If you’ve been asking yourself “What all the fuss is about this SEO thing?”, here’s your chance to learn everything in a rather long boring article.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is what you have to know either as a useful Freelancer Skill or as a general skill if you want to Start a Business or create a blog and write about whatever seems important to you or your readers.
In this article, you will learn absolutely everything you should know about SEO, especially in 2022 with all the competition and Google’s annoying search algorithm updates!
This article is written for somewhat beginner users who’ve just come across SEO and want to learn it. You can expect to learn some basic & intermediate stuff after reading this article, and you are expected to learn the rest by experience, like other SEO specialists!
I tried to make this article as short as possible and write with absolute simplicity in mind while covering the most important things one should know about SEO in 2022.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a so-called operation to make search engines such as Google like your content and website more and rank it higher on the search engine results page (SERP). As the result, your website will attract more traffic (visitors) so more users will read your content.
Importance of Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the foundation of nearly all forms of marketing on the internet and is a form of Content Marketing called SEO Marketing. The goal of SEO Marketing is to drive organic traffic to the website with the least implementation cost. Organic Traffic is defined as users or visitors that come to a website without any paid advertisement.
It is a low-cost (often free) marketing strategy that enables businesses to get more visitors who are searching for the answer to a question that your content supplies. You can call it an advertisement strategy that is free!
Because of the nature of SEO marketing, the organic traffic that comes to a website is often targeted. If a search engine ranks your website higher on a specific keyword or keyphrase, it means your SEO efforts paid off and the search engine understood the purpose of your website or content, so it will drive the right traffic to your website free of charge!
Types of SEO
In general terms, SEO is categorized into two categories with a little category in the middle. The two main categories are On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO and the middle one is called Technical SEO.
Some believe that Technical SEO is a part of the On-Page SEO, and they are right, but to prevent confusion, having Technical SEO separated from the On-Page SEO is actually a better idea.
On-Page SEO, as the name gives it away, is a type of SEO that is focused on optimizing the website & content itself for search engines. More simply, whatever you are doing on the website in terms of SEO is considered On-Page SEO.
Let’s take a look at the On-Page SEO in detail and see what we have to do when we are optimizing our website.
Write SEO-Focused Content
The central pillar of On-Page SEO is writing content. The content you publish on your website is your first and most important playground to rank on search engines. To rank higher and get more traffic, you have to optimize your content.
This, of course, means providing better content. Writing SEO-focused quality content requires considering some important factors:
- State the purpose of the article (topic sentence) in the first paragraph and sentence. This will tell the reader what they can expect by reading the article. This way, they won’t leave the page and will continue reading to the end. Users like it when they know they’ll find their answers!
- Depending on the site’s target audience, content should be written in simple language. Simpler content equals a wider range of readers!
- Content should be concise, written in short sentences, separated into different titled sections, and generally written in an active voice. Avoid extra information nobody asked for!
- Paragraphs should not be longer than 3 or 4 lines on Laptop screens, so don’t be afraid of hitting “Enter” when you’re writing. Long sentences or paragraphs are boring!
- Important words, phrases, and sentences should be underlined, in different colors, or styled in bold & italic to grab readers’ attention. Plain text makes everyone sleepy!
- The main keyword should be used once or twice in the first paragraph and a few more times across the entire article. Keyword stuffing makes the content sounds weird to the readers!
- The ideal content length is between 1,200 to 2,000 words and sometimes up to 5,000 words. Longer content is for special purposes and for professional audiences only!
- Include visual elements such as images, screenshots, videos, charts, graphs, etc. to engage your readers into the content, but don’t overdo it. An image every 2 or 3 paragraphs is good enough. Text-only dull content repels the audience!
Another factor that is very important both for the audience and search engines is Internal & External Link Building. This also helps you to write shorter content and drive traffic to other posts on your website (Internal Link) or provide more information by linking to the source somewhere else (External Links).
Sometimes, a subject might be too complex to write a single article about it in, for example, 5,000 words. Internal link building helps you to write the extra information in another article and allows the user to decide whether to read it or not.
Also, it helps the audience to spend more time on your website by reading more of your content. Users’ Dwell Time is a good ranking factor for search engines.
On the other hand, external link building helps search engines to discover more content on your website, analyze them, and index them on the search results page on specific keywords and phrases. In addition, external links help search engines to improve your content authority, as you have provided the source of what you claimed in your post.
External link building is also good for your audience because they will be sure that your content is research-driven and not just something written off the top of your head.
The process is simple. Just link a piece of text to another page or post to inform readers that there is more to read about this particular word or phrase in another article. Selecting the Anchor Text, or the piece of text you are linking to another post is also important. Select a word or phrase that is relevant to the destination URL.
Optimize Content Headings
Headings are the main title of the post as well as the subtitles you use to divide the content into shorter more readable sections. Their optimization and placing them into a correct hierarchy are very important for both readers and search engines.
Correct heading optimization allows readers to easily navigate through your content and relate information to the topic and helps search engines to identify and analyze the content better and find how pieces of information are related to one another.
There are 6 of them in a standard hierarchy with Heading 1 being the highest level or main title (post title). The image below shows how these headings are put into the correct order with their corresponding tags.
The tags in the image (h1, h2, h3,…) are used for HTML coding. If you use a CMS or Content Management System like WordPress Software, you don’t need to worry about it. You just highlight the text and set it to h1, h2, h3, and so forth.
Here are some tips that will help you better optimize your content headings:
- Heading 1 is always used as the post title. It should be used only once, preferably at the top of the content. More than one h1 tag may confuse search engines when they are trying to recognize the post title.
- Heading 2 is what you use to determine the main sections of an article. You can have as many h2 tags as you want but, as mentioned before, long contents are not ideal for SEO.
- Heading 3 to 6 is used to divide the main section into shorter pieces. Generally, the use of h3 & h4 tags are ok in moderation, but the use of h5 & h6 tags are discouraged. This is because they may introduce complexity into the hierarchy of the content and confuse readers as the result.
- Paragraph Tag is used to write the rest of the content including sentences and paragraphs. For each paragraph in content, there is an individual <p> tag.
- The use of Heading tags in the middle of a Paragraph tag is heavily discouraged because it makes the content look weird to readers and nearly off-standard to search engines.
Optimize Images & Visual Elements
A good blog post has a lot of images, charts, graphs, and other visual elements. A fantastic one has all of them optimized in every aspect. They are very simple but really helpful, especially for search engines.
Such optimizations will not only help the readers know the purpose of the image and know what it was about in case it doesn’t load properly but also help search engines to understand the content visible within the graphical elements. Although with Google’s AI-driven Search Engine, no additional description is required, it is still recommended to optimize all images.
To optimize your post images, pay attention to the following items:
- Recommended image dimensions should be at least 160×90 pixels and at most 1920×1080 pixels.
- Recommended image file size should be between 70 kb to 100 kb, although it could be more for larger images.
- Recommended image formats are JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF, and more recently Google image formats like WebP.
- Your image file name should be relevant to the visual content of the image. Also, file names should not have spaces in them. Use a hyphen instead. For example. instead of the “image of a car.jpg” file name, use “image-of-a-car.jpg” without spaces.
- Images should have relevant Alternative Text in case the image doesn’t load properly.
- Images should have a Title to explain what this image represents.
- Images should have a Description to explain the purpose the image is serving in the article.
- Providing a relevant Caption for an Image is also good. It works like the description but it appears under the image.
SEO Title & Meta Description [Optional]
SEO title and meta description are actually the post title (or site title) and post excerpt (summary) that search engines use to index the webpage. They can be altered and changed by using special tags or, if you are using a CMS, by using SEO Plugins.
This means that technically you can have a different SEO title from the actual post title that is provided via the h1 heading tag. If you choose to change these tags, then make sure you put something related to the post and close to the actual post title. Too much difference makes the readers confused after clicking the search results and seeing a totally different title!
If you choose to change it, then search engines will use SEO title & meta description as the primary source for showing your webpage on the search results page. Here’s the structure of a result on the Google search engine results page. They are color-coded so you can understand which one is the SEO title and which one is the meta description.
- Site URL or “Bread Crumbs”
- Webpage title
- Meta description
By default, if the title and meta description are left empty or undefined, search engines usually use the h1 heading tag as the site title and use an excerpt of the text in the first paragraph as the meta description.
However, since August 2021, Google released an update on automatic webpage title generation. So, you can determine a specific SEO title for your post, but it is best to let the search engine decide whether to use the h1 heading on the result page or generate something that is more relevant for users.
Also, providing a specific meta description is not required (and often discouraged) because Google will select a piece of text from a part of content related to the search query and serve it as the meta description on the search results page.
Don’t Forget Keyword Varieties [Optional]
I will talk about keyword research and the importance of late in this article. But now, let’s talk about keyword varieties and synonyms. Each keyword you use to write an article and rank on its related search queries comes with different synonyms and maybe a few varieties.
Let me give you an example. Take “Bitcoin” for example. It has other forms like Bit Coin, BTC, BtCoin, and even for Crypto alone that people type into search engines. Or take a word like “Specialist” that may have other synonyms like Expert, Consultant, Practitioners, and others. Google knows this and will tank the page based on it!
These varieties and synonyms that a keyword has should be used when you are writing an article. Well, not necessarily since Google ranks your webpage for all varieties and synonyms of your target keyword, even if you don’t use them in the content, like at all!
Therefore, while it is recommended to type other varieties and synonyms of your target keyword here and there in your content, it is not necessary. Google not only will rank the content for keyword variety and synonyms, but also rank it based on translated keywords and serve it to non-English users.
Now let’s talk about Technical SEO, which some people believe should be considered On-Page SEO. Well, to be honest, they are right, but if you considered it On-Page, complexity will arise. So, let’s separate them based on their purpose!
While On-Page SEO deals with the content and how it should be written and formatted, Technical SEO deals with the presentation of the entire website, including the written content, to the users. Things like site stylings, loading speed, and bits & bobs that a website has.
Technical Search Engine Optimization is usually the task of website designers and backend admins, and content providers and marketers don’t get into it. It deals with website codes and styles that may require some programming and designing. For a sole content provider, in-depth knowledge of Technical SEO is not required but knowing the basics won’t harm anyone!
Let’s take a closer look and see what Technical SEO cates about on a website and in its contents.
Website Design is Important
Having the best user-friendly content that is packed with all sorts of optimizations that a content provider has at his/her disposal is not enough if the site looks like a 1990s internet website. Website design is as important as the quality of content you provide.
Websites should be designed to perfection, both from a visual beauty standpoint and from user-friendliness. Everything on the website should have a purpose and be placed exactly where it should be to serve its purpose correctly.
All elements including buttons, banners, forms, pictures, charts, videos, sections, etc. should be designed and placed with users’ reactions to seeing and using them in mind. If you run an eCommerce store and users can’t find, for example, the product detail button. They’ll be disappointed and leave to buy from another online shop.
Or worst, imagine you place the “View Cart” or “Checkout” buttons in an uncommon place on the website and your customer couldn’t find the items (s)he added to the cart. It would be a disaster!
Based on Google, 75% of people search on their mobile devices for their needs. Also, according to the same source, 81% of customers tend to shop online from companies with mobile-friendly websites. The data are clear: Websites should be mobile-friendly.
In fact, a website, no matter it is a company website, an eCommerce store, or a simple blog, should be designed and optimized primarily for mobiles and smartphones. Websites should be optimized for the desktop view too, but the mobile view is way more important. The focus should be on being a mobile-first website.
Being mobile-first means designing everything responsively so that on other devices like mobile phones with small screens, the website theme wouldn’t break and still show the website with perfect layouts and elements. This is the work of the website designer to create everything neatly and perfectly to match all screen sizes.
You can even choose to serve your website, if it is a news site or a blog, as an AMP or Accelerated Mobile Page. AMP Project is a cool technology that allows your website to cache and serve directly from Google search engines. With AMP-enabled sites, when users click it on the results page, the site will load almost instantly.
Pay Attention to Site’s Stylings
Site stylings are all the variables that made your site the way it looks. They are the codes, files, and commands that put your site’s elements together as a theme and present it to the users and customers. They include, at a basic level, fonts, text color, text size, directions, buttons stylings, forms stylings, and many more.
Paying attention to the site’s stylings is doing some basic things to make sure users, especially readers, are comfortable browsing through your website. Apart from having a good-looking responsive theme for your website, you should pay attention to the following items on your site and make them better and more user-friendly if needed:
- Font: Choose a good font that matches your website’s atmosphere. Don’t just choose a font because it is exciting or cartoon-like! Choose a font that is neat and clean and easy to read.
- Text Size: A standard size for a mobile-first website, especially for blogs, is around 18 to 21 pixels. Other sites like company websites or eCommerce stores should have set the text size that fits viewers’ eyes when they access the site from mobile phones.
- Text Color: Choose a color for your text that is not in conflict with the background color, other elements on the webpage, or, in general, are too saturated and hurt eyes. White text on a black background or vice versa is OK, but the red text on a green background is a goodbye audience!
- Line-Spacing: Line spacing or light height is as important as text size. If the paragraph line space is too narrow, texts become unreadable, and if they are too wide, readers will lose the trail of content. A moderate line spacing for websites is 1.3 to 1.8 times the font size.
- Link/URL Colors: A website or a blog may have a lot of links going to other pages or other sites. It is a wise decision to color the links & URLs within the text something different from the text itself. For example, black text with blue color for links is perfect. This depends on your site’s theme but remembers to choose an easy-to-read color.
Optimize Loading Speed
Loading speed is one of the most important ranking factors for Google. It is wise to keep it as low as possible. Google provided a tool called PageSpeed Insight that allows you to analyze your page speed and fix the possible errors and problems that are causing the site to load slowly.
Site loading speed optimization is a subject that should be considered from the early stages of creating a website. It starts with choosing the right hosting company, a powerful web server, and a reliable content management system. If you have these, then you can start truly optimizing your website speed without noticeable troubles.
What follows are some of the stuff you have to do to increase your site loading speed:
- Use a light and fast theme with the least number of requests and queries.
- Introduce an efficient page cache policy that renders webpages as static HTML pages.
- Compress images and serve them in more modern formats like WebP.
- Use Lazy-Loading scripts to efficiently load images on a webpage.
- Use a CDN or Content Delivery Network to speed up loading time for users all over the world.
Use Schema & Snippets
Schema and snippets are two sets of codes and instructions that allow you to provide more information on your site link on the search engine results page (Rich Result Experience). There is a library for them. Schema.org and Google Structured Data Gallery with instructions on how to include them on a website.
The image above shows a feature content snippet being shown at the top of the Google search engine results page. There are a lot of them. The best examples that I can provide here are Featured Snippet, Rate & Review Snippet, Cooking Recipe, How to Instruction, and FAQ.
Featured Snippet is a rich result that appears, usually, on the top of the search engine results page. It is the direct answer to the users’ question or query that they’ve typed into the search bar. Google often identifies such rich results based on webpage headings, bullet points, data in a table, and general texts in the content.
Rate & Review Snippet is a rich result experience on the Google search results page that adds a star rating and the number of reviews (and sometimes the best review) at the end of a webpage result. It makes the result different from others on the page and improves the visual look of the webpage, which will result in more clicks by users.
Recipes and How to Instructions Snippets are the best rich results and structured data for blogs in the cooking and DIY niche. They will either show the cooking recipe cards or provide a step by step instructions on how to do something directly on the Google search results page. They also highlight ratings, reviews, and time to complete.
FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions Snippet is one of the easiest to integrate and most useful pieces of structured data you can provide on your content to further improve your content on the search results page. If employed correctly, google will provide a Q&A section at the bottom of your page in the search results page that users can interact with and get their answers or find more information about your content/website.
These snippets are introduced to the Google search engine by setting up structured data provided by Google itself and Schema.org documentation. They are basically highlighting certain data on the webpage by using markup tags. Google SEO Markup Tool allows you to easily make such tags with a few clicks.
Create a Sitemap & Robots.txt
Sitemap & Robots.txt are also two important elements for your website. They help search engines to find more of your content and see how you want them indexed.
The Sitemap is, as the name gives it away, the map of your website pages and posts. It is often an XML file format and is generated automatically using sitemap services or plugins. Click Here to see the sitemap on this website. It is a list of all posts and pages on a website. Search engine bots crawl through the sitemap to discover and index the website contents.
Robots.txt, on the other hand, is a text file that defines what search engines should index or not index on the website. It also highlights the sitemap URL. If you allow or disallow certain pages or directories on Robots.txt, search engine bots will follow the instruction when indexing the content. Click Here to see this website’s Robots.txt file.
Setup Social Sharings Buttons
If you’d ever been on a blog or website reading an article, you should’ve seen some buttons that allow you to share the content on various social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, and others. They are social sharing buttons that are playing a key role in the organic promotion of the content.
Their task is simple. To automatically share the content somewhere else with a link back to the source. Users interact with these buttons and easily share a post or an article they find interesting with their friends on social media. This tool allows you to promote your content with the help of your users and readers.
Their integration on the website is important, easy, and often effective, provided you publish interesting content that everyone wants to read & share. There are various scripts, codes, and services that allow you to set up these buttons with awesome stylings on your website. Also, they come in the form of easy-to-install plugins if you are using a CMS like WordPress.
Use Google Analytics & Search Console
One thing that is as important as optimizing your website and doing all sorts of SEO, is to reoptimize everything according to the data you collect using third-party analytics services. Two inseparable services that you have to use to gain more insight into your website traffic are Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
These two services will provide all sorts of data you’ll need to study and understand your users’ behaviors prior to accessing your website, when they access your website, and even when they leave the website.
Google Analytics helps you understand which content is more popular, how long users stay on the site, when and on what page they tend to leave the site, and how much they are engaged with your content. It also provides information like users’ location, time of access, page view, and many more that would give you a broader insight into planning any SEO optimization and even panning other marketing campaigns.
Google Search Console, on the other hand, tells you how your website or content is doing on the search engine results page. It tells you your ranks based on keywords, most searched keywords for your website, CTR or Click Through Rate, impression, and other data like country, device, operating system, etc. Google Search Console also provides regular site audits for potential problems and errors your website might have.
Integrating both these services into a website is straightforward. It is as easy as injecting some codes to the header of the website or creating a file on the root directory of your host. Afterward, all data collections will begin automatically and you just have to wait to gather enough data to extract meaning out of it and plan to make your website better.
We talked about On-page SEO that deals with content and technical SEO that deals with the website backend. Now, it’s time to talk about Off-Page SEO. Off-Page SEO is everything you do off the website to optimize your website.
It is also an interesting subject because it supercharges your current On-Page SEO efforts while you are not using any resources from the website itself. Why? Because, as I mentioned, it happens out of your website, on other websites & social media. The only resources you have to sacrifice here, and it is often worth it, are time and if outsourced, money.
There aren’t many categories, but there is a lot to do in each of them if you want your Off-Page SEO to effectively reflect back to your website and its On-Page & Technical SEO. Let’s dive into the details.
Get Quality Backlinks
Backlinks or external link building, as opposed to internal link building, are links you provide on other websites pointing to your website or content. For instance, on a social media profile, you can provide a link back to your website. That is considered a backlink. Another example could be your website link in the video description of a YouTube video.
There are various types of backlinks in terms of their placement. We have Contextual Backlinks, Profile Backlinks, Comments Backlinks, and News Release Backlinks each determining the placement of the link. The most popular ones are Contextual, Profile, and Comment backlinks that are constantly employed by many websites and blogs. The image below depicts a contextual backlink. Notice the backlink is placed in the middle of the content.
It’s an easy concept, but remember, we have backlinks and Quality Backlinks, and we should be aware of where we are getting backlinks from. Backlinks will be effective as long as they are from an authoritative, related website.
Getting backlinks randomly and unplanned may get your website ranking into trouble as Google Penguin Algorithm may penalize your website for spam links. You have to qualify all backlinks and the source of backlinks for various metrics like spam score, page authority (PA), and domain authority (DA). Besides, a backlink from a website with relative content to yours is far more effective than other niches and subjects.
There is also the policy from which you are getting backlinks regarding link rel attributes to consider. Some websites allow you to get backlinks that are Dofollow meaning search engine bots will follow the backlink and end up crawling your website. On the other hand, other websites go stingy and set link rel attributes to Nofollow blocking search engine bots to follow the backlink.
And at last, backlinks should be anchored correctly if possible. An anchor text is the piece of text you highlighted to link back to your content. It could be keywords, key phrases, or a whole sentence. Anchor text should be related to the content you are linking back to because search engines will recognize that backlink with its corresponding anchor text.
Now that we talked about backlinks fundamentals, let’s explain why they are useful, and honestly, one of the most important search engine ranking metrics for websites. Backlinks benefit your website in three ways.
- First: They help users from other websites find your content and navigate from the website you created a backlink on back to your website.
- Second: They help search engines to find more of your content when they are crawling through the content of another website, often with higher rank, DA, and PA.
- Third: It helps your website gain a better rank when Google follows your backlink from a website with a better rank and higher DA & PA, eventually ranking your content higher on the related keywords.
The frequency of getting backlinks differs based on the SEO strategy (which I’ll explain in the next section). The rule of thumb is “don’t go crazy on backlinking”, and if you, make sure you have a complex network of sites that won’t suffer if one or two were penalized by Google algorithms.
Guest-Posting is another way of promoting your website and content done by writing a shorter article on blogging services or other websites that allow guest-posting. Such articles often have a backlink back to the writer’s actual website. Click Here to see an example of guest-posting I’ve done on the Steemit blog network.
Guest-Posting is a type of contextual backlinking that is very popular for promoting websites and gaining higher ranks on the search engine results page. It is the best type of contextual backlink if it is published on a related blog or website with similar subjects and niches. Thus, choosing the right website to gust-post on is essential for effectiveness.
When you are writing a guest post, don’t forget to keep all On-Page SEO tasks and rules on the content as it will be crawled by search engine bots. A better SEO optimization while guest-posting will result in better ranks on search engines and higher engagement for the audience.
Social Media Presence
Social media presence is a simpler explanation for social media marketing that every website, blog, or business should employ. The power of social media goes way beyond just a simple post or video on Instagram, a tweet on Twitter, or a video on YouTube. It is about building a community!
Social media presence as an Off-Page SEO is about promoting the business, its products, and its services as well as dropping strong social media signals that search engines seek to correspond a website to its social media accounts & profiles.
Frequent social media signals indicate that a website, company, business, or whatever you want to call it, is alive and is trying to build a community around its brand, products, and services. A community helps you to quickly spread the word of your website, blog, or business further and promote new stuff with far more impact than common marketing techniques.
These social signals, which are the result of being active on social media, will help search engines to do some magic tricks that will connect almost every search query related to your brands back to the main website or official social media accounts.
Besides that, every single social media post plays a semi-backlink that could help your website’s SEO ranking on the search engine results page. Although they are not officially backlinks, search engines still track them back to the source, which is the website or blog. That’s, maybe, it is called a signal and not a backlink.
Types of SEO Strategies
What we talk about SEO so far were the different types of SEO in general. Now, we’re going to talk about SEO strategies. Strategies are actually the implementation techniques of different types of SEO.
White-Hat SEO or the Good-Guys SEO is a strategy that focuses on publishing lengthy quality content that is SEO optimized to a standard extent without the intention of tricking search engines to rank the website higher.
White-Hat SEO is actually the normal progress of SEO marketing and often involves long-term dedication and content providing.
Advantages of White Hat SEO
- Involves little to no costs when everything moves at its regular pace.
- Involves writing quality content that readers love and will dig for more.
- Provides stable results (higher ranks) that are often hard to compete with.
- Can be monetized by advertisements of affiliate links as users’ dwell time & interaction is better.
- Can be implemented on the main target website without risk or the fear of Google penalties.
- It involves less trial & error or A/B testing.
- The site’s ranking will experience less fluctuation when Google updates its algorithms.
- The website’s looks and the theme is more beautiful and appealing.
- Backlinks are high-quality and related to the site’s niche.
Disadvantages of White Hat SEO
- Competition is difficult on many keywords & niches with only White-Hat SEO.
- It’s a long-term strategy and takes months, and sometimes years, to show positive results.
- Writing comprehensive content that covers everything is often difficult and time-consuming.
- It might not be suitable for everyone as not all site monetization plans are by running ads or affiliate marketing.
- Quality over quantity results in less keyword & subject coverage.
- The page load speed is often slower because of advanced visual elements.
Black-Hat SEO is the opposite of White-Hat, meaning everything is working the other way around in order to gain ranks on the search engine results page. In this strategy, everything is overdone and in bulk!
Black-Hat SEO focuses on the quantity of content rather than the quality and focuses on employing complicated bulky techniques to trick search engines into ranking the website higher
It is, generally, a risky strategy with a lot of over-optimization that can yield results in a short period of time!
Advantages of Black Hat SEO
- It can yield results on more competitive keywords and niches.
- It is a short-term strategy that may result in a few months.
- Providing content for Black-Hat implementations are often easy, fast, and cheap.
- More quantity of content means covering more keywords and subjects.
- Over-Optimization leaves no room for search engine bots to miss important data on the content.
- Designing a website, or a network of websites, for Black-Hat SEO strategy is easy because everything is designed with simplicity.
- It is the perfect strategy for direct marketing and single-target affiliate marketing.
- Bulk backlinks are involved from numerous websites.
Disadvantages of Black Hat SEO
- It is often a costly strategy that involves a lot of complicated planning.
- Despite it might result in a short time, it is less stable and is prone to losing rank.
- Website rank will experience much more fluctuation in the event of a Google algorithm update.
- It is a risky strategy that renders it dangerous as the marketing strategy for the main website.
- It is prone to be penalized by carious Google search algorithms as spammy & bulky techniques are often involved in Black-Hat.
- It involves a lot of trial & error and A/B testing that is complex & time-consuming.
- Content is often written with search engine algorithms in mind, making them undesired by readers leading to less interaction and shorter dwell time.
- Websites are often looking simple & rushed with default themes & stylings.
- It is not a suitable strategy if monetization is by running ads or general affiliate marketing.
Gray-Hat SEO strategy is a middle ground between White-Hat and Black-Hat SEO. It is White-Hat SEO but on steroids, or Black-Hat SEO but tamed to pose fewer risks.
Some believe that Gray-Hat SEO can have the advantages of fast implementation and ranking results of Black-Hat with less risk while employing the higher quality standards of White-Hat SEO content with stable hard-to-compete results on the search engine results page.
To be honest, the Gray Hat SEO strategy is an area of implementing SEO that is still debated among specialists and content providers. There is no definitive research regarding this strategy and most who implemented it end up changing to White-Hat or Black-Hat after a while.
In simpler words, it is a strategy invented to determine whether White Hat or Black Hat is more effective for certain websites in certain niches. The advantages and disadvantages of Gray Hat SEO strategy are a mixture of two main strategies and implementing such a strategy for a long period of time may result in rather quicker results at the expense of higher than usual costs.
If you are asking me, don’t get into Gray Hat and stick with one of the main two strategies!
SEO Strategy Dilemma
Disclaimer: I tend to express my honest opinion regarding SEO implementation strategies that may, to some extent, be considered radical and contradicts what other SEO experts, those with a conservative view regarding marketing strategies, try to force-feed via various media. My opinions about SEO strategies and their implementation tactics come from years of experience, trial & error, and extensive research & development in various contexts & niches. Results always differ from niche to niche and website to website and there is no fixed formula that fits all. Many uncommon SEO implementations of Black-Hat strategies are considered high-risk and may result in Google Penalties. Therefore, never experiment with a risky technique on the main website, and always Consult a Professional before executing such strategies. Also, this part is boring!
As the old saying from the architect from the second Matrix movie, “As you adequately put, the Problem is Choice!”. This is the dilemma everyone after creating a website faces: To do everything clean with White-Hat SEO or go Black-Hat and wish for the best!
First, let me summarize the underlying issue with this dilemma before jumping into an explanation and conclusion.
If you Google “Which is one is better black hat SEO or white hat SEO?”, you will immediately be bombarded by countless articles advising you against the use of Black-Hat due to its complications and risks.
This advice often comes from top SEO specialists or respected marketing agencies. More than 90% of written or video content about Black-Hat is dedicated to discouraging anyone to use such techniques to gain ranks. The other 10% are rarely informative and only treading the surface.
They also tagged Black-Hat SEO as an illegal or frowned-upon way of marketing that you should avoid and never think about. Well, they are not lying because lots of risks are involved in this strategy, for sure, but the truth is far from what they are publishing online.
Based on the experience I’ve had with various SEO teams and marketing agencies and running complex SEO marketing campaigns, the truth is something that nearly all top experts hide for reasons I never understood.
Nearly all companies, old or new, dedicated a big budget to marketing, a huge chunk of which is only for SEO marketing. They hire top agencies and experts to implement complex SEO marketing plans to quickly rank them on the top of the Google search engine result page for their respective keywords.
If you see a keyword or keyphrase or an entire niche suddenly conquered by a certain brand over a month or two, do you really think it is the result of White-Hat SEO?
Of course not! It is a combination of all marketing strategies mixed with a network of websites (PBN or Private Backlink Networks), various social media profiles, and other shady techniques that discreetly advertise a certain product, brand, or company to create a trend that will eventually result in organic traffic flooding the main website and rank it higher on the search results page.
And there are many ways to hide every bit of evidence of PBN backlinks or other bulk efforts to prevent competitors from understanding how their marketing campaigns are executed and are managed to rank them high in a short amount of time.
The only drawback between you going Black-Hat and a big company going Balck-Hat is the budget and the number of resources employed for such a strategy. While you may trigger Black Hat with 10 websites, many of them may be penalized in the process, big companies are playing in hundred’s and thousand’s territories, and also their efforts go beyond simple SEO marketing plans!
To sum up, if you hear, watch, or read Black-Hat SEO is not good, is a crime, or evil for you, don’t believe it right away. Its risks and effectiveness depend on how much budget and resources you have at your disposal. But it is definitely a strategy you can pull off and gain some ranks!
SEO in 2022: a Comprehensive Review
SEO in any type and any strategy is an active marketing technique and constantly requires maintenance and improvement. Ranking factors and SEO metrics are changing by search engines every few months and with each change, websites should update their optimizations and adapt to the new rules.
In 2022, compared to last year, Google updated its search algorithms and ranking factors a lot. Usually, Google rolls out a new update every few months, and a big update almost every year. It’s crucial to understand all these updates, changes, and new metrics and reflect them back on our websites.
Consider what you’ve learned about SEO up until here, let’s see what we have to do to successfully rank our websites by implementing SEO in 2022!
The Research Trident
I advised numerous times about planning before executing any business or work. The same advice applies to SEO and SEO marketing as well. Before implementing any strategy, you should plan what you are going to do and who you are competing with.
This comes, at its basic level, to a set of three research tasks that you have to conduct before going all in SEO. I called them The Research Trident. Let’s talk about them and see what we have to do prior to starting our SEO marketing campaigns.
1. Niche Research
The first one three is conducting niche research. This is necessarily not about finding a new niche to start a business around it, but rather doing research about the niche that you have already chosen.
The goal of niche research is to identify why users are searching about the subject, what potentials are out there that you can use to gain ranks, what forms of content are more popular within the niche, and what are the best sources for implementing Off-Page SEO (backlinking, social media presence, guest-posting, etc.).
There are more, but these will give your a good start on niche research, provided you have already chosen what subject you’re going to work on and what niche your business is into.
2. Keyword Research
Technically, all SEO types & strategies are centering around Keywords, and without them, SEO becomes meaningless. Search Engine Optimization works because of a keyword or a series of keywords that shape the SEO marketing plans.
Thus finding the keyword(s) to include in your content and building your SEO marketing around it is really important. Keyword Research is the second of the trident that everyone should conduct, not just once, but for every piece of content that is about to be written.
Keyword research, in itself, is a whole technical skill that involves a lot of strategies, techniques, and tricks. But simple keyword research, meaning Googling some queries, doesn’t need any noticeable skills. You just try to find keywords that are more used in your niche and are relevant to the content your want to write.
However, other things that you should consider when you are conducting keyword research are looking for all related keywords to the main one, finding other synonyms of forms of the keyword, and extracting all related key phrases.
In addition, you have to check the keyword search volume, difficulty, and Users’ Search Intent for including the keyword in search queries. A tool like Google Trends will become very useful for such research. It will give you a lot of good insight into the keyword you want to use for your content.
3. Competitors’ Research
And the last pointy head of The Research Trident is pointing toward your competitors in the niche and for the keywords. Like keyword research, competitors’ research is a professional skill with lots of tricks up its sleeves, but it doesn’t hurt to conduct it at a basic level.
Competitors’ research is conducting research on how your rivals in the niche or keywords are doing their SEO. It includes looking for their content, keyword use, backlinks, social media presence, and basically everything that is related to On-Page & Off-Page, and sometimes Technical SEO.
Your Primary Competitors are the top 10 results on Google for your main keywords. Secondary Competitors are those located on the second page of the Google search results page. What you have to do is to invest a lot of time in competitors’ research to outrank them with a better SEO strategy.
And remember, you can conduct competitors’ research alongside keyword research. It is a more efficient technique, and also smarter because you can see who ranks better on specific keywords.
Understand Google Search Algorithms
Ninety-five percent of all SEO efforts are planned around the Google search engine. It is the go-to search engine for almost everyone who is connected to the internet. So, we can confidently assume that if our website ranks on Google, it will be the same for other search engines.
The idea of focusing only on a single search engine is unavoidable and we have to deal with it. This also means dealing with a huge drawback of the Google search engine. Google constantly updates its search engine algorithms. In fact, during the last few years, Google’s algorithms changed a lot as the search engine is adapting to AI technologies and machine learning algorithms.
With each update comes a series of issues for websites that already have good ranks, and of course those that doesn’t. When the algorithm updates, a series of changes are introduced to the search engine that will eventually result in many changes in how websites are indexed and ranked.
Having this in mind, following Google search engine algorithm updates and learning what’s new is crucial to maintaining your rank and gaining higher ranks. When a new update rolls out, start optimizing your content, website, and other SEO efforts according to the new rules and regulations to prevent losing rank or getting delisted altogether.
Build a Brand
Long gone the time of only writing for the fun of it and hoping for money to come from advertisements, affiliate marketing links, and other plans that we had. In the past few years, the focus is more on establishing authority with a search engine like Google. This means forget about all aimless and unbiased content writing.
Users’ searching methods are changed a lot from just a simple query to more complex brand-centric questions that they are trying to answer. I’ll talk about users’ search intent in a bit but first, let’s establish the basis of brand mention and branding in our SEO implementations.
A business, company, website, or blog is all about a brand. It is the most important side of your business that users, customers, or readers fall in love with and trust. If you want to do SEO right, try to work on your brand and include it in everything you do, whether on-page or off-page.
The brand is what everyone will recognize you everywhere. This is also what the Google search engine looks for in business websites and blogs. If you provide content and do SEO around your brand, your authority for the niche will increase meaning search engines will rank your content higher because it seems you know way more than your competitors about a particular subject.
Google looks for what people search for and on which website they’ll meet their expectations. If the website happens to be yours and you happed to establish a brand since the beginning of your business, Google will mark you as a potential authorized website that offers what users are seeking for a particular niche and keyword.
Before implementing any SEO strategy, and even before starting a business, work on establishing your brand in your niche and plan everything around it. Let your brand shape the users’ expectations and soon you’ll see a surge of traffic coming to your website and engaging with your content.
Users’ Search Intent
Users’ search intent is the purpose of users searching a specific query, keyword, keyphrase, or question. To reach niche & keywords, specific intent is involved behind the users’ search query that you must identify when you are researching keywords.
They might want to find an answer to a question, find instructions to do something, find a certain product or reviews about the product, book a hotel, flight, restaurant, or concert, and generally find more information about something.
The content written for each of these intents differs from another. For example, for product & review-related intents, you write a comparison article or “Top X Products”, for instruction intents, a “How-to” guide will fulfill the purpose, and for booking intents, a “Pro & Cons” post could help users decide better.
Find the users’ search intent behind the keywords and niches you are working with to create better content and have a more successful SEO marketing campaign. If you are unsure about the intent, then A/B testing can help you a lot in finding the most suitable form of content and SEO strategy.
Quality vs. Quantity
The story of the quality and the quantity of content and which one to choose for search engine optimization depends on many factors. SEO strategy, Niche, keyword, competition, monetization method, resource, time, and budget are just a few that have the biggest effect.
For example, a website that is going to establish its brand by blogging can go with publishing quality content, and if budget allows, in more than normal quantities.
Another instance is businesses that are selling products or services. For them, it depends on the number of products and services and the extent to which written content can help them gain traffic. They can choose to write many quality review articles, list posts, and comparison blog posts.
In general, if the Black-Hat SEO strategy is not employed and everything is planned the normal way, quality content can be as effective, and sometimes even more effective, than the number of available content on a website.
In the field of Marketing & SEO, there are many who achieve high ranks (like the first result on Google) for competitive keywords with less than 50 blog posts published on their websites. Their goal was not quantity but never-seen-before quality!
A tested strategy that I used to employ for various clients was this: Publish quality, often lengthy, content and cover almost everything about the subject at hand. After a few months when the post attracted enough traffic, divide the article into shorter mini-articles. Then, summarize the main article with internal links to the new short articles.
Links, More Links, and Even More Links
Everybody said it! Links, more specifically backlinks, internal, and external links are one of the most important ranking factors, like forever. This year, it’s even more important.
Getting quality backlinks from related websites, forums, and blogs should be a daily routine if you want to improve your SEO in a natural ideal way. A Good White-Hat SEO strategy has a bunch of daily backlinks, like 5 to 10 per day.
In addition to backlinking, improving internal and external link building in On-Page SEO is proven to be highly effective for ranking improvement. If you’re publishing new content, make sure to link it to other related content and also link other content to the new one if they are related.
Internal link building helps your newer content to see some of the traffic from your already ranked content. External link building helps Google to establish an authority for the content on your website and also your brand.
Put a good healthy diet of daily backlinks for your main website and go mad on your network sites with bulk backlinks if you are experimenting, or running some Black-Hat. Just don’t go bulk on the main site and you’ll be fine.
Google Loves Commitment
Commitment to your goals for your business and blog is constantly publishing something new, getting some backlinks, and maintaining the website backend. This is a kind of commitment you shouldn’t run away from, but embrace!
Google loves websites that are committed to being the best at what they are in their respective niches. If you constantly publish new content, be active on social media, get quality backlinks, and take good care of your website, Google will record and log all your efforts for good and realize that your website is “Alive” and want to establish authority
Where to start this kind of commitment? I can share a simple out-of-experience tip with you. Register your domain for at least 3 years, and pay your hosting company a year in advance to put yourself into the challenge of turning this investment into a, at least, passive income!
Don’t Forget Monetization
And last but not least is personal advice that I can give you not just for SEO or content writing, but basically for starting any business. Your ultimate goal of starting a business or running a blog is to make money or passive income. Well, if this is not the goal, it should be!
Monetization & business models, especially for blogs and content-centric websites should be the number one priority. You have to determine your monetization methods right from the start and implement it from day one.
This has nothing to do with SEO but if you try hard and invest a lot of time and energy to optimize your website and provide content, you should at least make some money to pay the bills. Above that, you should see the result of your efforts in the form of money and banknotes to keep trying more and more and never lose hope, right?
So decide how you want to make money doing what you are going to do in the early days and start doing it to see the results of your efforts, no matter how much it might be in the beginning. Do this and hope of more will come after it bringing a lot of eagerness for trying harder day and night to meet your ultimate goals.
Too much philosophical stuff, I’m out!
The journey to SEO land ends here. Along the way, we learn everything there is about SEO marketing and how it is implemented. First, we talked about the basics of SEO, its importance, its different types, the top 3 strategies, and how to optimize your site’s On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO.
After that, we took a deep dive into SEO in 2022 and what we should do this year to have a successful SEO marketing campaign. We talked about The Research Trident, link building, building a brand, and monetization.
To sum it up, in this article, we learned everything that is needed to get things going. The story of SEO doesn’t end here, of course, but starts by running experiments, analyzing statistics, and learning from mistakes.
This is the ultimate guide you need to start your journey to mastering SEO. It starts from the basics and ends with a lot of strategies and techniques that you have to test and restest to see what fits your website best.