SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s crucial when it comes to building a successful business. It enables startups to create a digital presence through brand awareness and helps established companies to retain customer's loyalty.
You can't miss taking advantage of this tool to build a strong brand. Although it might not be as easy as it sounds, it certainly has proven to be cost-effective.
What is SEO and how can it help your business or brand
SEO is the science and art of optimizing your content to obtain a high-ranking placement in the search engine result page (SERP) of a search engine, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, thus driving targeted traffic to your website. So, when you improve your website SEO, you attract more visitors to your site.
Google’s algorithm is what will determine the rankings of your search results. This algorithm is a set of rules that Google uses to retrieve data. It evaluates numerous elements of a page to deliver the best results for the user. The algorithm assigns a numerical value to each component, and the page with the higher results will appear on the top place of the results page.
Content quality, technical aspects, and the amount of naturally-generated links to the page are some factors it considers.
Understanding SEO: on-page and off-page SEO
When creating a SEO strategy, you need to address two main buckets that are equally important: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. They are on the opposite side of the fence but work together to improve your rankings. However, it is advisable to focus first on the on-page SEO to set the foundations for later expansion.
On-page SEO refers to the optimization of the different elements that have an impact on your result page rankings. It includes all the factors that you can work on directly, such as the number of pages, titles, meta descriptions, tags, alt text for images, page load speed, content, and internal linking.
Off-page SEO focuses on the popularity and authority of your website. This is evaluated primarily according to the number and quality of back-links to your site. Back-links are the links from other sites that link back to yours.
To generate quality links to your website, you can, for example:
· Create valuable content that people will feel like sharing
· Post relevant content in social media to obtain media shares
· Send e-mails to influencers in your area of expertise that could link back to you
· Guest blog on sites related to your industry or topics with links back to your site
Whether on-page or off-page SEO, there are different techniques for positioning a website. It’s essential to know about them before hiring an expert or designing a strategy yourself.
The three hats of SEO
Search engine optimization sounds like an overall good thing. However, there can be good and bad SEO practices which you need to know.
If you already have an online presence, you must have received the wonderful promise of positioning your page in the #1 rank on Google within a blink. But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. SEO campaigns can take you to first ranking positions, but this will take time and hard work. Learn about the three SEO techniques named “white hat,” “black hat, and “gray hat,” and how they can help you or destroy you in the long run.
White hat SEO
White hat SEO is the most ethical and recommended technique. Although it is noticeably slower than black and gray hat practices, it creates long-lasting results.
It involves following all of Google’s guidelines with no tricky mechanisms to accelerate the outcome. Among its practices are keyword research, keyword inclusion, quality content creation, regular content upload, clean and optimized coding structures, and creation of site maps to help Google find the site, to mention just a few.
If you follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines 100% and play only within its rules, then you are practicing white hat SEO. It can be quite challenging and take you a long time to obtain the rewards of your work, but you are safe from being penalized by Google, and at low to no risk of being affected by a Google update.
It is hard to find SEO professionals who are 100% compliant with Google’s rules, despite being the one that grants obtaining the most natural (organic) traffic.
Gray hat SEO, between the good and the bad
This strategy is based on white hat practices, although it flirts with some black hat techniques without putting your site at high risk of being penalized or banned. It’s the most widely used SEO practice, and it follows the search engines’ requirements while adding certain practices to accelerate the results.
Gray hat SEO practices include the use of unnaturally high keyword density, irrelevant link building, amplifying content to get links, or finding legitimate sites where to place links.
It’s a fact that to obtain better rankings, SEO professionals typically help the site to acquire or attract links. Once they do so, they have just crossed the line between pure white and light gray.
Black hat SEO, the danger zone
This is the fastest technique to improve your website SEO. It manipulates the search results, ranking sites outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s a danger zone since it exposes the website to a high risk of being penalized, even banned all of a sudden.
Its essence involves doing the opposite of what Google recommends. It can get you great results quickly. Yet, the more you grow using black hat SEO, the harder the fall. Over-stuffing the content with keywords, adding invisible texts to the site, spamming forums, or social media with links, plagiarizing content, and buying links are some of its practices. It can be a legitimate strategy only if the client knows beforehand the risks involved.
Applying this SEO guide
Now that you what SEO is, its types and techniques, it’s time to start applying it. We recommend beginning with on-site, white hat SEO.
Begin determining your keywords (the topics that define your content, the words or phrase that users type into the search box of a search engine to find websites matching what they are looking for). Once you identified them, craft your content around them, including them naturally in title tags, headings, content, and alt texts for your images, etc.).
To create content that drives visitors to your site, focus on your target visitors, the type of content they seek, and the language they use when searching for it. Give them original, relevant content that answers their questions, solves a problem, or entertains them. Make it shareable. Upload new content regularly. Post content on social media, linking to your website.
Besides valuable content, granting your visitors an enjoyable, smooth experience involves making sure your site loads fast, and there are no technical issues as errors or broken links. Simply put, provide your readers a solution within a memorable experience.