Search engine optimization is a powerful way to increase the visibility of your business and In my In-Depth Guide To SEO, you will learn everything about Search engine optimization including: SEO definition, Importance of SEO, the differences between White Hat & Black Hat SEO, On-Page SEO & Off-Page SEO.
An In-Depth Guide To SEO – What Is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO, or search engine optimization, as an aspect of marketing that is focused on increasing the visibility of a page or website in organic or non-paid search engine.
It encompasses both the creative and technical disciplines needed to improve the ranking of pages and websites and increase brand awareness in search engines.
SEO comprises of different aspects; from how the words on your page flows to how pageslinks to and from your site. Sometimes it is a matter of structuring your site for search engine and having it meet the needs of your audience such as readability, convenience, and understandability.
SEO is all about building websites that are search-engine friendly.
It is about making your site user-friendly. These principles go hand in hand.
In our post today, we will describe all the aspects of SEO- from tackling organic phrases and terms (keywords) that generate non-paid traffic to your site, to structuring your site to become user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
SEO is simple to understand but quite involving to execute, but if you feel confused about it, know you are not the only one.
That’s why we are here to help.
Buckle up for a long read.
What Are “Organic” Search Engine Results?
Organic search results refer to non-paid search results (i.e., they are not as a result of advertising).
These are the results that can be influenced by using SEO techniques. Traditionally, they were called “10 blue links.”
Search engine results pages (SERPs) comprises of dynamic organic results presentations called SERP Features as well as advertising.
Some examples of SERP features include features snippets, image carousels, People Also Ask boxes, etc.
There are new SERP features emerging now and then, majorly driven by what people are looking for.
For instance, if you search “Washington weather,” you will get results for a weather forecast for Washington D.C. directly in the SERP instead of a link to the site with that forecast. If you search “taxi Washington,” you will see the most popular taxis result made up oftaxis in Washington. This is quite convenient, right?
Search engines earn from advertising, and their goal is to make it as much convenient for the searcher’s queries as possible, so they can come back.
Some SERP features such as featured snippets (a promoted organic result displaying an answer to a query inside a box) on search engines are organic and can be improved by SEO.
However, there are other search features that cannot be influenced by SEO. These features often comprise data acquired from propriety data sources such as WebMD, IMDb, and Wikipedia.
Why Is SEO Important?
You can use social media, paid advertising, and other online platforms to generate traffic to your website. However, most of the online traffic comes from search engines.
Organic search results appear more credible and get more clicks than paid advertisements.
In other words, SEO has more traffic opportunity than paid advertisements.
SEO is also a long-term strategy and when done correctly, can pay better for a long time.
If you create a solid piece of content that ranks for the right keywords, your traffic will skyrocket over time, whereas you will need to fund for your advertisement on a continuous basis to send traffic your way.
Search engines bots are getting smarter, but they still rely on humans.
Optimizing your site for search engines will help them better understand your content so they can adequately index and display it conveniently within search results.
In addition to helping the search engine understand your content, SEO also boosts your rankings so that content can be placed where searchers will easily and readily find it.
The competitive nature of the internet means that those companies and business that perform SEO will have an edge over their competitors when it comes to getting visitors and customers online.
Now that you understand what SEO entails, let’s discuss the types of SEO:
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO:
Marketers, when drawing their inbound marketing strategy, have to choose between using black hat and white hat link building strategies to maximize their content marketing efforts.
[+] White Hat SEO:
In simple terms, white hat SEO involves following Google rules, majorly regarding quality content.
Blackhat SEO is the complete opposite of this; it takes a more aggressive approach and is not afraid to bend some rules to get results.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these strategies, and in this section, we will discuss each of them to help you determine the best approach for you.
[+] Black Hat SEO:
Marketers who use this approach can be described as gun-slinging bandits of the web because they break some rules to earn higher rankings.
Here are some black hat SEO strategies;
=> Using unrelated keywords:
- Integrating keywords that are unrelated to your content raises a red flag for search engines because it is unnatural.
- For instance, using an unrelated title to bait your audience is one of the black hat strategies.
- Although you will get more traffic, your bounce rate will be higher and soon or later, you will be penalized by search engines.
=> Content automation:
- you can recognize an automated text instantly, and although it may contain keywords that help a URL rank higher, it makes no sense to the reader. Over time, search engines will detect this.
=> Doorway Pages:
- These are fake pages that are stuffed with keywords meant to make search engines detect them easily.
- However, upon clicking a reader is redirected to a separate page, making the initial page meaningless.
- This is a deceptive strategy. It involves presenting search engines and visitors with different content.
- The goal is to cheat search engines so they can rank higher, but display different content to the visitor.
=> Invisible links or texts:
- hiding text or links within your content to improve your ranking is another common technique used by black hat experts.
- This involves setting text font size to zero, adding white text on white backgrounds, or burying a link in a small character (for instance embedding a link in a hyphen).
These black hat SEO techniques are very risky and are detected by search engines bots sooner or later.
If caught, a site can be penalized by lowering its rank or get banned.
So, what is the best strategy? It is white hat SEO.
White Hat SEO and Why It Is the Best Strategy;
If you want to remain credible and earn from your efforts for a long-term, white hat techniques are the best strategies.
Here are some of the techniques of white hat SEO;
=> Creating quality content:
- Curating quality content not only benefits your audience but also makes it link-worthy and share-worthy – two major ingredients in driving traffic.
- Your content should be relevant to your niche, free of common grammatical and spelling errors, and most importantly, it should be original.
=> Effective usage of keywords:
- Although we talked about keyword stuffing in black hat SEO, using keywords is inevitable.
- Your site should be focused on using relevant keywords, and you can do keyword research to look for phrases and words that people normally use to find content on your site.
- Keep in mind that long-tail keywords are more beneficial to your pages and site than single-word keywords.
=> Relevant backlinks:
- links pointing back to your site is a show of confidence to Google that your site has valuable content.
- It means you have high-quality, valuable content because others are directing their visitors to your site for a thorough explanation of content on their site, and thus will reap the reward of ranking higher on SERPs.
- However, keep in mind that there are good-quality links and bad-quality links, and thus you need to make sure that site linking to your pages are relevant and offer high-quality content as well.
=> Internal links:
- by linking to content on your site, you are demonstrating that your site has value. However, don’t overstuff these links.
- A good way to do this is to have two or three links to the deep-seeded pages on your site.
=> Meta Description:
- a Meta Description refers to the first few sentences appearing under the title of your content as displayed in the search results.
- The best Meta Descriptions are written for people, and not search engines.
- With this I mean, not overstuffing them with keywords.
That’s all about white SEO.
In a nutshell, we can say that although black and white hat SEO strategies share one common goal (to improve site’s ranking and visibility), they employ different strategies.
Black hat SEO is quick and guarantees short-term success through a surge in traffic, but Google penalties are always around the corner for sites using this strategy.
Sooner or later, they get penalized.
This is why serious marketers who are looking to get long-term benefits should follow white hat SEO approaches.
Although it will take considerable time to get significant results, this strategy will help you earn for a long time while playing nice with Google- both search engines and you, the owner of the website, will benefit, and no one can afford to lose the other.
Now with that in mind, let’s discuss one final aspect of SEO;
On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO:
Your white hat SEO strategy can be divided into two major categories; on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Although entirely differently, both strategies are crucial for an SEO campaign.
To understand the difference between the two, we have broken it down for you;
On-page SEO involves what is on your page or site.
Off-page SEO entails how authoritative is your site; its popularity.
To explain this in simple terms, we can say; what you rank for is majorly dictated by on-page factors while how high you rank in search results is majorly dependent on off-page factors.
Still confused? Well, read on.
[+] On-Page SEO:
Also known as on-site SEO, On-page SEO involves optimizing different parts of your website to rank higher. They are things you can control and easily change on your website.
Here are some of the aspects of on-page SEO;
=> Title tags:
- your target keywords should be in the title tag of each page on your website. Ensure to use the best practices when writing an effective title tag.
=> Headings (H1):
- headings make the first impressions, and for that reason, they are given more weight than content on their respective pages by a search engine.
- It is great to include your target keywords into the headings of your web pages, but ensure they are relevant to your page content.
=> URL structure:
- include your keywords in your URLs, if possible. However, this doesn’t mean you go changing all of your URL to integrate keyword in them.
- It is not advisable to change your old URLs unless you are planning on redirecting the old ones to your new URLs.
=> Alt-text for images:
- All your images on your website should have an alt text. This text is not visible to your visitors, but it is to search engine.
- Search engines bots crawl images in the same way they crawl your web copy.
- Therefore, inserting relevant keywords in your image description will help them better understand your page’s content.
=> Page loading speed:
- Google aims to help its users find what they are looking for as readily as possible for best user experience.
- Therefore, you need to optimize your pages to load faster. Page load speed is one of the ranking factors.
=> Page content:
- you need to have relevant, valuable content on your pages.
- Your users need to find what they are looking in your site.
- Content needs to be readable and valuable to your end user.
- Google has multiple ways to measure the usefulness of your content to your reader.
=> Internal linking:
- You need to have internal links in your website.
- Linking to other pages on your website is useful to visitors as they will find more related content on your site.
On-page SEO is aimed at improving user-experience on your site and pleasing search engine bots.
With good on-page SEO, your web pages will be indexed easily as search engine robots will easily understand what your site is all about. This will help rank your site accordingly.
[+] Off-Page SEO:
This form of SEO focuses on improving your domain authority by earning links from other websites.
This explains why Wikipedia ranks higher than virtually any website (it earns a lot of links from other sites, making it an authority website).
The major off-page SEO factor is the quality and number of backlinks to your site.
Here are four ways you can build links to your site;
=> Create interesting, relevant, and readable content that people will want to link to.
=> Share content to your social media pages to generate links
=> Outreach to your influencers through emails requesting them to link to you
=> Guest blog on related sites
While link quantity still counts, SEO experts and content creators are coming to realization that link quality supersedes link quantity, and as such, they are aiming to create shareable content so as to earn valuable links.
There is no definite number of links you should have but always aim to get links from sites that are more authoritative than your site so as to rank higher.
However, keep in mind that manipulating your ranking by submitting links to link directories with the sole aim of increasing your domain authority will have you penalized.
Quality wins over quantity whenever it comes to link building.
To conclude, you need both on-page and off-page SEO to rank higher and improve your domain authority score.
Focus on on-page SEO first before embarking on off-page SEO since the former is the foundation of your house while the latter is the roofing.