Understanding White Hat SEO

As with any practice, there’s a good way to do something and a bad way to do something. White hat and black hat SEO refer to the good and bad ways you can tackle SEO. So exactly what is white hat SEO and how do you build it into your strategy?

As we all know, SEO, or search engine optimisation, is a method of heightening a website or webpage’s importance to appear higher up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). There are many techniques that work. A set of practices work collectively towards heightening your web pages. Some of these techniques are encouraged under Google’s best practices (white hat) and some of them are discouraged (black hat).

It’s important to first look at black hat techniques so you can understand exactly what you should be steering away from. Black hat SEO refers to techniques web owners (and in some cases cowboy SEO agents) apply, to manipulate search engines.

Examples of black hat SEO Techniques

These are some of the tips and tricks gamers might use to cheat their way up the rankings:

Keyword stuffing – including a high density of target keywords in your site’s copy to get it noticed. This compromises the quality of copy for the reader.

Meta tag spamming – overusing your keywords in your page title and meta description, with no legible description on what your content is about.

Hidden content – hiding keywords in text where the text colour matches the background colour. Search engines pick up the keywords without compromising content quality to the reader, but it’s spammy practice.

Link farming – Buying or exchanging large volumes of links with the aim of making your site look more popular. Most of these sites are spammy and are of low quality, making no difference to your rank signal here. In fact, it actually damages it.

Doorway pages– Pages set up as highly optimised landing pages to trap in users landing. They are then funnelled into other pages with less relevant or spammy content.

The common theme here is anything that looks unnatural; techniques put in place purely to game the system and manipulate search engines.

These practices were once quite effective at boosting a site’s ranking on Google. And in some cases, some of these techniques do still work. This is rather appealing for new businesses or sites with poor rankings. But it rarely, if ever has longevity. Google will eventually catch up with you and issue a penalty, making it harder for you to recover and rank well again.

Google is now a master at detecting sites that use unnatural SEO techniques that are aimed solely at search engines. It frequently releases and rolls out algorithms, designed to filter out poor quality sites and those using black hat techniques.Google Panda and Google Penguin are examples of major algorithms that majorly shook things up over the last ten years and changed the way Google ranked its results.

Google Panda – considered the mother of all algorithms, this was a search filter, first released in 2011. This was the start of Google’s bid to cut our sites with poor quality content and favour those that promote unique, well-written content for humans. This algorithm continues to evolve, with new updates still being rolled out.

Google Penguin – the Penguin algorithm tackled the issue of poor quality links. Unnatural link building activity was literally highlighted and penalised overnight back in April 2012. Those slapped with a link penalty either substantially lost ranking position or disappeared from the SERPs altogether. Google still releases updates to Penguin and promotes quality over quantity when it comes to linking.

It’s assumed that black hat techniques are used by poor quality, spammy sites, whose content would not normally be seen as ‘good quality’ by Google and therefore not worthy of being ranked. These sites are more likely to showcase the black hat cheat techniques, implemented to try and boost their sites ahead of better quality sites.

Whilst filtering out poor quality sites, these algorithms also seek to promote good quality sites. This refers to sites utilising white hat techniques to optimise its content. Let’s now look at white hat SEO and its respective practices.

White Hat SEO Explained

White hat SEO techniques are practices aimed at the user. They put in time and effort to create quality content and an outstanding user experience. There is no short cut to ranking. Google’s results pages are determined by the sites in its index that it deems to be relevant and of value to the user search query.

Sites likely to rank well include those with well written, well researched content that is intelligently linked to other quality content sources. Affiliations with reputable brands, links to and from trustworthy brands also help. Content that is engaging and reduces bounce rate,as well as campaigns that are well thought out and encourage goal actions, show Google your site is worthy.

White Hat SEO Techniques

Here are some key white hat SEO practices that every website owner should be implementing:

Keyword Strategy – choose different keywords for different types of content and ensuring you have relevance and consistency with that keyword across your page content, titles, headings and URL.

Link Building – source links from reputable companies that are relevant to your industry. Getting an organic back link from an industry guide has far more clout than buying 10 links from a link building company.

Organic Content – produce content for humans, by humans. Don’t automate this. Don’t duplicate other content on your site or on external sites. Write content with a strategy in mind; understand your target audience and set your goal. Include CTAs (calls to action). Link up internally.

Mobile-Optimisation–ensure your website is mobile-friendly so that it loads correctly on mobile devices (more people use mobile now than desktop for search). Ensure you have accelerated mobile pages (AMP). This will improve load speed, which will reduce bounce rate (one of Google’s ranking signals).

Shema Tagging – structure your content for more relevance in the search results by applying schema tagging / structured data. You will have a better chance of ranking according to your location, product or service type, price etc.

Remember, white hat SEO is paramount if you want a long-term investment in your SEO strategy. Whilst some black hat practices may temporarily slip through the net, the damage it could do to your brand with search engines is often irreversible. Don’t take the risk.#whitehatseorules

Need some help with your SEO? We can help. Whitefish Marketing in Folkestone, Kent have a FREE SEO audit to help businesses to highlight gaps in their SEO. We can also offer advice and SEO packages to help you to improve your organic visibility. Call us on 01303 720 288.