Never has marketing’s penchant for naming and renaming things been more on display than right here in SEO:
White hat SEO.
Black hat SEO.
How is one to navigate this Russian nesting doll of SEO nomenclature?
Good news: You don't have to because we’re going to do it for you.
In this article, we’ll explore the four different types of SEO, along with the 14 most adopted SEO services (and their deliverables) built to execute them.
Whether you’re an agency looking to expand your product portfolio or a business looking to hire an SEO agency, this article is for you.
Put the dictionary down. You won’t need it where we’re going 🙌.
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The four types of SEO
Like any other digital marketing tactic, search engine optimization incorporates a wide range of forms and philosophies. But at the broadest level, you can break up the discipline into four distinct types of SEO:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Local SEO
Let’s explore each SEO technique in detail.
1. On-page SEO
On-page SEO, also known as on-page optimization or on-site SEO, is the practice of optimizing individual web pages on your site so they can rank higher in Google search results and drive more organic traffic.
Unlike off-page or technical SEO, on-page optimization takes place on a page-by-page basis (i.e., not sitewide). The focus of on-page is to help search engines and visitors better understand the meaning of your content and its relevance to a specific search query.
Think of on-page like the quality assurance of SEO. It’s the final stage your articles need to pass through before hitting publish—like dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
What exactly does on-page SEO optimize?
- Content: Does the content satisfy the searcher’s intent?
- Keywords: Do the keywords on the page explore the topic in depth?
- Title tags: Does the page title include keywords and entice clicks?
- Meta descriptions: Does the description provide an actionable CTA and include keywords?
- Robots tags: Is the page indexable by search engines?
- Images: Do images load quickly and include captions, titles, and alt tags?
- Internal links: Does the article internally link to other relevant resources and existing content on your site?
- External links: Does the article externally link to other relevant and reputable resources across the web?
- URL slugs: Is the URL slug clear, concise, and descriptive?
- Heading tags (AKA H-tags): Is the article organized hierarchically (headings and subheading) from top to bottom?
Want to learn more about on-page optimization? Read our deep-dive article: On-page 7 Simple Steps to Better Optimization
2. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO (AKA “off-site optimization”) refers to the tactics you perform off of your domain that help build trust, credibility, and authority. As a result, these combined tactics improve your organic search rankings.
Google search engine algorithms want to know two things more than anything when ranking websites.
First, how relevant is the content on your website to the query someone typed in Google? In other words, does your page satisfy the searcher’s intent? That’s on-page’s job.
Second, if Google were to ask other people in your industry how relevant and credible you are as a source of information, who would vouch for you? That’s off-page’s job.
What does off-page SEO include?
Marketers like to lump everything (from social media marketing to influencer marketing to podcasting) in with off-page SEO. And honestly, it doesn’t matter what you consider off-page SEO, just as long as it influences one of the following three things:
- Backlinks (AKA “link building”): Do other reputable and authoritative websites (i.e., those with high domain authority) link back to your website?
- Brand signals: If not a direct link, do reputable and authoritative websites mention you in their content?
- Vertical search rankings (AKA “Barnacle SEO”): What other search engines or websites (e.g. Yelp, G2, Capterra, HealthGrades, etc.) that rank in the top spots
Want to learn more about off-page optimization? Good, because we wrote an entire article on it: The Off-Page SEO Ranking Factors Everyone Should Know.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to optimizing the performance of your website (or the technical foundation), so search engines can crawl, index, and render your website with ease. It also ensures website visitors have a good user experience.
Why is technical SEO so important? Well, if Google can’t easily crawl and index your website, it doesn’t matter how relevant or authoritative you might be, it simply won’t rank.
As the name suggests, technical SEO requires real technical expertise, and it entails the following:
- Crawling and indexation: Can search engines find, access, and rank your content?
- Website speed: Does your website load within 1-2 seconds?
- Website structure and hierarchy: Can Google and visitors easily find what they’re looking for?
- Mobile friendliness: Is your website experience on a mobile device just as good, if not better, than your desktop?
- Duplicate content (canonicalization): Is there any duplicate content (both accidental and intentional) on your site that’s causing search ranking issues?
- XML sitemaps: Do you provide search engines with a secondary option for finding your pages?
- URL structure: Can search engines and visitors find out where they’re at on your website or identify which page they’re on just by reading the URL?
- HTTPS security (TLS/SSL certificate): Is data encrypted if visitors share it on your website?
- Core Web Vitals: Do you pass Google's CWV test that measures interactivity, visual stability, and loading?
- Structured data (schema markup): Do you use structured data to help search engines understand the meaning of your content?
4. Local SEO
Local SEO is a subset of SEO that entails a few activities that are exclusive to local businesses.
The goal of local SEO is to increase rankings for search queries with local intent.
Though all local businesses should also perform on-page, off-page, and technical SEO to help rank in local organic results, local SEO has two other indexes it needs to rank in: Local Pack and Maps.
Local Pack (also called “Snack Pack”) results are the block of three business listings when you search for a local business.
Below is an example of a Local Pack for the search query “plumber in Costa Mesa”:
Map results, on the other hand, refer to search results that appear in Google Maps.
Ranking in Maps and Local Pack requires more than just on-page, off-page or technical SEO. It requires:
Google My Business (GMB): A GMB page is the business page that shows up in Local Pack and Map results. You can’t rank there without it.
Citations (NAP consistency): A citation is an instance of your (N) name, (A) address, and (P) phone number somewhere across the web, but usually within an online business directory like Yelp or Healthgrades, or YP. Not only do you need citations to rank locally, but your name, address, and phone number need to be consistent, too.
Reviews: As in testimonials from your customers left on Google, Bing for Business, Facebook, or the BBB.
The 14 most popular types of SEO services
It probably won’t come as any surprise that the most popular types of SEO services (as in services sold by a typical SEO agency) closely reflect the four different types of SEO.
But in general, SEO services break down into three main categories, each with its own subset of services and deliverables:
Foundational SEO services:
- Keyword research
- Technical SEO audit
- On-page setup
- Competitor analysis
- Website blog content
Off-page SEO services:
- Link audit
- Link building
- Linkable asset creation
- Guest blogging
- Content marketing
- Barnacle SEO
Local SEO services:
- Citation building
- Review acquisitions and management
- Google My Business optimization
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it includes the most widely adopted SEO services to date.
Also, though we’re breaking out services into their individual parts, they don’t always come à la carte. For example, you may sign up for “organic SEO,” which includes all of the above.
Types of foundational SEO services
Foundational SEO services include tactics that you can mostly implement with one dedicated project, then monitor occasionally afterward.
For example, while keyword research, on-page optimization, and technical SEO certainly require attention in perpetuity (you don’t “set it and forget it”), the lion’s share of work gets done in one fell swoop.
SEO keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing keywords that people use to investigate the products or services you offer so you can rank for them on search engines.
It’s the first phase of developing an SEO strategy.
Keyword research investigates:
- Keyword difficulty
- Keyword search volume
- Keyword search intent
- Content requirements
- Competitor keyword rankings
- Manual SERP analysis (search engine results page)
- Estimated value of a keyword ranking
- Seed, long-tail, and semantic keywords
Keyword research helps uncover a long list of keyword opportunities, as well as the exact ingredients you’ll need to rank for each keyword. Most importantly, it helps you choose rankable keywords.
As a service provided by an SEO company, keyword research may come bundled with on-page optimization or content development, or you can sign up for keyword research à la carte.
Want to learn more about keyword research? Thought so (again). Lucky for you, we wrote an entire article on it: Keyword Research for SEO: 5 Steps to Find the Best.
Technical SEO audit
Think of a technical SEO audit like a diagnostic machine your auto mechanic uses: it identifies and diagnoses what’s wrong with your technical SEO so you can fix the issues.
Just like an auto mechanic can’t fix your oil leak without first knowing why it’s leaking, a technical SEO can’t fix your technical foundation without first knowing why it’s broken.
A technical SEO audit includes a handful of different audits, all that seeks to diagnose the collective performance of your website such as:
- Site structure
- Page speed
- Duplicate content
- User experience
- Structured data
- Interstitials (pop-ups)
- Core Web Vitals
- Multilingual designation
- Google Search Console
Since technical SEO rarely requires daily inspection (unless you’re a huge eCommerce brand with thousands of pages), businesses typically outsource technical to an SEO expert.
As part of the engagement, the consultant or agency will either conduct a one-time technical SEO audit (i.e., an entire investigation and diagnosis of critical technical SEO factors), or they’ll include implementation and fix the issues along with the audit.
Like we mentioned, you should perform on-page SEO every time you publish a new article or web page. But in most cases, at least when it comes to SEO services, on-page optimization is a project-based, one-time activity that uses keyword research to optimize an entire website at once (page by page).
On-page SEO services typically include the following:
- Website audit
- Keyword research
- Meta tag optimization (HTML)
- Header tags optimization
- Internal linking
- Keyword optimization
- Content development and optimization (content, images, media)
Typically, competitor analysis is something conducted during link building (i.e., competitor backlink analysis). But it’s not uncommon to find competitor analysis as a one-time service provided by an SEO agency.
Here’s what a typical competitor analysis report includes:
- Competitor research
- Competitor SEO performance analysis
- Competitor backlink analysis
- Competitor benchmarking
Want to learn more about competitor analysis for SEO? We wrote an entire article on it here.
Website blog content
Last, but certainly not least, website blog content.
Makes sense, considering that without high-quality content, Google will have nothing to rank to begin with.
As a service, blog writing for SEO usually includes:
- Content strategy
- Writing, editing, posting
- On-page optimization
- Updating old blog posts
- Social media publication
Types of off-page SEO services
In most cases, off-page just means link building (it’s 99% of the job).
It’s no surprise that the most popular off-page SEO services include (you guessed it) different types of link building services.
- Link audit
- Link building
- Linkable asset creation
- Guest blogging
- Content marketing
- Barnacle SEO
A link building audit diagnoses the health of your link profile (quality and quantity of referring domains), uncovering opportunities in the process.
Though most link building services include a link audit as just part of the deliverables, it’s common to sign up for just a link building audit, too.
During a link audit, you can expect the following:
- Organized sheet of your backlink profile (referring root domains, DA/PA of links, anchor text, etc.)
- Thorough analysis of links, good and bad
- Link cleanup recommendations
- Link opportunity recommendations
- List of links to disavow with Google (i.e., spam links that could be hurting you)
- Backlink report
The darling of SEO: Link building.
Link building as a service is any tactic designed to increase the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to your website.
Link building comes in three flavors:
- White hat link building: Acquiring backlinks organically by creating high-quality content and waiting for them to come to you.
- Black hat link building: Buying links from link farms or link schemes with the intention of manipulating rankings, despite Google’s guidelines and policies.
- Grey hat link building: Toeing the line between white hat and black hat, gray hat linking usually includes guest blogging, outreach, broken link building, content marketing, or any other non-manipulative link building tactic.
According to Google, any active pursuit of backlinks violates their policies, so scratch white hat link building off the list (it doesn’t really exist).
As for grey hat link building, a typical service includes the following:
- Guest blogging on vetted publishers
- Creating linkable assets and promoting them
- Manual outreach
- Broken link building
- Competitor link building
- Unlinked mentions
- Link reclamation
As for black hat backlink services (i.e., paying for links), just don’t do it. It never works long-term.
Want to learn more about link building for SEO? We wrote an entire article on the topic: How to Create a Link Building Strategy in Four Steps.
And if you’re interested in learning more about our link building services, we got that too: KlientBoost link building services.
Linkable asset creation
This is our favorite type of white hat link building service. With linkable asset creation, you produce a piece of content so over-the-top valuable that when you promote it to the right people, they can’t help but share it and link back.
Why is it our favorite? Because it works the best. Period.
In fact, creating linkable assets is how we grew our blog to over 30K monthly organic visitors.
The process is simple in theory but difficult in practice. An agency partner works with you to create a linkable asset, they promote it to the right audiences, distribute it across various channels, and reach out to potential suitors for a backlink. Voilà.
For example, some years ago, we partnered with brands like HubSpot, Marketo, Ahrefs, UberFlip, SEMRush and CXL to publish a series of linkable assets in the form of gifographics (infographics made of gifs). And boy, did they get linked to.
Guest blogging is the OG of link building services.
Like it sounds, guest blogging is when you write an article for a reputable, high domain authority publisher and hopefully receive an editorial backlink in the process.
For example, this is an example of a guest post we published on Unbounce.com:
Most guest blogging services have a network of writers and publishers, and they strategize, write, and publish the guest post on your company’s behalf.
In other cases, a guest blogging service might require that you write the article first and they’ll do the publishing second (either to their platform or someone else's).
Guest blogging reigned supreme in the early 2010s. But like everything else, marketers ruin everything. It’s still a viable strategy today, but Google has cracked down on backlinks from guest posts. For a guest post backlink to carry any weight, it needs to come from a credible website, show up in the body of the article (not the author bio), and ideally send targeted referral traffic back to your website.
Content marketing is the process of creating, promoting, and distributing high-quality content for a target audience across all available digital channels (website, social media, email, etc.).
Think of content marketing like the process of creating and promoting a linkable asset, but instead of a one-and-done project, content marketing doesn’t stop.
This is why it's the #1 link building strategy today.
After all, without a consistent stream of high-quality content, what will influencers, thought-leaders, publishers, and businesses link back to?
Case in point: There’s a reason why our blog generates 30K organic visitors and has acquired well over 30K backlinks. We produce one quality article (sometimes more) every day, all year long. We’re constantly publishing link-worthy content.
Content marketing services can include the following:
- Content marketing audit
- Persona development
- Content creation (e-books, white papers, articles, etc.)
- Series development (podcast, video series, subscriber only series)
- Content promotion (paid)
- Content distribution (organic)
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Reporting (KPIs and metrics)
6. Barnacle SEO (or “vertical search optimization”)
Have you ever wanted to rank for a high-volume keyword only to discover that the top three spots on Google are occupied by a review site or vertical search engine?
For example, say you wanted to rank for the keyword “live chat software.” Two of the top four spots on Google are G2 and Capterra, both review aggregators.
You can try to outrank them. Or, if you don’t think you can beat them, you can join them.
How? By optimizing your business listing within their platform.
We call it barnacle SEO: attaching yourself to a bigger website that ranks for a valuable keyword that your website doesn’t have the domain authority to rank for on its own.
In fact, we did just that at KlientBoost.
We wanted to rank for the keyword “best PPC agency,” only to discover that Clutch.io (review platform) dominated page one, along with other review sites. So instead of trying to rank our domain, we increased our rankings within Clutch.io.
When it comes to barnacle SEO (or vertical search optimization) as a service, tactics usually center around review acquisition for specific review platforms (since they’re usually the bigger websites occupying those top spots):
- Review acquisition strategy
- Customer feedback strategy
- Email marketing (for customer outreach)
- Review gates (i.e. direct negative feedback to email, not a review platform)
- Link building (if necessary)
Types of local SEO services
Local businesses have it way harder when it comes to SEO. Not only do they need to consider every tactic we’ve already mentioned if they want to rank organically, but they also need to consider the SEO tactics below if they want to rank in the Local Pack results.
- Citation building
- Review acquisition
- Google My Business optimization
Though citations have declined in popularity and importance, ensuring your data is consistent across the web helps both customers and search engines find you.
Like backlinks, citations are votes of confidence for Google. The more accurate and consistent your information appears across the web, the more Google trusts you.
Citation building services include the literal creation of business profiles consisting of your business name, address, phone number, and website link.
Citation services come in two sizes:
- Automated citations: Services like Yext partner with hundreds of major business directories, then let you update your NAP across all of them at once using the Yext dashboard. Cost: Roughly $500/year.
Not too long ago, review acquisition services consisted mostly of agencies providing businesses with review cards that asked customers to write a review on Google, Yelp, or Facebook.
Thankfully, the review industry has evolved at lightspeed over the last decade.
Today, most review acquisition services are managed by software you can pay for at a low monthly cost.
For example, some of our favorite review software include:
Google My Business
The last, and certainly not least, local search service is Google My Business (GMB) creation, verification, and optimization.
You can’t rank in Local Pack results without a GMB page.
GMB optimization services include the following:
- GMB listing audit
- GMB verification
- Profile creation and optimization
- Category selection
- Photo uploads
- Posts to your GMB profile
- Local citations
- GMB reviews
Time to get serviced
Now (finally), let’s talk about YouTube SEO.
We know. Learning about the different types of SEO services is a lot like learning how to read the back of a food label in German.
“Sprechen sie Deutsch?”
But hopefully, this article helped you better understand how each of the most adopted SEO services and their deliverables relates to the four core types of SEO they’re designed to execute.
Interested in SEO services for your business (and a heck of a lot more results)? We can help. Tell us your goals and pain points so we can create a custom marketing plan that outlines exactly how our SEO team can help.