Here are six key SEO tactics that can help your site rank for the keywords you’re targeting. You may not want or care to use all six, but knowing what is available will be important for your long-term digital strategy.
1. On-Page SEO
This is the kind of SEO that you’re probably familiar with. On-page optimization includes all of the things that your readers will see when they visit your website. For the most part, that means on-page content.
Effective on-page SEO is built on high-quality, informative content. And not just slightly informative—content that’s really going to rank well has to solve problems that no other pages are solving (or, at the least, solve those problems better than other available resources). The information you’re sharing has to be top-notch. If your content is absolutely blowing everything else out of the water, it’s going to rank very well.
The most important part of on-page SEO is making sure your content is excellent. But there are a lot of other factors that go into getting a page to rank well in search results. The example I gave earlier, keywords, is an important one. If you’re writing a detailed piece on a topic, you’re going to include a lot of relevant and related keywords. But making sure that those keywords are totally optimized to meet your goals can provide a big boost to your SEO.
For example, including your keyword in the title, URL, first paragraph, and at least one sub-heading in your page is a good idea. You also want your keywords to cover a single, specific topic. (If you’re familiar with the Yoast WordPress plug-in, pictured here, you’ll recognize many of the elements analyzed by the plug-in as on-page factors.)
But on-page SEO goes beyond keywords. Having a site that’s easy for visitors to navigate is important, too—if your visitors want additional information, but it’s hard to figure out where it is, they’re not likely to stick around to figure it out. Good design is crucial as well. In short, you need to focus on providing a good user experience all around. If it sounds like just about everything is included in on-page SEO, that’s because it’s a huge factor, and getting it right is extremely important. Much of this optimization is focused on the user, and that’s who you’re trying to attract, so it’s very important to get it right.
2. Off-page SEO
Defining off-page SEO is a bit more difficult. The first—and arguably most important—part of off-page optimization is link-building. This is a huge part of SEO, and it’s also one of the most difficult. Getting links to your site helps bring in visitors, and it shows Google that other people around the internet value your content, and that your site is authoritative.
That’s a big deal.
Getting links from authoritative sites can make a huge difference in how your site is ranked—and while it’s difficult to measure the effect of a single link, it’s safe to say that getting a good one can provide a solid boost to your rankings. Getting links from those types of sites, however, is extremely difficult. Many people have built entire careers on building backlinks.
Social media is another off-page signal that can make a big difference in your SEO. If people are talking about your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social networks, search engines take that to mean that it’s worth talking about and will help other people find it. Having a piece of content that’s popular on social media gets you a lot of traffic, too, which can also help your SEO.
It takes more than writing good content to get your post to succeed on social media, though—solid promotion to the channels where your audience spends time requires a lot of time and effort. The payoffs, however, can be huge.
Building positive relationships with bloggers, journalists, social media personalities, and the people behind websites similar to yours are all positive off-page SEO practices. Commenting on other blogs can be helpful. Guest blogging is still a popular off-page SEO method. Hanging out on Reddit and relevant forums can help, too.
A lot of this might not seem like SEO—but that’s because you’ve been focusing on on-page signals. SEO really has a lot to do with your overall online presence, and off-page SEO focuses on that. It’s often more about you as a content creator than your content itself.
3. Technical SEO
Some people classify technical SEO as a subset of on-page SEO, but we’ll be treating it as a unique type here. Technical SEO, in short, is related to on-page factors but has to do with things that go on behind the scenes.
For example, search engines give some preference to sites with a responsive design that scales well to mobile devices. Page speed is also an important factor; if your page loads slowly, you’re going to lose visitors, and you will be penalized by ranking algorithms.
Optimizing images, using a secure HTTPS connection, caching information to speed load times, uploading detailed sitemaps, and other technical factors can help your SEO.
The HTML on each page should be optimized, too. Using schema markup to tell search engines exactly what’s on your page, making it easy for crawlers to figure out what your page is about, and using the correct type of redirects are all SEO-related factors. Speaking of crawlers, making sure your robots.txt file is updated to help crawlers find the right information faster is crucial, too.
Technical SEO sounds intimidating, but most of it is guided by the same principles as on-page SEO: you need to provide a good user experience. If your site is fast and easy to use, you’re halfway there. You just need to make sure now that it’s easy for Google’s crawlers to get around, too.
4. Local SEO
While many businesses only operate online, there are still thousands of companies that have a physical location where they need customers. If customers aren’t coming through your door, you’re not making money. So it’s important to take that into account when doing your SEO.
There are a number of steps that are important for local SEO that you won’t need to think about in a more traditional SEO campaign. For example, making sure that you’ve claimed your Google My Business page, which ensures that your name, address, phone number, opening hours, reviews, and other useful information is prominently displayed in search results and on Google Maps.
That listing itself needs to be optimized with good photos, descriptive information, and real reviews from customers.
You’ll also need to make sure that your contact information is prominently displayed and highlighted with schema markup so search engines know where it is. The more effectively you present this information to search engines, the easier it will be for them to show that information to potential customers.
Other things like embedding a Google Maps marker in your homepage, adding a region or city to your page titles, descriptions, and keywords, and displaying awards and trust symbols can also make a big difference not only in being found by local leads but also in getting turning those leads into customers.
Effective local ranking isn’t easy, so local SEO should be a high priority for local businesses.
5. App store optimization
(If your first thought is that this should be called “ASO,” and not a type of SEO, just bear with me.)
Google and Bing aren’t the only search engines out there. App stores—especially Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store—get a phenomenal amount of searches every day. And if you have an app, you need to do what you can to make sure that those stores are showing it to people who might be looking for it.
App store optimization is very similar to on-page SEO. While it’s not always clear which factors are used in app store search algorithms, there are fewer factors that you can influence, so you need to focus on those.
Your app title and icon are the first two things that anyone will see, so they have to be descriptive and attractive. The description needs to be accurate and include the keywords your users are likely to be searching for as well as related ones. The meta tags in your description should include those keywords as well.
You could argue that there’s a case for off-page-style app store optimization as well. If you’re able to build a lot of links to your app, it’s possible that the app store will rank it higher in searches. This is likely to be part of a wider SEO effort for your entire business, but it’s possible that this could be undertaken specifically for an app.
6. YouTube SEO
Much like app store optimization, YouTube SEO is a niche type of optimization, but it can make a big difference in how much traffic you’re getting. Many people don’t realize that YouTube is one of the world’s most popular search engines, and that ranking for a popular search there is absolute gold.
And if you can also rank one of your videos for a standard Google search, you can get an even bigger boost. So how do you optimize content for YouTube?
In much the same way as you do for other search engines.
First of all, your video needs to be great. It needs to answer questions, solve problems, or be more entertaining than what’s out there. If your video is great, it will keep people on the page longer, result in more comments and subscribes, and get more likes and favorites. All of these are ranking signals in YouTube.
Your video title and description should be descriptive, much like your page titles and introductions on text-based pages. A longer, keyword-rich description (without keyword stuffing) will help Google figure out what your video is about. Adding relevant keyword tags doesn’t hurt, either.
When you’re thinking about keywords, you should think about what are commonly called video keywords—these are the searches for which Google prominently displays video results at the top of a normal search page. They’re hugely valuable.
What are common video keywords? How-tos, reviews, and tutorials are always good bets. Getting your videos ranked for these types of searches will have a huge effect on your views.
And, of course, there’s the off-page stuff; getting links to your video, getting other people to embed it in their blog posts, encouraging comments and discussion, and so on.
A multipronged strategy works best
If you’re just getting started with optimizing a site, you can get away with just an on-page approach for a while. But if you want to really boost your search rankings, you’ll need to use multiple types of SEO. You may not need to use all six of these kinds of SEO, but you should at least be using the first three.
No matter what kind of site you’re trying to rank, you need to use all of the methods at your disposal if you’re going to get in the top rankings. And using multiple types of SEO will help you get there.