The Different Types Of SEO Explained

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SEO is a complex and multi-faceted beast that can confuse even the most experienced search marketer.

It’s constantly evolving, and really, SEO is just an umbrella term for several different types of SEO.

In over 10 years in the search marketing industry, we’ve seen different types of SEO come and go, but in this post, we’ll introduce and explain the core types of SEO, along with a quick look at the SEO types of the future…

What Are The 4 Main Types Of SEO?

As we’ve mentioned, SEO is a multi-faceted term that covers many different methods of optimization for organic performance.

At FATJOE, we find it easiest to think of four types of SEO, broken down into the three main pillars of SEO, with the scope and scale of your campaign forming the vital fourth type of SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO covers everything to do with the content of your website.

From great copywriting on your product pages to dynamic video content in your blog posts, on-page SEO is everything your customers, and therefore Google, could interact with at a surface level.

On-page SEO techniques focus on creating quality content that is informative for your readers and customers which help emphasize the EEAT credentials of both your brand’s authority and your site’s trustworthiness.

Typical on-page SEO practices can include:

  • Writing keyword-optimized landing pages
  • Enhancing written content with images or video
  • Auditing and updating existing content
  • Topic clustering and keyword-focused blogging strategy
  • Optimizing pages to improve Click-Through-Rates and Conversion Rates

As well as optimizing your product or service pages for search queries, on-page SEO can give you the opportunity to provide genuinely helpful materials, such as informative blog posts, to your users.

Always remember to place the user first when conducting on-page content optimization. Resist the urge to simply keyword stuff articles and instead consider how they can best help your reader answer the question they have, or find the product they need.

Technical SEO

On-page SEO is paired with technical SEO to ensure that Google, and your users, can crawl and read the great content you produce. There’s no point going through all the hassle of having an expert copywriter produce an informative blog post if no one can find or read it!

As well as ensuring your site and your content is visible, technical SEO encompasses everything that could potentially prevent Google from indexing your content or create a bad user experience on your site.

Google naturally wants to reward sites that provide their users with great UX, and mastering your technical SEO is a great way to do this.

Technical SEO practices typically involve:

  • Technical site audits for crawl efficiency and indexability
  • Producing sitemaps and robots.txt files
  • Compressing code and improving page elements for Core Web Vitals
  • Optimizing site architecture
  • Preparing and implementing website migrations

For many users, the key points are to ensure an easily navigable site that has excellent page load times. Bounce rates rocket when pages are slow to load, and, quite simply, you can’t even get to the stage where a user bounces if they haven’t found your content in the first place.

Technical site audits can help identify any issues, such as broken links or pages, orphan pages, or even duplicate content, that you can then address with your on-page optimization.

Working to optimally deliver your content along with the images and videos you’ve included for on-page optimization can bring your load times down and significantly boost your traffic and dwell times as part of your overall technical SEO package.

Off-Page SEO

The third pillar of the main types of SEO is off-page SEO. Off-page SEO is a specialty for us at FATJOE, as it primarily focuses on securing excellent, high-quality backlinks.

That’s not to say that off-page SEO is only backlinks, though. Off-page SEO actually encompasses a wide range of things as it consists of anything happening away from your own website that could influence your site’s rankings.

Typical off-page SEO practices are:

  • Link building and outreach
  • Digital PR campaigns
  • Backlink audits
  • Local business citations
  • Review generation and reputation management

As you can see, there is more to off-page SEO than just links.

Digital PR is a fast-growing industry that is complementary to typical SEO services. This can include everything from pitching stories, newsjacking, distributing press releases and HARO.

External reviews can be an absolute goldmine for building and maintaining a positive reputation and external review management should always form part of your wider off-page SEO strategy.

While there are SEO benefits to online reviews in the way of E-E-A-T and Google Business Profile, a nice shiny 5 stars in search results can also boost Click-Through-Rates and help your target market make the right buying decision!

 

Finally for off-page SEO, link audits are an absolute must. As well as spotting new link opportunities you can proactively manage and contain any potentially harmful links, avoiding the negative impact they may otherwise have on your rankings.

The Scale Of Your SEO

The final consideration for the four main types of SEO is the scale of your SEO.

Local SEO tends to be the most commonly discussed scale, but SEO campaigns can be local, national, or even international in their scope.

The scale of your SEO campaign can influence every aspect of both the SEO work you do and any associated marketing or PPC campaigns, as you might target different keywords, users, or even languages depending on what the scale of your SEO is.

Given the breadth of this SEO capstone, we’ll cover the scales of SEO further below!

What Are The Different Scales Of SEO Services?

SEO can operate across multiple different scales, whether you’re running a small local campaign, a multinational marketing push, or something in between.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is perhaps the most common consideration for a typical SEO campaign.

Local SEO is vitally important as it captures local searchers that are typically looking to make a purchase or visit either immediately or in the very near future.

For companies with brick-and-mortar stores, local SEO is of the utmost importance – in 2018, 46% of all Google searches were looking for local information.

Local SEO services usually include:

  • Creating a Google Business Profile
  • Creating online citation listings
  • Content localization
  • Local keyword research and optimization
  • Local press opportunities

Just because local SEO represents a more specific focus it doesn’t mean it’s less work.

Local SEO can go hand-in-hand with the types of SEO covered above as you manage on-page, off-page, and technical factors to best present yourself to local customers.

Google wants to know that you really are best placed to serve your local searchers and you can promote this with solid NAP details, locally-optimized link building, and local press opportunities to get a solid buzz going.

For companies with several locations, this means every location needs to have specialized local SEO work done for the best possible results!

What Is National SEO?

National SEO is the natural step up from local SEO and employs many of the same tactics and services.

Sites investing in national SEO are largely differentiated from local SEO campaigns in the keywords they are targeting.

They may have multiple branches (working on local SEO for each of them of course) but they can therefore look to target wider-ranging and higher volume keywords rather than just local ones.

As an example, Home Depot would be better able to target broad terms like “home improvement supplies,” whereas a local mom-and-pop store would need to target longtail opportunities with regional identifiers to stand a chance.

 

What Is International SEO?

International SEO is the final step in types of SEO campaign scale and, naturally, it’s typically reserved for those with a multinational presence.

International SEO can provide unique SEO challenges as it often requires the management of multiple different localized domains, such as amazon.com / amazon.ca / amazon.co.uk

Even sites that look to use one .com with shifting regional optimizations need to ensure both their on-page and technical SEO is on-point. Tasks like keyword research and optimization have to be repeated for each nation as volumes and search behaviours can vary across different countries.

You might even need to consider hreflang implementation to specify the language and geographic region for pages along with any necessary translations you’ll need for your copy.

Failing to do so can result in awful, unoptimized UX and even self-cannibalization as your own pages compete with each other, rather than complement each other.

Just as on-page layers with off-page layers with technical SEO, so too do the different scopes of SEO campaign stack up. No international campaign can succeed without a firm local basis for each of its locations too.

The Types of SEO Goals

Along with the scale of SEO, the end-goal of a project can also vary. While every SEO project is working towards higher keyword rankings and increased traffic, the website owner’s objectives and KPIs tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories: Ecommerce SEO or Lead-Generation SEO.

Ecommerce SEO vs Lead Generation SEO

Ecommerce SEO applies solely to online stores. Selling products directly through their website, this form of SEO aims to convert users into buyers during their visit.

The core types of SEO are all applicable to ecommerce:

  • The indexability and keyword optimization of products and categories
  • Informative articles related to products and buyer interests
  • User experience
  • Link building

The end goal, however, all comes down to sales performance.

SEO for lead-generation holds many similar principles and involves a lot of the same techniques, but rather than tracking and processing sales, your website is configured to generate other forms of conversions such as:

  • Form submissions
  • Email signups
  • Brochure downloads
  • Call tracking

All of these actions can be reported as KPIs in Ecommerce too, but the key difference between ecom and lead-gen is that the former encompasses the entire buying process, while the latter simply captures a potential sale.

What About Advanced SEO Types?

The types of SEO covered above form the core four types of SEO, but it doesn’t just stop there.

For the more experienced or specialized SEO, we’ve identified a further three types of SEO that you might engage in.

Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO is a natural development building on the work done for standard on-page SEO optimization.

Rather than simply optimizing your content for specific keywords as you might do for basic on-page optimization semantic SEO focuses on entities, for larger-scale topical optimization.

Following algorithm updates such as Hummingbird, RankBrain, BERT and MUM, Google’s development towards a semantic search engine allows it to better understand the context both of individual content pieces and the wider context they exist in. This might include related subtopics you might cover, or the wider context of the site the copy appears on and how it is related to what the site offers.


Rather than thinking of individual content topics, semantic SEO practices will have you create content silos that thoroughly approach topics through core pillar articles and follow-up specialized content.

A properly implemented semantic SEO campaign will allow you to flex your site’s EEAT through the topical authority demonstrated in the content you produce while marking up with structured data and staking your claim in Google’s knowledge vault.

Parasite SEO

This might sound venomous, but there’s nothing black hat about parasitic SEO!

Parasite SEO is simply the process of leveraging another site’s authority to bolster your own credibility.

SEOs can achieve this by securing backlinks from high authority sites back to their own related content, often by pitching a guest post to a well-established third-party website.

With Google’s fervor for demonstrable EEAT, parasitic SEO is a great way to siphon off some of another site’s credibility to help build your own. If this third-party site is favorable in Google’s eyes, then any site it chooses to link to will likely also benefit accordingly.

Just think of all those emails claiming to offer Forbes placements! There’s a reason that’s a common go-to for those trying to entice people into link building.

As ever, just be sure to go about this in a legitimate white hat way and don’t fall into the pit of black hat SEO and dodgy link sellers.

If your product is good, and you’ve managed to build some online coverage, sometimes you don’t need to be quite so parasitic. When higher-authority sites become aware of your offering, you might just wind up being posted on their site naturally.

In the above screenshot, you can see Neil Patel names us as ‘Best for Blogger Outreach’ in a blog where he ranks first for ‘best link building services’. Here, the end goal of parasitic SEO is achieved without the single buzz of a mosquito!

Programmatic SEO

Programmatic SEO is SEO at scale.

The technical-sounding name might sound daunting, but the basis is very simple. Create landing pages for almost every possible search permutation a potential user might have.

Have you ever noticed that massive companies often seem to have blog posts covering every imaginable topic related to their services? They’ve likely used programmatic SEO.


A popular example would be in the travel industry, where sites create posts addressing every possible combination of things to do in + destination.

This is achieved through the use of keyword research, content templating, and automation. Increasingly this will also include the use of AI to help speed up any potential speedbumps.

Using a consistent content template means companies can consistently produce high-quality content that addresses users’ queries at scale. Programmatic SEO offers great potential rewards, but it does need to be implemented properly to avoid flooding your site with low-quality or unhelpful content that can clash and cause indexing issues with a bloated site.

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

If you haven’t heard of white hat and black hat SEO before, it’s fairly easy to distinguish – you can think of White Hat as the ethical, legitimate approach, and Black Hat as the dark side. Jedi vs Sith, if you will.

While White Hat is the type of SEO which focuses on following Google guidelines, building genuine brand authority and visibility, and doing the utmost to avoid risk, Black Hat is much more experimental, relentless, and comes with much higher jeopardy.

A staunch Black Hat SEO is more likely to utilise corner-cutting techniques that bring short-term wins, such as link spam, cloaking, or negative SEO (malicious techniques which harm the SEO of competitors).

Black Hat SEO’s experimental nature can offer an exponential learning curve, but it comes with little regard for the inevitable repercussions – whether that be the nullifying of the SEO work after an algorithm update, or a manual penalty from Google – so the potential waste of time, money and effort is definitely unfavourable.

With Google’s ever-changing guidelines and algorithm updates however, it’s pretty difficult to truly, undoubtedly identify as ‘White Hat’. After all, ‘manipulating’ search results is pretty intrinsic to SEO – perhaps we’re all a little ‘gray’ hat!

What Types Of SEO Will There Be In The Future?

We’ve covered the four types of SEO pillars and the typical SEO services they entail, but it’s always important to ask yourself what types of SEO there will be in the future.

With the ongoing strides in AI and AI integration into search, it’s unavoidable that SEO will continue to change and adapt as it always has done to help search engines meet users’ needs and behaviors.

We’ve mentioned before that SEO may need to pivot to encompass Answer Engine Optimization, or AEO, before and you can be sure we’ll continue to chart the changes to SEO in the coming months and years.

Pillars can, of course, crumble but new ones will always be raised in their place!

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