Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Search Engine Optimization: Simplified Guide to SEO Categories
SEO or Search Engine Optimization can drive business owners nuts! It’s sort of on the technical side and the rules surrounding it continuously change. However, with all the changes it undergoes, it brings up something rather concerning: SEO gets frequently misinterpreted. Plus, it continually gets turned into something that seems way too complicated.
Time for Change
First, a quick vent! It’s time to stop over-complicating SEO by creating new categories/names when a new change happens! Don’t you agree? Things should be updated and maintained vs. creating something new altogether! Build on what we have!
Next, its time to think about if we need all of these categories? Do we? (Answer = Possibly and no.)
So, as a solution, let’s reorganize this mess that we call SEO to educate future SEOs and their clients better! With so many aspects, Search Engine Optimization can spread anyone thin.
Now, in all reality, the different categories/names aren’t going away, because different types of SEO have their purpose!
Onward to the categories!
SEO Category Breakdown
Ever hear of White Hat and Black Hat SEO? If not, these two practices ARE the main categories of SEO!
On a side note: you’ll notice that we don’t get into black hat SEO too much because you DON’T want or need to use it. It’s no good!
Next, White Hat stands at the top of the list with these sub-categories: On-page, Off-page, and Technical SEO. Further below you’ll notice that I break off into different techniques (vs. categories).
→ White Hat SEO
White Hat is the acceptable practice we use in SEO. Why is this important to know? It’s important because if you’re going to learn Search Engine Optimization or hire a company to perform the services for you, then it’ll be essential to know what you need to utilize or what to expect.
White Hat practices and techniques to use:
- Keyword Research – Find keywords related to post/page topics and industry info. Make sure to ask yourself what sort of terms you’d search for if you were looking up the same subject.
- Quality Content – Make sure your content serves a purpose! Stay on topic and ensure images are relevant to the subject.
- Alt Text – Fill out the ‘alternate text’ section on images and be descriptive. Alt Text is there to help people with vision issues, and it also lets bots know what the picture contains.
- Headers – Fill out page headers appropriately to give an accurate glimpse of the page topic.
- Meta Descriptions – are short descriptions of the URL that get displayed on search engines. Be sure to write about what the reader should expect and include a clear CTA to help with the click-through rate.
- Easy Navigation – Give your website structure! If it has a layout, then it should be easy for your visitors to navigate. Example: Home -> Main Service Page -> Each Service Provided. Be sure it takes only a couple clicks to get to pages deeper on your website. Categories or tags can help clarify the site structure for visitors and search engine bots too!
- Fast Page Speed – Website page load time shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds. (2 seconds MAX!) Utilize website speed tools. They’re there to help you figure out just that.
- Planned Social Media Efforts – Pick a social media network that fits your customer demographic. Each social media channel has different guidelines, contexts, how many times to post, and exact image dimensions that work best.
Ultimately, focus on providing a good user experience by providing quality content on an easily navigatable site. Search Engine Optimization is becoming more about user experience vs. trying to please those little bots.
→ Black Hat
Black Hat consists of unacceptable techniques that are used to try and outsmart search engine bots to gain better rankings without merit. BEWARE using Black Hat SEO WILL harm your rankings! If the techniques are deceitful and violate search engine policies, your site CAN be de-indexed from the search engine altogether. That means, your website won’t show up on search engine result pages and taken out of their database entirely and permanently.
Black Hat SEO practices and techniques to avoid:
- Keyword Stuffing – Using the same keyword repeatedly in hopes of better rank.
- Hidden Content – Hiding text by changing its font color to the background color, making it too small to read or hiding images in tiny image containers.
- Cloaking – Making your website look different to bots, compared to what visitors see.
- Redirecting – Automatically sending visitors to a different site vs. the site they clicked on.
- Duplicate Content – Copying content from other websites and publishing it on your own without permission and credit given. (there is also another type of duplicate content (non-malicious) that we’ll talk about below)
- Unrelated Keywords – Using keywords that have nothing to do with the website’s overall topic.
- Link Spam – Having unrelated websites use your website’s URL to create backlinks.
- URL Typo – Making a website’s URL close to another well-established URL in hopes of gaining traffic from accidental typos.
In summary, DO NOT use Black Hat SEO tactics! Also, never buy into SEO services that promote buying backlinks/followers, even if they claim otherwise! These tactics won’t give good, organic results!
→ On-page SEO
On-page SEO is all about organic results (over time) and controllable editing elements of a website while keeping the user in mind at all times. Good news: there are many ways to do this!
First things, first though! Before you do anything else, sign up for a Google Business Account (if you have a biz) or a standard Google Account if you’re an independent entrepreneur (with an online portfolio, etc.) By signing up for an account, it grants you access to On-page SEO services offered by the search engine.
Pro-tip: Business Account owners, be sure to get verified! It’ll also ensure you get notified of questions or comments that visitors leave on Google, Bing, etc. Plus, it’ll allow you to swiftly reply to reviews and even show up better in local searches if you’re location-based.
The next most important thing to do is sign up for Google Analytics to track progress and also sign up for Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Both tools allow you to monitor your website for indexing, error, crawling info, etc.
- Easy to Navigate Website
- Main Page > Category > Sub-Category
- Quality images
- Alt Text
- Short Descriptive Image Name (White-Hat-SEO.jpg > 10846228262016.jpg)
- Dimensions sized to fit website theme (resize smaller for less memory usage = faster site)
- Title Tags
- 60 – 70 Characters (Max 70)
- Meta Description
- 220 – 235 Characters
- Mobile Max of 235 Characters
- Desktop Max of 325 Characters
- 220 – 235 Characters
- Proper Writing Formatting
- Use Headers to break content into smaller pieces (H1 > H2 > H3 > H4)
- Proper use of grammar and spelling errors removed
- Use of synonyms for words (cat = feline = Felis domesticus)
- Internal Linking
- Link to other relevant pages
- Anchor text placed across several words
- Don’t use “Click here” or other variants
- Don’t match anchor text to URL exactly
- Research keywords related to your topic/industry
- Keep the entire website related to the topic/industry
- Use Long-tail keywords (3 – 5 words)
- Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
- Make preferred URL start with HTTPS
- Can be found in web host settings and WordPress settings
- Make preferred URL start with HTTPS
→ Global SEO
(This type is also called SEO or International SEO.) Global SEO targets visitors within a specific country or even globally, depending on target language and existing translations.
- hreflang Tags
- Place within header tags for each page <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”en-us” />
- Use Webmaster Tools to select target countries
→ Local SEO
Local SEO is a technique that helps businesses in a location-based setting appear better in their area of operation. (A huge benefit for brick and mortar businesses!) The competition for ranking will mostly be other local businesses since that type of search has the user looking for something specific nearby.
- Make sure your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent across the website and all social media profiles.
- Make phone number clickable from mobile devices
- For multiple store locations:
- DON’T make a new website or numerous social media profiles for ONE business, even if it has various locations!
- List separate locations (by address) on the ‘About Us’ page
- Then, make each address clickable, so the link leads to another page on your site vs. directing them to a completely separate website!
- NAP located on the About Us page and footer (sitewide)
- City and State located at the end of page titles
- 60-70 characters for title size
Location, location, location! It matters! However, sometimes local SEO gets overlooked.
To solve this issue, a little bit of research needs to happen.
Hint: start by going to where your viewers are!
Think about it this way, if you’re into watching people playing games online, where do you go? If you’re a gamer, Twitch and YouTube might come to mind. However, if you’re not a gamer, then you might think Etsy (because you’re a crafter or have a gift shop). The problem with the latter is that you’re not going to have much luck with Etsy (unless you’re buying background accessories for the video). Make sense?
In other words, research where your ideal customers go online. From there, think about how you can make yourself more visible before implementing Local SEO.
→ Off-page SEO
This type of SEO is all about increasing your chances of success on the harder to control aspects that are not apart of your site. These elements help tell search engines what people think about your company.
Link Building is an essential factor in the health of a website, and high-quality backlinks are challenging to get.
Backlinks take effort because to get them; you need to provide quality content that’ll also help to further the efforts of the other site’s quality content. In other words, who is going to share a post that won’t make their content even better?
Ultimately, the quality and relevance of a backlink is a weighted factor in how your website ranks over time.
Link Building Dos:
- Create quality content
- Solves a problem
- Simplifying complicated answers
- Reach out to others in your industry
- Write content that they can’t find, but you know about
- Find broken links on their site and suggest one of your pages to help solve the problem
- Linking from blog comments (low SEO impact)
- Use to answer the person’s question
Link Building Don’ts:
- DO NOT buy backlinks even if they are “relevant.” Search engines know!
- Link power from these sites is spread too thin and will harm your rank
- DO NOT copy content from other websites to use as your own!
- DO NOT ‘trade’ links
- Will harm your efforts when done with irrelevant industries
- Can’t control how the other person links to your page
- DO NOT use Black Hat SEO tactics
That’s right; some social media networks can have a direct-indirect impact on SEO.
The Direct SEO Benefits
If you use social media to promote your website, sales, etc. and you have high engagement, then you’ve probably noticed an influx in website traffic.
However, if your page/post isn’t indexed on a search engine (like Google or Bing) before you get the traffic, it won’t necessarily improve your search engine rankings. Why? Because rankings can’t progress until content is indexed — once it is, that’s when the data starts to compile!
On a side note: don’t get search engine rankings confused with a tool like Google Analytics (GA). The difference here is that you compile data on your own with GA, but you don’t have that same capability/access on the back-end of another site, to say, index a web page to compile data. Make sense?
To get indexed by search engines, you first need to meet their requirements. After that, even when you meet all of their demands, you might still have to request individual pages to be indexed and wait for them to review.
The Indirect SEO Benefits
Listing your website URL on social media profiles can help increase website traffic. More likes and shares help to keep that post around longer, which can also help improve traffic and brand awareness. Many social networks have their own set of analytics too, so you can see what kind of content strikes a chord with your audience.
Now, we all know about developing trust. The same thing applies to customer + business relationships. No matter what, it grows over time.
For some businesses, it can typically take a year or two to gain a (recognizable) online reputation. Sometimes longer. Sometimes not. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of consistent work, offering helpful products, implementing the right tactics, LOTS of quality content, etc. Yeah, you can help speed this up to a certain degree by providing exceptional customer service. For example, Zappos, Trader Joe’s, and Buffer are some of the most customer-centric companies out there!
On another note, having SSL on your website also helps with Off-page SEO because it shows you care about the safety and security of your customer’s data.
Next, be a problem solver in your industry! Answer those complex questions and show your expertise! Provide the necessary resources to help your customers!
Customer reviews are your time to shine!
Always make sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews. Thank those who give you reviews by replying to their comment to say thanks or offer a solution.
When it comes down to solving an issue, it’s best to comment on their review and then have them contact you regarding the problem. The point of that is to get more details on their issue so you can solve it better. Don’t forget to apologize for their negative experience as well. (Sincere) sympathy goes a long way!
→ Technical SEO
Technical SEO requires a bit more digital knowledge than some of the other parts of SEO. This piece has to do with how well bots crawl your website, how fast your website loads, using HTTPS, and a few more things. Again, like most of the other forms of SEO, Technical SEO is there to help improve the experience of your site’s visitors.
- Increase website speed
- Use a Content Delivery Network (This helps when visitors are far away from the physical location of your web host’s server)
- Cache Memory
- Optimize images
- Reduce image dimensions
- Compress images (over compression causes pixelation = BAD)
- Use HTTPS connection (SSL)
- Remove mixed content (HTTPS loading HTTP content)
- Remove duplicate content
- Fix broken links
- Fix 404 and 500 Errors (Most Common HTTP Errors)
- Use 301 redirects if URL move is permanent
- Use 302 redirects if URL move is temporary
- Linking internal URLs appropriately
- The deepest link in a website should only be three clicks away
- Link harder to find pages from your main page(s)
- Mobile Friendly
- Create XML sitemap
- Submit your domain’s XML sitemap to search engines (via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools)
SEO Categories Recap
As you can see, SEO covers a lot, and it can easily get misinterpreted or misused if you’re not familiar with the benefits (or downside) of each type.
Breaking SEO down into simple categories can help to get priorities set. When you know how SEO works, you can make better decisions on which type(s) to utilize.
Remember the Do’s = White Hat and the Don’ts = Black Hat. Also, White Hat SEO gets broken into three categories (On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, and Technical SEO).
So there you have it, all the categories and sub-categories of SEO and how to utilize them in a nutshell! If you’re looking for more search engine optimization tips, check out these posts:
- How to tell if your SEO is over-optimized
- SEO myths to avoid in 2018
- 7 SEO tips to know before you optimize a website
- Three more ways to optimize SEO
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