Search Engine Optimization
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the practice of optimizing your website to increase the quantity and quality of your traffic via organic search engine results. Organic search traffic is traffic that occurs naturally through search rather than through paid advertising.
How does SEO work?
SEO is an essential marketing strategy that improves page ranking with search engines. Since Google is the dominant search engine in the world, we’ll discuss SEO in the context of Google.
SEO ensures your website content is visible and crawlable by Google. There are many ways to optimize a website including on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
On-page SEO includes strategies such as keyword research and content optimization, internal and external linking strategies, title, tags and meta descriptions, and more. These strategies are mostly executed behind the scenes, but can drastically improve page ranking and user experience. Off-page SEO includes strategies such as content marketing, link building, guest blog posts, and third-party directories.
Technical SEO encompasses items such as page speed, semantic HTML, creating and submitting an XML sitemap, installing an SSL Certificate, and more.
All three of these SEO strategies work together to improve the overall quality and effectiveness of your website with the purpose of improving your website’s visibility on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Google uses a unique algorithm to determine which websites and pages contain high-quality, relevant information. The algorithm is said to be an intensely complex process of crawling your content and evaluating its relevance.
The algorithm takes all kinds of factors into consideration – from your site’s loading speed and its degree of mobile-friendliness to how many keywords you use and how much unique content you have. Google regularly updates and refines its algorithm, so it’s important for marketers and SEO specialists to stay up to date with changes and updates.
Differences Between White Hat and Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO refers to strategies designed to get higher search rankings without following the rules of SEO. These strategies are used to achieve quick results rather than properly investing in a website on a long-term basis.
White Hat SEO refers to strategies that mainly focus on delivering high-quality content to real people, rather than catering content to search engines. Marketers using White Hat SEO strategies understand that the best results are achieved by investing in their website over the long term.
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO strategies focus on writing content for real people rather than the search engine itself. This is the preferred approach to SEO, because when you pair well-written, high-value content with the strategies above, your content is more likely to resonate with users and improve their experiences. This will improve your web traffic which will in turn will improve your search ranking.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO practices are essentially “get-rich-quick” methods – shortcuts designed to get results with the least amount of effort possible.
Often these strategies violate search engine guidelines by disregarding the best practices for actual users and attempting to trick the algorithm into achieving higher search rankings. Examples of Black Hat SEO include keyword stuffing, duplicative content, invisible text, fake backlinking, and more. And although a website may experience quick results, the results will likely be short-lived and accompanied by consequences (e.g. penalization from Google).
Examples of Black Hat and White Hat strategies
There are many examples of both Black and White Hat SEO strategies. Here are just a few:
White Hat SEO
- Content is relevant and created for users and not for search engines
- Images are accurately labeled and representative of the visual content
- References and links are relevant and connected to real sources
- Copy is high quality, with proper grammar and punctuation
- Pages are unique and relevant
Black Hat SEO
- Duplicate content or pages with little to no original content
- Irrelevant keywords
- Hidden text or links
- Sneaky redirects or cloaking that redirects users to another site or page
- Irrelevant backlinks
Grow brand awareness
The higher your pages rank on search, the more people will see and engage with your brand. More visibility, more opportunities, more conversions.
Increase search rank
Over time, a strong SEO strategy, including technical SEO, keyword-driven content, internal and external link building, etc., will translate into higher domain authority and better search rank.
Improve website performance
Technical SEO improves page speed, crawlability, indexing, and more. Essentially, it enables your website to work more efficiently and communicates to Google that you have a high-value website.
Decrease customer acquisition cost
SEO and paid advertising are both highly effective marketing strategies. But PPC is a short-term play for a short-term win at a higher cost. With SEO you can attract and convert qualified leads without the ad spend.
Google doesn’t make it easy
Google uses around 200 different factors to determine search rankings. You have no chance of gaming the system or winning without a clear SEO strategy.
Bad coding habits add up
Excessive third-party code, plug-ins, and messy code use more bandwidth, slow down your page load time, and negatively impact user experience and search rank.
There’s no magic bullet
Search engine optimization is a long-term play, so the longer you go without investing in SEO, the further you get from your conversion goals.