominant search engine. This concept was introduced in
The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Links act as votes, with each vote considered an endorsement for the linked page’s quality.

Passing PageRank

A significant part of the original Google algorithm was the concept of PageRank, which evaluated pages’ importance based on the quality and quantity of links they received.

When a page links to another, it passes a portion of its PageRank to the linked page, allowing pages to accumulate more PageRank.

Not All Links Are Created Equal

While more votes generally indicate better authority, it’s more nuanced than that.

PageRank values can range significantly, and higher PageRank pages pass more PageRank to linked pages.

Three Pillars of SEO: Authority, Relevance, and Trust | SEJ

Additionally, Google evaluates the topic of the linking page and the anchor text used in links, contributing to relevance, which we’ll cover in the next section.

It’s essential to recognize that Google’s algorithms have advanced significantly since the original PageRank thesis.

Evaluating Trust

Though there’s much debate about the role of trust in search rankings, TrustRank originated as a Yahoo patent and is not officially used by Google.

Google has clarified that it does not use a concept of trust in its search algorithm.

Nevertheless, assessing a site’s trustworthiness can be beneficial. Avoid linking to sites that sell links, have poor content, or appear disreputable.

Fundamentals Of Earning & Attracting Links

Understanding that obtaining links is critical to SEO success is the first step. Create a holistic plan to attract links organically.

  • Avoid buying links or engaging in manipulative practices such as spamming forums, hacking sites, or distributing poor-quality content with embedded links.
  • Focus on creating a fantastic website and promoting it effectively to earn genuine links.

Identifying who might link to your content is crucial. Innovators and early adopters in your market space are potential link sources, including local sites, chambers of commerce, newspapers, and educational institutions.

Relevance: Will Users Swipe Right On Your Page?

For your content to rank, it must be relevant to the user’s query.

Your content must match the user’s intent, illustrated by an analogy of a dating app where the user “swipes right” if they believe they’ve found a good match.

Consider links in terms of relevance as well. Links from authoritative, topic-relevant sites are far more beneficial than those from unrelated sources.

The Role Of Anchor Text

Anchor text helps Google understand the linked page’s content, aiding relevance and authority. However, avoid manipulating anchor text as it can signal manual link manipulation to Google.

Three Pillars of SEO: Authority, Relevance, and Trust | SEJ

Internal Linking

Internal linking, crucial for SEO relevance, shows Google that you cover a topic comprehensively, connecting related content through structured internal links.

The Content Itself

The content on a page is the strongest indicator of its relevance. Modern search engines utilize natural language processing and machine learning to gauge content effectiveness. Elements such as keywords, depth, and structure (using H1, H2, H3 tags) are assessed for relevance.

What About E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T stands for Experienced-Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness, a framework used by Google’s Search Quality Raters to ensure content credibility.

This is particularly significant for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites addressing health and financial topics. Ensure accuracy and expertise for such content.

Building A Content Marketing Plan

A strategic content marketing plan is essential. Conduct competitive analysis to understand which backlinks and content strategies your competitors use, and create a plan that differentiates your content while targeting high-demand topics.

Experience

The third pillar, experience, involves both the technical health of the site and the user experience (UX) it offers.

A technically sound site not only provides a seamless experience for users but also ensures smooth crawling and indexing by Google’s search bots.

User Experience

Beyond relevance and authority, Google prioritizes sites that offer exceptional user experiences. A good UX includes:

  • Meeting users’ expectations based on their queries
  • Highly relevant and sufficient content that answers users’ queries
  • Quick-loading pages with stable elements (aligned with Google’s Core Web Vitals)

Technical Health

Technical health refers to the site’s efficiency and ability to be crawled by search bots. Maintaining technical SEO ensures Google’s bots can explore and index your site effectively.

What About the Google Leak?

Recently, Google documents were leaked, revealing thousands of labeled API calls. While intriguing, the lack of context and the potential outdated nature of the documents mean they should not form the basis of an SEO strategy.

Putting It All Together

Search engines strive to keep users satisfied by delivering the best possible results. This requires understanding and measuring the authority and relevance of webpages.

Create content that is useful, engaging, and authoritative, attracting quality links. Focus on the three pillars of SEO – authority, relevance, and experience – to enhance your content and simplify the link-earning process.

With this comprehensive understanding, you are equipped to achieve SEO success. It’s time to implement these strategies and watch your SEO performance soar!

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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