With all the SEO tips and tricks out there, it can be hard to pinpoint high-priority information. There’s will always be new SEO trends and changes to the search engine algorithm, but there are some classic practices to broaden brand awareness.
Categories of SEO
Before we talk about the top 8 SEO Practices, it’s important to know four main categories under which these practices could fall.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO refers to traffic-driving tactics that Google allows. It’s anything that aligns with the rules set by Google webmaster that don’t involve any malicious or even illegal actions.
Before you do any sort of SEO practices, you must ensure that it falls under the white hat SEO category. So it’s not really a choice – you have to stick to white hat SEO if you want to provide content of value and integrity and receive well-earned traffic. Moreover, white hat SEO practices are most likely to generate long-term growth – sustainable traffic that is safe from the possibility of penalization by Google if you were to engage in sinister SEO techniques that fall under black hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO
Anything that counts as black hat SEO practices is 100% not allowed according to Google’s requirements. Black hat SEO includes any and all attempts to drive traffic to a site with more immoral tactics that may trick potential visitors or even break some laws. Much like spamming on comments, black hat SEO shows there’s only interest in getting a higher ranking without care of who visitors are or how useful the site may be.
A major example of black hat SEO is keywords stuffing, which we hear about a lot in the community. The first rule of thumb when entering the SEO world is to avoid keyword stuffing, the practice is injecting content with repetitive keywords without any real value in the content. Traditionally, this practice was purely to get around the algorithm when users were just starting to catch on to how search engines worked. Over time, however, Google has evolved to recognize this sort of “over-optimization.”
Now the algorithm is more complex, and surveys sites with a more qualitative lens. The ranking truly depends on the relevance of the content to the search intent. Regardless, black hat SEO practices still exist, like using hidden text or links, using random keywords that don’t match the subject, copying or scraping content from across the web, spinning and automatically generating hundreds of articles by reforming the same content in different ways, using clickbait, and cloaking, which involves showing a different piece of content for search engine crawlers vs readers.
Gray Hat SEO
Lying somewhere between black and white hat SEO is the self-explanatory gray hat SEO – a term that refers to practices on the fence. Such SEO practices have the potential to be dangerous or against search engine rules depending on the usage.
The general recommendation is to avoid any dubious practice if you aren’t sure of its integrity. While not officially discouraged, gray hat SEO is not a practice that authoritative, trustworthy brands or sites would take part in.
Under this category call tactics like purchasing links, social media followers, and old domains to create backlinks. While not technically forbidden, it doesn’t really establish yourself as a site worthy of traffic, fake or not. Furthermore, even if you want an initial boost in clicks or engagement, these practices have gaps down the line – it’s a shaky foundation built on falsehood. Duplicate content can also be considered gray hat (in some cases, it’s under black hat SEO).
This sort of SEO is not only black hat, but also deliberately aimed to bring other sites down in ranking. Negative SEO practices target competitors in vicious ways, like destroying another site with viruses, forceful crawling to crash their site, or using link farms to falsify backlinks with usually inappropriate anchor text. Link farms involve a mass of useless sites with no other purpose than to create spammy links that destroy a competitor’s success. Other ways to do this might be creating fake, negative reviews about the site.
Now that we’ve established allowed and prohibited SEO types, let’s walk through the major (white hat) SEO practices to focus on when building long-term website traffic.
8 SEO Practices to Boost Your Website Traffic
If there’s anything you have the most control over, it’s on-page SEO, and it is arguably the lifeblood of your SEO strategy. As all SEO specialists will tell you, high-quality content tops all other SEO tactics.
Creating on-page content meant to attract and engage the right audience will have the perfect balance of well-researched keywords and valuable, original information. The best SEO tactics to embed your robust content is a keyword-rich title tag, headings that divide the content into readable bits, and a meta description that perfectly encapsulates the content topic.
In addition to these basics, create a slug or URL that is short and sweet, that perfectly announces the subject of the page.
As for keyword usage, the frequency does not matter as much as the relevancy and usefulness of the content. Some posts might include less than the “recommended” keyword volume, yet still rank highly due to well-written, engaging work. Furthermore, long-form content (1500+ words) is pretty well-received in SERPS, so long as you aren’t rambling for the sake of increasing the word count.
This SEO is anything you do externally from the site that points to it – like social media marketing, backlinks from other sources referring to you, any guest blogs on places like Medium, Forbes, or industry web journals. It might even include influencer marketing or affiliate marketing tactics. Off-page SEO reveals the status of a site – it’s reliability, authority, and how much thought leadership it emanates in its subject area.
Every website has elements working behind the scenes impacting its performance in the SERPs. Technical SEO is optimizing for those unseen factors to help web crawlers find your site easily. Done well, technical SEO should result in a speedy site and pleasing user interface that doesn’t lead to bounce-offs. That means there are no pages with 404 errors or mismanaged internal linking infrastructure. Building a good hierarchy of posts that each post to each other with relevant internal links creates a strong infrastructure. Good technical SEO also means using a robots.txt file that highlights certain, high-priority pages you want web crawlers to note.
Incredibly important for smaller, local businesses or brick-and-mortar stores, local SEO the key to matching up with the right audience nearby. Local SEO refers to optimizing for location, usually a city, state, or town, by specifying the place alongside the keywords – for example, “law firm in Detroit.” It is driven by search intent so that anyone looking for a specific business nearby can find exactly what they need. It’s essential for social media marketing.
Have you ever been looking for the nearest cafe or store in an unfamiliar neighborhood? When searching the query on Google, you probably wanted the first results to be specific to your location, right?
Anything that came up was due to hyper-local SEO. While local SEO takes on a wider expanse of a location, hyper-local SEO is specifically to draw in people in the immediate surrounding area.
App Store SEO
If you have an app on the market, SEO matters as well! Not only is it critical to send traffic to the app stores via your sites, social media, and other platforms, but also optimize the content on the store. Keyword research is also necessary on the app store domain, as well as providing clear features and benefits of the app, in-depth description, and images while injecting the keyword in all these elements as needed. Other things that impact app store ranking include ratings, reviews, popularity, and downloads.
As the second search engine powerhouse, Youtube has such a tremendous impact on traffic for any business involved in video marketing. Not only is it a free, accessible platform to billions of users, it also boosts SEO across the web.
Videos are bite-sized, user-friendly shareable content you can post on your website, blog, social media, and emails. The keys to excellent Youtube SEO is research and speed – it’s not good practice to edit after the video is out. Much like Google, you must research your main keywords into the Youtube search bar to get a sense of what viewers want to see. Optimizing your videos based on search intent and popular queries, as well as finalizing all optimizations before publishing, support great video SEO. As for the videos themselves, long-form content is rewarded, since your aim is to drive engagement alongside traffic.
No page is complete without entrancing visuals. Whether you shoot your own photography, create your own graphics, or opt for stock images, know that images have a lot of stake in SEO performance. Other than giving the audience something fresh to gaze upon, image elements like the file name, alt-text, meta tags, and captions have a lot of sway. Ensuring that you input your main keyword in those elements will boost your image SEO.
Alongside that, there are several best practices regarding image type and quality. For example, remember that the larger the size, the slower the site speed. Using tools that optimize images by maintaining quality without sacrificing user-experience can make a difference – like WordPress Smush.