You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization. In its most basic form, the main focus of SEO is to help your website get found by Google and other search engines when potential customers or clients search for keywords related to your business.
Why Is SEO So Important?
Search Engine Optimization is crucial for any and all digital marketing strategies. Let’s take a look at a few numbers.
Over 50% of ALL online sessions begin with an organic search. That means half of the time someone logs onto the internet from their computer or smart device, the first thing they do is search Google.
What’s more, is that 75% of Google users will never go past the first page of Google results when looking for information or an answer to their search query.
This led to possibly the most staggering statistic of them all: Over 40% of revenue is captured by organic search traffic.
Your website being able to be found by potential customers and clients is crucial for the overall success of your business. Search Engine Optimization is no longer an option in digital strategy — it is absolutely imperative.
What about a true definition of SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is an ever-changing field of strategy in which SEO Specialists work across many different areas of web development to help a business’ online presence exist in accordance with what the algorithms of major search engines value.
Why Is SEO Strategy Always Changing?
SEO is a fluid field of strategy as major search engines such as Google and Bing routinely update what their algorithms value. So while the core values of what is effective in SEO stay mostly constant, the nuances can change at a rapid pace. What works great for one month might actually be counter-effective the next month.
What are the different focus areas of SEO?
Search Engine Optimization can be broken down into three strategy types. These fields include on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and technical SEO. It is worth understanding each of these and how they interact to gain a crucial understanding of how we conduct our search engine optimization strategy for each client.
On-Site or On-Page SEO refers to the search engine optimization strategy which can be conducted on your website’s specific pages. On-Site SEO is commonly the most discussed type of search engine optimization, as it is the most easily understandable for the general public.
On-page SEO includes:
- Structuring content by using the correct header tags in the right locations
- Featuring copy in digestible paragraph lengths
- The constant creation of informative content
- The proper use of internal linking
- Correct URL structuring
- Well designed metadata
- And, of course, a coherent keyword and keyphrase strategy
About 10 years ago, in the earlier days of search engine optimization, on-site SEO was incredibly effective on its own. While it is still of paramount importance, on-page SEO alone can longer net-front page ranking results.
In order for the best possible position on a search engine ranking page, an SEO strategy must include technical SEO and off-site SEO, as well as on-page SEO.
Technical SEO is a type of search engine optimization that looks at the technical aspects that the search engine algorithms measure. This type of SEO goes beyond what is written on the page and looks at how the entire website operates as an ecosystem.
Technical SEO includes:
- Website and page loading speeds
- Mobile-friendliness and screen size responsiveness of specific pages and the overall site
- The availability of the website and its pages to be indexed by search engines
- Third-Party Robot crawlability
- The overall website architecture and structure
- Security measures such as the inclusion of a secure socket layer
Technical SEO includes much more than just the basic aspects listed above. It is named as such because much of the strategy in technical SEO cannot be easily learned by the general public. It involves a knowledge of different coding languages and different areas of web development.
Technical SEO is the most overlooked type of SEO, as many self-proclaimed search engine optimization specialists do not have the necessary skill set to optimize a website from a technical standpoint. With both technical and on-site SEO explained, we move onto what is widely considered the most important type of SEO: Off-Site SEO.
Off-site SEO, also known as Off-Page SEO is commonly thought of as the most important type of search engine optimization. While that is true for many reasons, just like the other two types of SEO, Off-Site SEO is pointless when not conducted in accordance with technical and on-site practices.
Off-Site SEO includes:
- The accumulation of high-quality backlinks
- Natural Links: when other websites link back to yours naturally
- Manual built links: links that come from contacting others such as influencers or bloggers to link to your web content
- Self-created links: links created through practices such as adding links to directories like Google My Business, Yelp, or in the form of press releases that are distributed manually or through the newswire
- Social media marketing
- Guest blogging
- Influencer marketing
- Email marketing
- E-Word of Mouth: When local customers share your business organically on social media or other channels
The main focus of off-page SEO is backlink building.
Having a strong backlinking profile is the most important ranking factor for any website. At GriffinWink, we work tirelessly to make sure our clients have an impressive backlink profile that focuses on quality instead of quantity. This differentiation of quality over quantity leads into our next portion of search engine optimization: the different schools of thought.
What are Black Hat, White Hat, and Gray Hat SEO?
Just as there are different types of search engine optimization, there also exist different schools of thought. While the types of SEO explain what is being optimized, the schools of thought explain how each of these aspects is being optimized.
There are three schools of thought on SEO:
- Black Hat
- White Hat
- Grey Hat
In short, Black Hat SEO refers to tactics that Google does not approve of and can ultimately penalize a website in the long run. Black Hat is still practiced by some specialists because of its high-risk, high reward offerings.
White Hat SEO refers to practices that work alongside the Google algorithm rather than trying to trick it. White Hat tactics can take longer to see effects from but run absolutely no risk of penalization.
Grey Hat SEO is a bit more difficult to define. This school of thought includes some questionable tactics which blur the lines between what is acceptable to practice. While Grey Hat tactics carry some weight in terms of reward, they also hold serious risks for websites. Let’s take a deeper dive into each, so you can understand why GriffinWink only practices White Hat SEO tactics, and so that you can also identify when you might be being sold snake oil from other SEO providers.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is a school of thought that focuses on high-risk, high-reward tactics. While for the gamblers out there this sounds promising, Black Hat SEO always eventually results in severe penalties.
Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving. Google uses an enormous team of individuals as well as deep machine learning to continually create an algorithm that searches out the best answers for search queries. This means that trying to “trick” Google has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.
Black Hat SEO specialists will try tactics such as buying backlinks in bulk, stuffing sections of websites with keywords that sound unnatural, or even creating hidden pages on your own website that links back to their other clients without your knowledge!
When Google uncovers the use of any of these tactics, and they always do, your website can suffer penalties such as a severe drop in rank to being removed from Google’s index permanently.
White Hat SEO
This is the school of thought we practice at GriffinWink. White Hat SEO is a school of thought which is categorized by relying on sound search engine optimization practices that Google entirely approves of conducting.
White Hat tactics commonly take a bit longer to reap rewards from, but they carry absolutely no risk. White Hat SEO includes bridging on-page, off-page, and technical SEO practices.
While results may take a few months instead of a few weeks, it is entirely worth pursuing as if Grey Hat or Black Hat tactics get flagged by Google, there is little chance your website will ever recover. Remember, in the world of SEO – if it sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is.
Grey Hat SEO
Grey Hat SEO is a school of thought which blurs the lines between what Google finds acceptable and what it will penalize websites for practicing. Many Grey Hat tactics find a way to take strategies that are worthy of penalties from Google and do just enough to pull the veil over the eyes of the algorithm.
Some Grey Hat tactics include:
- Purchasing old domains which have a level of authority associated with them to form backlinks
- Duplicating content from other websites and using “text spinners” to change the content just enough to avoid being flagged for plagiarism
- Purchasing backlinks through other means than a cash exchange, such as sponsorships
- Social media automation techniques such as “follow/unfollow bots” or straight out purchasing followers
Grey Hat tactics can be summed up as practices that technically do not violate Google’s terms but ethically are viewed as shortcuts to sound SEO practices. While they have benefits of Black Hat practices such as quick jumps in the ranking, they do carry a certain amount of risk.
It is best not to get on the bad side of Google, and with their machine learning becoming more sophisticated every month, it is only a matter of time before Grey Hat tactics are seen as entirely unacceptable.