If you’re responsible for search engine optimization (SEO) at your company, it’s understandable if you’ve ever broken out in a cold sweat while looking over your SEO metrics.
SEO is a critical means of attracting organic traffic to your site, and yet it’s not always easy to determine what’s working and what’s not.
Before you start losing sleep over your SEO strategy, take a deep breath. There are different types of SEO for various purposes, and when you get them all working together harmoniously, you can start driving more traffic and making your mark online.
In this article, we'll delve into the six types of SEO that every marketer should know about and help you discover which ones truly matter for achieving success. Spoiler alert: Having a great content strategy with exceptional on-page SEO is crucial — but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Read on for a detailed look at SEO strategies and how to make the most of them for your brand.
Why are there different types of SEO?
Before we dive into exploring various types of SEO, let’s take a closer look at why different strategies exist.
There was a time when SEO meant stuffing content with keywords, a type of “more is better” strategy that worked — until it didn’t.
Google figured if your page had a ton of keywords on it, then it must be worth ranking. It was the Wild West of SEO rankings, and marketers took advantage of the gold rush, even hiding paragraphs of text in the page’s background that weren’t visible to the average reader but showed up for Google’s crawlers. Even titles and meta tags were packed with keywords as marketers attempted to push their content higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
It wasn’t until 2003, when the first major Google algorithm update rolled out, that keyword stuffing became less impactful as an SEO strategy. Subsequent updates gave less and less weight to keyword stuffing and more and more importance to quality content that best addressed searchers’ queries.
Today, quality content that’s helpful, reliable, and people-centric remains a top ranking factor. Simply put, if your content does not provide original, well-researched information that addresses a search topic completely, it isn’t going to make it to the top of search results.
Types of SEO to help you rank
Given the shifts in SEO over the years, different types of SEO have emerged to address algorithmic nuances, searchers’ behaviors, and the growth of mobile search. By incorporating the six types of SEO below, you’ll be well-equipped to create a comprehensive SEO strategy and climb higher in search results.
1. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, refers to the optimization of web pages to help them rank higher on search engines. Optimizing on-page content, title tags, internal links, and other elements of your pages all contribute to successful on-page SEO.
Google evaluates these elements as it decides whether your page matches a user’s search intent. If it deems your page to be relevant and useful to a user, it will show it higher in search results. If not, then your page will get pushed lower in search rankings where users might not see it.
Key elements of on-page SEO
- Keyword optimization: Research and strategically place relevant keywords for which you want to rank within your content. Tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz, and Semrush can help you identify the best keywords for your brand that will help you rank without being overly competitive.
- Title tags and meta descriptions: Title tags show the title of a page in search results, while meta descriptions show up below the title of a page. Whereas title tags are a ranking factor because they influence whether someone clicks through, meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings but can help a user decide whether to visit the page. Both titles and meta descriptions should include your target keyword.
- Image optimization: Add images to your content to improve your rankings in Google Images, which accounts for 22.6% of searches. Write descriptive alternative (alt) text with your keyword included.
- URL structure: Create concise, descriptive URLs that let Google know what your page is about.
- Internal linking: Link to related pages within your website to improve navigation and SEO.
2. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO focuses on activities that take place outside your website that impact your search engine rankings. This type of SEO is all about building your website's authority and credibility in the eyes of search engines.
Key elements of off-page SEO
- Backlinking: Also called link building, backlinking involves acquiring high-quality links to your pages from authoritative websites. The more backlinks you have from unique domains, the more authority you gain with search engines as a reputable site.
- Social signals: When social media users link to your site from social media, it can lead to more brand attention and, thus, more searches and mentions of your brand.
- Brand mentions: As with social signals, brand mentions on social media, reviews, podcasts, videos, and other places contribute to greater brand attention and searches.
- Guest blogging: When you contribute high-quality content to other websites, you can gain exposure and backlinks to more audiences, leading to mentions and searches. In one study, Semrush found guest posting to be one of the most effective strategies for off-page SEO.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO includes site speed optimization, structured data, and other technical aspects of your pages. Your technical SEO influences search engine visibility because it ensures that web crawlers can access and index your site. It also contributes to a good user experience as people visit your site. Essentially, if your technical SEO is not on point, then your site will not get indexed and appear in SERPs, even if you have high-quality content.
Key elements of technical SEO
- Site speed: Optimize your website for faster loading times, which influence rankings on both mobile and desktop devices. To check your site’s speed, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool — the higher your number between 0 and 100, the faster your site is.
- Mobile optimization: Ensure your site renders properly on mobile devices, as Google uses mobile-first indexing — meaning it looks at mobile versions of pages for indexing and ranking.
- XML sitemaps: A sitemap is an XML file with a list of pages on your site. Create and submit a sitemap to search engines to ensure Google can find your web pages.
- Structured data (schema): With structured data, you use markup code to help Google understand your page’s content. You can also earn rich snippets that show additional information about your page in search results underneath the title and meta description, improving click-through rates.
- Robots.txt: A robots.txt file is a single text file that tells search engines which pages to crawl. Unlike a meta robots tag, which applies to one page of a site, a robots.txt file applies to the entire site.
- Canonical tags: If you have pages on your site with similar content, Google might not know which pages to index and show in SERPs. Canonical tags (rel="canonical") address this issue by identifying a link as the original version that should be indexed and ranked.
4. Local SEO
Local SEO involves optimizing a local business’s website to increase local traffic and visibility. Any business with a brick-and-mortar location or that serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO strategies. Local SEO is especially important considering the rise of Google Maps “near me” searches, which have grown by over 100% year over year globally.
Key elements of local SEO
- Google Business Profile optimization: Claim and optimize your Google Business listing. Include details like your address, phone number, website, and photos of your location. You can also treat your Google Business Profile as a social media page and keep it updated with photos, blog posts, and other relevant assets.
- Local citations: Ensure your business’s information is consistent across online directories. A listings management tool can help you update your information quickly everywhere your business appears online.
- Reviews and ratings: Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, and other review platforms, and be responsive to feedback.
- Local keyword optimization: Use position tracking to keep track of relevant local keywords, which can change over time, and optimize your pages for those keywords.
5. Voice search SEO
When you look at the rise of voice search in recent years, it becomes clear why voice search optimization is a critical type of SEO. Some 20% of Google searches are done through voice, as users increasingly use smartphones and other voice-activated devices to locate the information, businesses, and products they’re looking for.
With voice search optimization, digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant answer conversational and long-tail queries, much like an assistant answering a question. For instance, someone conducting a search for an alfredo recipe might ask “Hey Siri, how do I make alfredo?” and Siri would then read the results aloud in an attempt to answer the question.
How to optimize for voice search
- Research and target keywords specifically for voice search. Focus on long-tail keywords, conversational keywords that sound like a real conversation, and question keywords like “how do I…” and “what is a…” Again, you can use a keyword tool or even try typing conversation phrases and questions into Google to use Google’s autocomplete suggestions.
- Analyze search results for your targeted keywords. Look at what’s already appearing on SERPs, paying extra attention to SERPs features like rich snippets, “people also ask” questions, and the local pack for any location-specific keywords.
- Audit your site’s content. Look for opportunities to optimize existing pages for voice search, such as blog posts that answer questions you want to target with voice search.
- Improve technical SEO. Page speed, mobile-friendliness, and responsive design are key for voice search optimization.
- Optimize for local SEO. If you want to attract local business, implement the local SEO tactics discussed in #4.
- Track your performance. As with local SEO, voice search keywords can change over time, so be sure to track your performance and make adjustments from time to time.
6. Mobile SEO
With mobile SEO, you optimize your website for mobile searches conducted from smartphones and other mobile devices. With 55% of website traffic coming from mobile devices, mobile SEO is a must-have for any business that wants to drive more traffic. Local businesses, in particular, must optimize for local search to attract local customers seeking businesses like yours.
Key elements of mobile SEO
- Responsive design: A responsive design adapts your website's layout and content to show the same page to mobile or desktop users. The content renders differently based on the screen size, ensuring a seamless user experience across devices.
- Page speed: As with other types of SEO, page speed is a ranking factor and impacts the user experience. Having your site load in less than one second is ideal.
- Mobile-friendly content: Short sentences and paragraphs make your content more skimmable and easier to consume on mobile devices. In addition, a punchy intro helps to hook readers’ attention and keep them on your page, so make sure you get to the point quickly in the first paragraph of content.
- White space. Keep some white space between text blocks, images, margins, and other areas of your pages to improve readability.
- No intrusive popups. Your readers — and Google — don’t like it when an intrusive popup appears on the page and covers the primary content as soon as the page loads. A smaller popup asking users to accept cookies or verify ages is acceptable; just avoid having the popup take up too much real estate.
- Structured data. Use schema markup to organize information in a way that search engines can understand.
- Voice optimization. Again, conversational and long-tail keywords are the way to go to improve voice search results on mobile devices.
Which type of SEO is best?
You won’t want to skip any of the types of SEO above if you’re looking to make an impact in SERPs. However, there is one type that should be at the top of your list as you explore SEO strategies, and that’s great content with exceptional on-page SEO.
No matter how well you build backlinks, optimize your site technically, or incorporate local and voice search, you can’t escape the fact that high-quality content is vital to SEO success. Content that’s relevant to users’ search queries, engaging, well-researched, and engaging not only attracts visitors but also keeps them coming back for more.
When combined with on-page SEO, which ensures your content is easily discoverable by search engines, quality content provides the secret ingredient for SEO success. While each type of SEO has its place in your digital marketing strategy, the most vital type of SEO is the one that centers on delivering valuable content to your audience while optimizing it for search engines.
Tips for improving content quality
Prioritize your content strategy and on-page SEO, and watch your website climb higher in search results. Follow these tips to produce high-quality content:
- Provide value. Create content that addresses your target audience’s needs, wants, and pain points. Focus on providing value with relevant information they want to see.
- Get your keywords right. Conduct keyword research to identify the words and phrases your audience is searching for, and incorporate these keywords naturally into your content.
- Be unique. Provide a fresh perspective or insights on topics your audience cares about. Original, well-researched content will perform better than content that lacks substance.
- Create an SEO-friendly structure. Organize your content with headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Include keywords in at least some of your headers and subheaders.
- Be concise and clear. Avoid jargon, long sentences, or chunks of long content. Break up the text with visuals and different sections.
- Proofread for grammar, spelling, and style. Nothing ruins otherwise great content than typos, awkward working, or poor grammar and punctuation.
- Link to credible sources. Back up your writing with links to studies, statistics, and other articles that support the information you’re presenting. If you interview someone, include their name, title, and any relevant links.
- Repurpose your content. With high-quality content, it’s easy to repurpose it on social media, videos, and other platforms, helping to extend your reach.
- Be consistent. Maintain a publishing schedule so readers know when to expect your content.
- Include calls to action. Let readers know what the next step is, such as booking a call, scheduling a demo, making a reservation, or requesting a quote.
- Make it accessible. Ensure everyone can access your content by including alt text for those who use assistive technology.
- Track performance. Monitor how your content performs using analytics tools, and adjust your strategy as needed to improve results.
SEO Tools to help you rank
At Marketer Milk, we use several SEO and content marketing tools to help us grow our traffic. SEO is responsible for most of our website traffic, and we’ve tested all the tools to find the best that works for us.
Here are our favorite SEO tools right now:
- Ahrefs: For competitor analysis and keyword research
- Google Autocomplete: For keyword ideas
- Clearscope: For content writing and optimization
- Surfer: For AI-generated content (not used on this website)
- Webflow: For website hosting and editing technical SEO settings
SEO is a long game
No matter which types of SEO you decide to use, keep in mind that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It often months of consistent effort to see the results of SEO efforts, so it’s important not to give up on a tactic too soon, even if you’re making minor adjustments along the way.
Why is SEO a long game?
- It takes time to build brand authority with quality content and backlinks through white hat SEO efforts, which signal to search engines that your site is trustworthy.
- With multiple types of SEO working together, you’ll need to fine-tune the different strategies you’re using.
- Black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, PBNs, and cloaking won’t get you far, no matter how appealing they might seem. You can’t rush the process if you don’t want to get penalized in SERPs.
- SEO never ends. Competition, algorithms, and changing search behaviors are just a few of the ever-evolving factors related to SEO. You cannot “set it and forget it” with SEO. So just factor it into your ongoing budget.
Remember that quality content is an ongoing effort. Continuously seek to improve and adapt your content strategy to meet the changing needs and interests of your audience. And remember, sometimes, less is more when it comes to optimizing your pages with keywords.
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