The most important (and overlooked) SEO strategy

When tasked with website optimization, I start with diagnosing the areas where the website fails to implement the low-hanging fruit. Most often, this turns out to be the lack of addressability of important resources.

A website is a collection of pages revolving around a set of topics. Often, an important topic is featured on the site's pages but it doesn't itself have a dedicated page. In other words, it's not a resource.

A resource means any web document that has a unique address. To quote The World Wide Web Consortium:

A resource should have an associated URI if another party might reasonably want to create a hypertext link to it, make or refute assertions about it, retrieve or cache a representation of it, include all or part of it by reference into another representation, annotate it, or perform other operations on it. Software developers should expect that sharing URIs across applications will be useful, even if that utility is not initially evident.

In other words, it's a resource if you can link to it.

An example

Suppose you have a website revolving around cats. You've given the topic the reverent and elaborate treamtent it deserves. Being the innovator you are, you've come up with new definitions of your own — one being the cat rogueness factor.

The cat rogueness factor, or CRF, is scientifically defined as:

The average number of times per month your cat:

  1. Brings home a dead mouse
  2. Disappears without a trace for several days
  3. Pees in your guests' shoes.

So you've defined this concept somewhere on your site. Maybe you even mention CRF across several pages. However it remains an implicit resource — it doesn't have a dedicated reference point other users can access it through.

In the meantime the word has gotten out and other webmasters are looking up the definition of CRF. Cat adoption homes are now quoting the CRF when fostering kittens for adoption.

However you're not getting the full benefit for your invention — all that increased traffic and demand, and the potential incoming links, have nowhere to go. It is hard to increase traffic to something which isn't addressable.

Now is the time to turn your concept into a resource — by creating a page for it. On that page, provide an in-depth treatment of the concept, including:

  1. a formal definition (Wikipedia-grade)
  2. the story of how you came up with the concept
  3. a gallery of cats whose rogueness factor is the stuff of legends.

The address? You guessed it:

Benefits of resource-oriented thinking

When you extract your topics, ideas, and definitions into separate pages, a number of good things will start happening.

First, other sites now can start linking to these pages. If your topics have demand, and provide value through authoritative treatment, these pages will start moving up in search results for the terms they include.

Second, you will be able to vastly improve the internal organization of your site, because now you can link other pages to the new resources (and vice versa). This will improve internal SEO and will also improve user experience, allowing your readers to transition smoothly between topics as they consume your content. A website architecture that mirrors your hierarchy of content is a good thing to strive for.

Misko the Cat
Misko's rogueness factor seems pretty high — but is it a resource?


Representational State Transfer (REST) on Wikipedia.

Further reading

REST... it's very much like an information architecture kind of concept. (The JavaScript Jabber podcast #104, "Hypermedia APIs with Steve Klabnik")

Google, "Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide" (PDF). See especially the sections on URL structure and site hierarchy.


Photo of Misko by Dubravko Sorić.

Edited September 2022.