One word, many definitions
You’ve probably heard the term “SEO” in a dozen different contexts. Maybe someone in the company says “we need a better SEO strategy” or “we need to hire an SEO agency”. You may even have heard someone mention “good SEO” and “bad SEO”.
But what do people really mean when they say SEO? Are they all referring to the same thing? As you’ll find out in our post, SEO is a broad term and has come to refer to many things at once.
Below, we’ll explain the different types of SEO you should know so that you can come away knowing what marketers mean at any given time.
But first, the basic definition – what is SEO?
SEO, at its most basic level, simply means search engine optimization. The term refers to the process of generating “free”, “natural” or “organic” traffic on a search engine.
There are hundreds of ways a client can increase their ranking online organically. Some of the most popular methods include:
- Building a backlink profile – the number of reputable, authoritative websites that link back to your content
- Mobile optimization – ensuring your pages show up cleanly and efficiently on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet
- Speed and performance – tooling your website to load as fast as possible
- Site structure – making sure pages are organized according to best practices
- And hundreds of other approaches.
Because Google and other search engines never divulge exactly how their search engine algorithms work, marketers are constantly experimenting with how to make their websites rank higher. That is the nature of SEO.
So that explains the basic definition of SEO, but what about the different types? First, let’s break SEO down into two buckets: By stage, and by philosophy.
The Two SEO Stages: On-Page and Off-Page
All SEO efforts can be divided into two categories: On-Page and Off-Page.
On-Page SEO refers to tactics that enhance a page intended to be a part of the website. These involve, but are not limited to, the following efforts:
- Keyword research
- Internal linkage
- URL structure
In contrast, Off-Page SEO is all about the efforts involved after a page is published, including:
- Page reviews
- Social media sharing
- Social bookmarking
Think of these two types of SEO as different stages of SEO- during the creation of the page (On-Page) and after the creation of the page (Off-Page).
The Three SEO Philosophies: White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat
The second SEO bucket we’ll call “philosophies”, which are identified by three different colors: white hat, black hat, and gray hat. They’re merely different mentalities of approaching the same goal.
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO refers to safe, compliant tactics aimed at boosting a brand’s search engine ranking. Tactics used under White Hat SEO are all legitimate under Google’s (and other search engines’) guidelines.
White hat SEO tactics include:
- Publishing high-quality, relevant content (such as blog posts, articles, e-books, infographics, guides)
- Page optimization (H2 headers, alt-tags, meta-descriptions)
- Backlinks from real, trustworthy websites
While White Hat SEO tactics may take several months to generate results, the effects are far more impactful and long-lasting than Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO
If White Hat SEO is all about legitimate SEO tactics, Black Hat SEO is the opposite. Black Hat SEO revolves around exploiting loopholes in a search engine. It’s the least wholesome way to conduct SEO.
Black Hat SEO tactics include:
- Hidden links and texts
- Link farms, Link Networks, Link Wheels
- Link buying
- Keyword stuffing
- Reporting competitors
- Duplicate, deceptive, or spammy content
Black Hat SEO can be quick to implement and generate tons of initial traffic, but the risk simply isn’t worth it. If Google ever catches you using any of these tactics, you could get blacklisted. When that happens, Google will display a warning page every time a user visits your pages.
Gray Hat SEO
As the name implies, Gray Hat SEO is a combination of Black Hat and White Hat SEO. Some agencies or marketers may combine tactics to get the results they promise. However, this mixed approach does not make it any more acceptable in Google’s eyes to employ Black Hat SEO tactics like Black Hat SEO, is highly advised against.
Choosing The Right Approach
Different marketers and agencies may give their own opinion on what you should do, but many will agree that White Hat SEO is generally the better approach over Black Hat SEO.
While White Hat SEO may involve more time and work, the end results are more effective and longer lasting. You never want to jeopardize the entire domain for quick and easy traffic. Slow and steady, at least in SEO, is always a more reliable approach.
Arcalea never engages in Black Hat or Gray Hat SEO. We believe that SEO must adhere to industry standards and best practices. We’ve seen too many cases of blacklisted websites as a result of Black Hat SEO that forces businesses to rebrand or go bankrupt.
Want to learn how transformative a White Hat SEO strategy can be to your business? Reach out to Arcalea today and grow your business the right way.