The SEO “Food” Pyramid

Home / SEO / The SEO “Food” Pyramid

Understanding the key ingredients to a healthy SEO recipe can be tough.  A lot of factors are at play – and sometimes it feels like there are too many “cooks in the kitchen”.  Maybe your friend used to be an SEO expert and thinks that rapid link building is still the secret to success (since that was the bread and butter in his day).  Or maybe you’ve been hearing all sorts of doom and gloom about the SEO as a profession – that modern SEO’s need to become T-Shaped marketers if they want to keep their jobs.  In order to make sense of it all – I put together an SEO Food Pyramid.

1. Architecture (6-11 Servings)

The most important aspect to healthy SEO is the architecture of your website.  These are sometimes referred to as the “basics” and are often overlooked or forgotten in lieu of the next big “growth hack”.  There is no replacement for a website that is properly set up for quality SEO – it will make every other tactic you use to improve your SEO much more impactful.  The architecture is like the grains – you can’t have pasta without noodles and you can’t have a sandwich without bread- they are considered staples for a reason (even if they are a bit out of fashion lately).

Examples include:

Proper CodingSean Work, who manages the Kissmetrics blog, walks you through the important aspects of coding your website for SEO.

Optimize Page Titles  – Rick DeJarnette is a fantastic in-house SEO at – he give some great, actionable items in this post.

Meaningful Descriptions – Moz is probably my favorite SEO and my initial go-to resource for all things SEO related. Also – check out this post by Matt Press on optimizing your meta descriptions.

Correct use of Headers Marc Purtell covers some of the best parts of a good H1 – but remember that it goes beyond that too. H2, H3 – they still have some value as well.

XML SitemapMark Jackson covers it all in this post, from the standard XML sitemap – to video XML Sitemap, Image XML Sitemap, and more.

Eliminating Crawl Errors – This post by Joe Robison is a little older now – but the content is so great its still worth reading.

No Duplicate Content – If you don’t know who Matt Cutts is – you need to – and read this about how to handle duplicate content on your site.

Speed (Website Load Time)Neil Patel and Sujan Patel deliver great information in an easy to follow format – digest this goodness.

Optimized URLsMark Nunney outlines the most important things you need to know about URLs and how they effect SEO.

Mobile Ready – the team at Mobify has a really great ebook for download on mobile SEO.

Internal LinkingGraham Charlton gives you some great ideas for internal linking and how it applies to SEO.

2. Content Creation (3-5 Servings)

The hot new job of 2014 was a Content Marketer.  This one isnt a secret anymore – Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts and all the other SEO masters have been telling us for a while now that the best way to get natural, relevant links is to create authoritative and helpful content that people want to share and link to.  While Content Creation won’t improve your Domain Authority by 10 points overnight – it is necessary for your future success (sorta like Broccoli).

Examples include:

BlogRich Brooks wrote a really nice article about blogging from an SEO perspective.

InfographicsSam Miranda gives a great argument for using infographics as part of your content creation for SEO.

EvergreenKevan Lee is a content genius – you want to read this post from top to bottom and learn how to be effective at evergreen content.

SkyscraperGarrett Moon nails down exactly how to do the Skyscraper method of content creation – a must read.

White PapersMichael Stelzner, founder of, shows you the ins and outs of the perfect white paper.

ebook – If you write an ebook – you want one that doesn’t suck – read this post by Brian Clark to find out how to do that.

Videos – check out the Wistia learning center to learn about video productions, video strategy and video marketing.

Slidedecks – repurpose your content as slide decks – here are 6 tips from SlideShare.

3. Promotion (2-4 Servings)

It’s not enough to just have great content – you have to make sure that people know about that great content.  Promotion is so important, that many would argue that you shouldn’t even write an article without knowing how you are going to promote it first.  Promotion is the fruit – its sweet, and almost treat-like, as it brings in the links and social shares from the quality content you just created.

Examples include:

Create Snippets – The Buffer team put together a really short, but great, resource for creating snippets so others can share you content easily.

Reach out to InfluencersKevin Cain shows you how to take your content to the masses by engaging the help of big time influencers.

Similar Content – use to find people that have shared similar content and see if they would link to yours.

Content CommunitiesBlogEngage and BizSugar are so great sites to check out to get your content on other sites with bigger communities.

Discovery SitesStumbleUpon and Reddit are two great sites to help others discover your content.

Content DistributionJordan Teicher with Contently gives you the inside scoop on the pros and cons of the top 10 content distributers.

Social Media Ads Jon Loomer will walk you through from beginner to super expert on Facebook ads.

4. User Experience – UX (2-3 servings)

You have great content, and a solid promotion plan – but people aren’t sticking around or clicking on other articles.  This is a problem.  You need to figure out how to get people to read the whole blog article, to click on a couple of other pages, and have a great experience visiting your website as if it were some swanky bed and breakfast.  Google is placing a higher emphasis now on how pleasant your website is for a human being to visit.  You can consider UX to be the comfort food – it’s your baked macaroni n’cheese and a refreshing glass of milk.

Examples include:

DesignAlex Harris is an expert for a reason – he helps you get a better understanding here – and its much deeper than the color of your CTA button.

Navigation – Great resource from  to help you make navigation as simple as possible.

Usability Testing – I’ve used to have actual human beings test out my website and see if there is anything confusing to them.

Interviews – this one is obvious – just ask people some questions and see what they say.  You might be surprised at their answers about your website.

Customer Journey Mapping – grab the sticky notes and map out each possible scenario your customer can have – then make it better.

Mobile UX – RedAnt has 10 awesome tips for making sure your mobile experience is as top notch as the rest of your site.

5. Social Signals (2-3 servings)

When people share your posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.- it tells the search engines that what you have to say was valuable enough to someone to want to share it with their friends.  We read a lot of great stuff – but how many things do we actually take the time to share?  Social signals are a part of the algorithm that tells Google how authoritative and relevant the content you are creating and promoting really is.  Social Signals are the Sunday afternoon barbecue – you light up the grill, invite your friends and share some burgers, brats, wings, or ribs – the good stuff.

Examples include:

FacebookJohn Rampton lays out a solid game plan for crushing it on Facebook.

Twitter – You absolutely MUST know who Gary Vaynerchuk is if you want to be good at Social Media – and read his book, Jab Jab Jab Right Hook.

Google+David Nield teaches you the absolute must-haves of Google Plus – and how to do them.

LinkedInRachel Gillett will show you how to “become a content master” on LinkedIn.

Pinterest – Check out these 15 amazing tips on getting traction out of Pinterest from Lilian Sue.

Instagram – Another outstanding guide from David Nield at kicking butt on Instagram.

Snapchat – Some great examples of brands mastering Snapchat by Sarah Ang.

6. Link Building (Use Sparingly)

Link building can often do more harm to the health of your SEO plan than you might think.  A few of these tactics are still relevant, like replacing dead and broken links, but be sure to use them sparingly.  Too much unnatural link building can taint the health of your backlink profile.  This is the sweets and treats, the fast food, the stuff that makes you feel great for about a minute but leaves you with a belly ache.

Examples include:

Dead Link Replacement – The Authoritative guide from Neil Patel and Brian Dean – everything you need to know to master this.

Sponsored Links – Anytime you are buying links beware – read this article by Google so you can make sure you don’t get in trouble.

Directory Submissions – Great post by Kurtis Bohrnstedt and what you need to watch for when submitted to directories.

Badges – A great Q & A on the Moz Forum discussing using badges in modern day SEO.

Anything I missed?

This is not the most comprehensive list of tools and tactics – but it covers a ton of stuff.

If you have tools, tactics, tips, resources, or anything else that is helpful – share them in the comments below!

Related Posts
Showing 24 comments
  • Brian

    William- great infographic and piece.
    I would add a few spices, such as:
    Videos in the UX section,
    indexing in the link building section,
    and for promotion, double your servings (you deserve it) and don’t forget buzzsumo for discovering like content/popularity etc etc. (No we are not affiliated with them 😉


    • William Harris

      Thanks Brian – you are right on the money with those spices. Maybe you would want to help me create a “spice rack” for SEO? I would certainly love to work on that with you if you are game. BuzzSumo is one of my favorite tools – I use them daily!

  • Matthew Barby

    Whilst this is a good framework, I’d be careful about some of the things that you’ve included under the ‘link building’ section. I know this is more about the framework itself, but the likes of sponsored content links and directory submissions aren’t something that I’d promote as key to SEO. Also, you may want to have a separate pyramid for local SEO as there’s tons of other factors involved there (e.g. local citations, etc.).

    If you’re struggling to find link building resources, you can check out this post that I wrote:

    Or this from Brian Dean:

    Or this from Jon Cooper:

    Hope this helps.


    • William Harris

      Matthew – great points. I 100% agree about the differences of local SEO – the Moz blog has a lot of great things to say about that too. I also agree with you about the link building – that was more what I was going on, the fact that old school link building is pretty much the “sweets” and you should really try to limit them in your SEO diet.

  • Nick Nicholls

    RE: I’d like to Feature You in my iPad Magazine !

    Hey William,

    My name is Nick Nicholls, publisher of ‘Digital Marketing Tools’ iPad magazine.

    I’d like to get your permission to feature and promote your articles in my iPad mag. Especially!

    The SEO “Food” Pyramid #SEO #DigitalMarketingTools

    As a contributor you’ll get a link backs from every page that your content is featured.

    In addition, you’ll have a full Bio page to promote yourself, your work and your business.

    I’d like to include you as one of our growing list of contributors promoting their work.

    – Ian Cleary

    – Kristi Hines

    – Neil Patel

    – Kim Garst

    – Jeff Bullas

    – just to namedrop a few 🙂

    We are in our 2nd year, 22nd publication, with subscribers in over 20 countries worldwide.

    Let’s deliver your message in the HD multimedia platform of the Apple iTunes and Google Play Newsstand.

    First row awareness on the first screen of the future… Right Now!

    I’ll be closing the editorial calendar quickly and would like to secure your placement, ASAP.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Nick Nicholls
    iOS Developer | Publisher

    ‘Digital Marketing Tools’ iPad magazine

    Now on GooglePlay/Android



    Voice: (214) 810-3007


    • William Harris

      Nick- that sounds awesome! Thank you for thinking of me! Sure – you have my permission (assuming you give me credit) – what else do you need from me?

  • Maia

    This is amazing!! Just shared it, really good for the client to see exactly what is being “done” for their money, excellent!!!

    • William Harris

      Thanks Maia – I agree – it’s important that people have the right expectations when working with an SEO team. Expectation management is every bit as important as actually doing the work.

  • Mandeep Hooda

    Great content for those who crave to do SEO in a search engine and business friendly way. The links and names used here also described some amazing stuff. Thanks ..

    • William Harris

      Thanks Mandeep – I’m glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if you find anything missing.

  • Sanjay

    Great article ! Which is to be implemented and see the results !

  • Tim

    That food pyramid made me hungry. This is one of the most comprehensive posts I’ve seen on SEO. Thank you.

    • William Harris

      Thanks Tim – haha – I really appreciate that.

  • Makarand Vaidya

    Thanks for providing such an overview..!!!

    • William Harris

      No problem – thanks for enjoying it Makarand!

  • Pooja

    Wow, your food pyramid is looking so delicious and fulfill with all essential nutrients. And, it will absolutely help our hungry customers in SEO industry to take a look at in-depth strategies and plan for their project progress.

    • William Harris

      Thanks Pooja – I’m glad you like it!

  • Thunder

    Why do you whitehatters believe in google? It´s so cute.

    Make test.

    The most important to rank are and ALWAYS will be links. Why? Because That is what internet is all about


    If you have a good, solid, PRIVATE, self made blog network, you can rank ANYTHING!

    Why do you think they launched the disallow link thingy?
    Why do you think they “Announce” when they de-index a farm link?

    Use your brain.

    This biz, is NOT for offliners. SEO´s we are geeks. I know how to measure the impact of a link (my english sucks bc is my fourth language) but I make my own tools. I can spy my competition and make my site more UX and more visible.

    Anyway… I never comment in this things bc some lamers make fun of my english and I take over their sites 😀

    IF what google says were be truth, only CNN, amazon, NYT and wikipedia will exist.

    *Google is big because little sites. Dont forget. 🙂

    • William Harris

      Hey Thunder – thanks for the thoughts. While you are right – links still play a role in SEO – it is becoming more and more clear that they will not be the most important factor. Links do tell Google something of the relevance, but all links aren’t created equal. Take that a step further though and you will realize that if your website is coded poorly you will get penalized (just ask anyone that didn’t have a good mobile site recently). Furthermore, it’s becoming easier for Google to judge a site by its relevance to a human being – which is Google’s goal – it’s any search engine’s goal.

  • Ryuhei Yokokawa

    Hey William,
    This is really interesting. We used to really believe this pyramid too, but we started to kind of question this kind of pyramid recently (so did Moz:

    Anyway, for that reason, we recently built a link building and outreach tool here:

    Reach SEO is a WordPress Plugin for content marketers. It generates content marketing leads based on white-hat link building strategies (Broken link building for example).

    Anyway, check us out.

    • William Harris

      Yeah – that’s an awesome WBF – they all are haha. The point though that he is making (and that I attempt to make in this chart) is that, IF you architect your site correctly, and then IF you create truly great content – people will engage with it. They will like it, share it, comment on it, read it – and ultimately, link to it. I’ve had dozens of articles that get tons of link backs without me ever having to ask for a single one.

      My point is that you should focus on figuring out who your audience is, and writing truly great content – and the rest will follow. Link building is certainly still important – but if you do the other stuff right, you don’t need to revert to the kind of “link building” that can get you into trouble. Social shares may not mean squat to Google – but it may mean that you are at least striking a chord with your audience. The next step then is to make that content more epic, develop your audience, and get them to engage.

      Links still play a huge role – and they will for a while. The pyramid though will hopefully help you set up shop for a long time – by focusing on great content/architecture – because ultimately, Google is pushing more for engagement metrics.

  • Ellen Khalifa

    I read this article when you first posted it. But I find I’m coming back and drilling down via the links repeatedly. Not only is the food pyramid metaphor engaging but the article is like an encyclopedia of useful practices I can share with clients. Thanks again!

    • William Harris

      Ellen – you made my day!

Leave a Comment

google webmaster tools beginners guide to setupHow-To-Get-Setup-Google-Map-Small-Business