Online business owners need to carry out targeted digital marketing in order to gain a distinct visibility and stand apart from the competitors. With so many businesses vying for the customer’s attention, it may feel overwhelming to get the attention of the customer and have them purchase from your site.
However, there are strategies that can help you rank well and garner attention to get your sales steadily growing. One such effective strategy is Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
A Brief understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While there are exhaustive definitions of SEO out there, the most basic way to put it, is this: SEO is the digital practice of enhancing the quality and quantity of visitors to your website through organic search engine results. This way, when your target is what users type in a query in the search bar, they discover your business, visit your website and are so impressed with it that they end up purchasing from it.
For example, if you have a furniture business in Las Vegas and every time someone types “furniture online Las Vegas”, your website should come on the first page of the Search engine result page (SERP). This is the power of SEO. It not only helps customers become aware of your existence, but also makes your website a revenue generating medium.
Why is it such a big deal?
With millions of businesses online, it is important that a Google search yields only the most relevant and meaningful results for the user’s benefit. With SEO, Google comes to know that your business is the most relevant for a given search query and lets your brand connect with the searcher. As a business owner SEO helps your website to reach out to relevant and potential buyers.
Here’s how the statistics stand in favour of SEO:
Junto reveals that for 57 percent of B2B marketers, SEO is the most successful marketing initiative when it comes to generating leads.
According to Hubspot, 61 percent of marketers agree that improving their SEO strategy and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
There are roughly over 2.2 million searches made in a single day worldwide, and that is only using Google. Your SEO strategy needs to be strong in order to land on the first page ranking – a position that tremendously boosts the likelihood of the user interacting with your brand and giving you business.
The Three main types of SEO
There are three broad categories of SEO depending on
a. The time it takes for results to show up
b. The amount you end up spending,
c. The overall risk of the whole strategy, and
d. The value it imparts to your brand.
They are termed as black hat, white hat and gray hat SEO.
You might be wondering “Why hats?” Back in the 1940’s, western films were made in the USA and they featured characters that wore hats. The color of the hat symbolized the nature of the character: white hats (heroes) and black hats (villains). This was basically a depiction of good and evil; much like the strategies used to rank well.
Let’s dive deeper and look at each of these three techniques in detail:
1. Black hat SEO
These are a set of SEO practices that are used to improve a page’s ranking. However, they are in direct or indirect violation of the search engines’ terms of service.
While it does deliver outcomes faster, it can also lead to a severe backlash in the form of negative rankings and drop in your website ranking position in SERPs. It basically is resorting to shortcuts (ie. playing against the rules) to get to the top of Search Engine Result Pages, but it comes with a price to pay.
Explore the Google Webmaster Guidelines to see which techniques have been specifically listed as black hat SEO techniques. Black hat SEO goes to the extent of doing those exact things which Google Guidelines specifically mention as things NOT to be done. Some examples include using spam links, resorting to keyword stuffing, content automation, doorway pages, cloaking, and using hidden text and hidden links.
Black hat SEO has the potential to get your site banned from Google. The penalties can have a long-term effect on your page ranking and the traffic that you get.
2. White hat SEO
It is the most ideal way of website optimization for SEO. It is considered to be highly beneficial in the long run even though it may take prolonged efforts.
White hat SEO completely adheres to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. This form of SEO focuses on the human element rather than prioritizing the search engines.
It is no surprise that white hat SEO is less risky and yields lasting results which are of value over the long run. Many immensely successful SEO marketing companies that recommend white hat SEO strategies get incredible ROI for their clients’ digital marketing budgets.
White hat SEO generally involves best practices: using good quality content, HTML optimization, faster site loading, mobile friendliness, and proper restructuring of websites, adequate link acquisition campaigns which are held high by good quality content.
3. Gray hat SEO
Some marketers also adopt gray hat SEO techniques. They haven’t been explicitly back listed by Google, but are considered dubious techniques by a majority of the SEO experts. With constantly evolving Google algorithms you would never know when these gray hat methods would become black hat and lead to severe penalties being imposed on your site.
Some of these methods include
a. SEO squatting (purchasing expired domains and adding new content on it to take advantage of its higher ranking).
b. Constant changes to the website design or structure without adding any new, informative content.
c. Adding a comments box where spammy links can harm your backlinking efforts and invite Google penalties.
To reiterate, it doesn’t make much sense to get on the bad side of Google. Even if you aren’t sure if the method will violate Google guidelines, its best to stay away from it and focus solely on white hat SEO.
Summing it up
These are the three types of SEO techniques that marketers use to improve your brand’s organic page ranking. Credible digital marketing companies will always suggest going with white hat SEO techniques. They may take longer to yield results, but they won’t contravene any of Google’s guidelines and hence won’t invite penalties like dropped rankings or total banning of the site. These risks make white hat SEO a more preferred optimization technique as compared to black hat and gray hat SEO.