What Is White Hat SEO?
It might surprise you to learn that, for the most part, your search engine rankings depend on having scrupulous morals and abiding by a quasi-law/rule book. This fact is why knowing the answer to the question ‘What is white hat SEO?’ is so important.
In a competitive online world, those who do good, succeed in the long term. It won’t be quick, and it will take time, but it is still the most effective, sustainable form of SEO. Meet, White Hat SEO. As search engine algorithms, such as Google’s and Bing’s, become more nuanced and more aware of what their users (the billions that there are) want from websites as they navigate a complex purchasing journey the need for a white hat strategy is more important than ever.
But, why do effective SEO strategies and this strange term go hand in hand? Well, on this page, we’ll show you how and why. We’ll look at what this ‘good’ and ‘moral’ form of search engine marketing is, how to enact it and break down its advantages.
So, What Is It White Hat SEO, That Is?
Let’s get into it – White Hat SEO refers to a certain set of practices that can improve your website’s online visibility without jeopardising or risking the site’s integrity in the eyes of search engines. It is considered the purer, more ethical way of increasing organic traffic and search engine visibility, hence the use of the colour white. The so-called ‘downside’ of this practice is that it takes longer to achieve results (though they are more sustainable) and means more thorough work has to be carried out.
White hat techniques, of which some we’ll look into later, avoid shortcuts and quick-wins which don’t last very long, these sorts of practices are referred to as Black Hat SEO tactics. The more ethical techniques found the under white hat term focus on the long game which, when you consider the nature of organic marketing such as this as something that takes time to develop, makes sense.
By following these procedures you’re going to have to be patient, but safe in the knowledge that you’re doing the right thing and meeting the expectations of search engines. And, as ranking on page one on desktop and mobile devices becomes more complex, following the rules is non-negotiable.
Another key aspect of it is who it targets. The more nefarious ways of ‘achieving’ success tend to focus exclusively on pleasing algorithms. This may have worked 20 years ago when these were more primitive but now, they are more aligned with audience behaviour than ever before meaning your SEO methods need to focus on providing your audience with the most valuable content that matches their search intentions. So, say goodbye to keyword stuffing, spammy content, and leveraging bad links from irrelevant sites, none of which provides any value to the reader and instead focus on using SEO tools to create the most amazing content – both written and, increasingly, content that has a video SEO element to it – in your niche.
Ultimately, white hat tactics follow search engine guidelines and their myriad of key factors. You’re playing by the rules essentially, and with every update, Google releases, from their major core updates to specific ones such as the Helpful Content Update, the need to stick to those rules become more and more important.
- Builds trust and credibility
- Ranks better in local searches
- Relatively inexpensive
- Reaches more people
- Provides a competitive advantage
Advantages of White Hat SEO
Why Are White-Hat SEO Tactics Important?
To be blunt, they’re important because they’re pretty much the only way you’re ever going to see lasting, sustainable results from your search engine optimisation campaigns on an international and local level. Sure, opting for cheap tricks and dodgy processes might yield some short-term results but as search engine crawlers understand the context of your page further and index competitor’s pages that focus on the same topic, you’ll soon see all the important metrics by which you measure your website start going south.
It’s just far riskier to try and take short cuts, at any moment, Google could release an update which sees your site wiped off the SERP (search engine results page) map because sites which have invested in a wide range of ‘good’ techniques have been rewarded with higher rankings. When your business relies on having a website, especially companies with an eCommerce SEO element to them, flouting SEO guidelines like this is just too big a risk.
White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between white hat SEO practices and black hat SEO practices is that one is good and recommended by SEO experts, and the other isn’t. But what about from a practical point of view? After all, just saying ‘black hat methods are bad’, isn’t particularly useful. So, let’s take a look at the differences using some examples by showing you what a white hat technique is and then explaining the black hat version to show you how they are completely the opposite.
White Hat SEO Methods
Black Hat SEO Techniques
|Inserting your primary keyword into content where appropriate||Crowbarring your focus keyword in a way that doesn’t make sense|
|Researching and submitting guest posts about relevant topics to industry publications||Writing spammy blog posts that offer no value and only exist to earn a backlink from an irrelevant website|
|Planning and creating thorough, well-thought-out content that is value-led and written by experts||Using AI to write content for you because it’s quicker|
|Being obvious and upfront about links on a page||Hiding text or links from a user in the hope it’ll increase your authority|
|Searching for specific websites that are relevant to your business which can provide enriching backlinks||Using a link farm that hands low-DA links which offer no relevancy to your site.|
|Using your investment to improve your website in ways that will benefit your audience||Spending time spuriously reporting on competitor websites in an attempt to bring them down (known as Negative SEO)|
|Focusing on creating unique, quality content every time you sit down at your computer||Taking parts of already published content and duplicating it across other areas of your site|
In these seven examples alone you can see how binary these two methodologies are, how right one of them is, and how wrong the other is. Hopefully, these examples provide you with some wider context about the dangers of listening to, and more importantly investing in, black hat practitioners.
9 White Hat SEO Techniques
So, you’ve chosen the path of the righteous, you’re to become a Jedi of SEO, not a Sith lord, good for you. Now what? Well, now comes the hard bit, actually enacting white hat methods. And, we should stipulate, that these approaches aren’t easy but they will provide you with the results you’re after provided you’re a patient. View SEO as an investment and a running cost, and you’ll soon fall head over heels for these tried and true search engine rules.
Below are seven of the most important practices that you need to follow if you want the leading search engines to give your website the rankings it deserves.
1 1. Publish High-Quality Content for Users
A key tenet of good, moral SEO is creating original content. Focusing on taking real time to create thoughtful, in-depth content marketing covering a broad range of topics that relate to whatever it is you buy and sell is very important.
The written word, along with other types of media, is the lifeblood of search engines and over the last few months, Google has put greater emphasis on rewarding relevant content that is written for users, well designed, and not just for search engines. A blog that is stuffed with spurious keywords and shady tactics that offers a bad experience is going to get gazumped by work that isn’t those things.
Focus on solving problems with your content with an appropriate level of depth (around 1,000 words per post) and match the intent of the search – do that and you’re onto a winner.
2 2. Use Keyword Tools and Place Keywords Strategically and Organically
The first thing you should do before putting pen to paper (metaphorically, of course) is find the list of keywords you want to rank for, and that you can rank for. Don’t expect to be ranking for short keywords, start with longer tail ones and build your content strategy around them.
Secondly, once you have those terms place them in your content in ways that feel natural. Crowbarring, or stuffing, terms into your work is a red flag to Google and a sign you’re writing for their algorithm instead of their users. Your target term should feature in your title, URL slug, in 50% in a few of your headers and then where appropriate in your body copy.
3 3. Consider User Intent
The fastest way to not rank for a term is by creating something that doesn’t relate to what the user is searching for. Once you’ve found your term, drill into the etymology of it and work out what people want when they type in a keyword.
Intent refers to the goal a user has when they search for something on a search engine – for example if a user types ‘best garden furniture for small house’ they aren’t expecting to see products that are suited for mansions, or even flats, they want to see a list of products/guides that feature furniture which is suited to where they live.
If you’re struggling, Google it! Search your term and examine the content that is already ranking for that phrase. Make sure your content satisfies user intent immediately – show that it does in the title, in the first few sentences, and across certain sections of your piece.
4 4. Pay Attention to On-Page Optimisation
On-page optimisation (or on-page SEO as it’s called) is the process of improving page elements directly within a website. There are dozens of on-page elements that be optimised, which people ignore or don’t think they need to work on.
So, be sure to pay attention to:
- Meta titles and descriptions
- Image SEO, such as titles and alt-text
- Compressing the size of images
- ‘Cleaning’ any unnecessary HTML code
- URL structure
- Internal linking
- Calls to action
- The overall structure and crawl depth
5 5. Provide a Positive User Experience (UX)
Aside from the words on your web page, make sure the whole user experience is a good one. Make sure pages and content load quickly, keep annoying pop-ups or banner ads to an absolute minimum, and use a table of contents so that users can jump to a section they need. Without any of those aforementioned features, users are going to get frustrated and go elsewhere. Leverage structured data to increase your chances of being used for rich snippets so that users can answer without clicking.
Great content plus a focus on technical SEO will create the best possible experience for customers. Before making changes to a website, run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights to understand how its performing and what you need to do to improve it.
6 6. Optimise Your Links
There are good links and there are bad ones, and they all have different weights.
When attempting to get backlinks/external links for content from third-party sites, focus on getting them from relevant publications. 15 links to spammy, shady sites whose only purpose is to harvest links are worth far, far less than one or two links from high-quality, authentic sites that aim to help users.
Scan your current list of backlinks and disavow ones that go to unhelpful, shady sites. In terms of internal linking, make sure relevant pieces of content all link to each in some way. This helps search engines gain greater context about a page and how it sits in amongst the website. If it sees that your website has 10-20 blogs on a topic that are linked to each other it’s going to deem your site as more knowledgeable.
7 7. Mobile First
The majority of Google searches are done on mobile and therefore the content people view has to look as good on a handheld device as it would on a computer, otherwise you can say goodbye to low bounce rates. You run the risk of losing important business if your website looks bad on mobile as people, be it consciously or subconsciously, lose trust in a brand if they’ve not bothered to make their navigation and content mobile-friendly.
8 8. Claim Your Local Business Listing (Google My Business, or GMB)
Whenever people search for anything that ends with ‘near me’ or the place where they live, very often a list of local businesses will appear with their name, rating, and contact details. With these, Google is attempting to match the intent of the user and will provide the most relevant business based on their search.
Claiming your Google My Business account, and ensuring it’s optimised, ensures you’re giving yourself the greatest chance of being found by people, often with high purchasing intent, near you. Once claimed, you’ll appear in map packs along with other businesses near you. Do well enough, and garner enough ratings and reviews and you’ll soon find you’re enjoying consistent leads from people in your area.
9 9. Link Building Supercharges All Other Efforts
Finally, linkbuilding. There is nothing inherently wrong with acquiring backlinks to your website. The problem lies in businesses that use shady link-building practices, i.e. paying for links on low authority, irrelevant websites, in an attempt to ‘hack’ their way to the top.
Proper, serious, link building where you’re attempting to add value to third-party websites is an incredibly moral, white hat SEO technique that can amplify all the amazing on-page optimisation you have done. This comes with a caveat, however. Genuine link-building takes a lot of time and effort and the reward may not be felt immediately. It is a long-term technique that requires real dedication and hard work.
White Hat SEO Is the Only Way to Successfully Optimise Your Website
Opting to don the White Hat of SEO, and say no to the nefarious short-term Black Hat techniques is the biggest signal you can send to users, and to search engines that you’re a business that wants to grow its online presence in a proper, serious way while offering a high level of valuable content.
Here at Embryo, we flatly reject black hat techniques and never use them for our clients. And, while opting for the ‘good’ way to do SEO may take longer, the rewards are far more sustainable.