Search engine optimization or SEO is not at all a new term. It’s an online marketing technique that evolved over many years as search engines like Google became more powerful and trustworthy. Today, it is seen as a vast field and a powerful method to drive targeted traffic to a website. Every big brand and every small business with an online presence wants a piece of the organic search traffic.
Now, before SEO got so technical, it used to be simple. It was all about creating the best and the most relevant content for the search engines to rank around relevant keywords.
The interesting thing is, what mattered in the beginning still matters today: Quality Content. The only thing that has changed or gotten better is how the search engines judge the quality of content.
Great, relevant content happens to be the core focus and the main idea behind “White Hat SEO” — the ethical version of search engine optimization.
As content becomes more and more crucial with each passing day, the importance of white hat SEO grows. If you think you can grab top search engine rankings without investing in good content, especially after the major Google algorithm updates (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird etc.), think again.
What’s more, by focusing on quality content, you’ll also be able to delve deeper into relevant topics. Showing that you have authority in expert areas, which can have an impact on your ranking position in the big G.
So yes, the only valid way to rank your website higher than your competition (and stay there) is to bet all your money on white hat SEO. And diligently work on creating real value for your target audience.
Google and other major search engines respect and recommend white hat SEO, and will have zero problem giving you your deserved position in the SERPS given that you practice it.
White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO
When it comes to SEO, the goal is always to reach and maintain the topmost position in the search engines — regardless of the website’s type/niche. Now, how you implement SEO and what techniques you use makes your approach either “White Hat” or “Black Hat”.
Let’s see how these two popular SEO versions vastly differ from each other:
What is White Hat SEO?
Without complicating things, white hat SEO can be explained as a collection of techniques to improve the ranking of a website in the SERPs ethically. It is done without implementing any “eyebrow raising” practices that generally involve cheating the search engines.
Quality is the key ingredient in a white hat SEO strategy. Right from the type of content you’re publishing to the overall user experience your site has needs to be of high quality.
Here are the factors that you need to implement if you want to make your white hat SEO efforts produce results.
- The depth and relevance of your written content
- The entertainment and educational value of your visual content
- Targeted meta information of your website
- Architecture and navigation of your website
- Speed and performance of your website
In short, white hat SEO is the clean way to boost search engine rankings since it leverages quality content and aims for user satisfaction on all levels.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO starts on the wrong note, as the whole idea behind it is to manipulate the rules laid out by the search engines. Black hatters ignore people or search users and try to impress machines, which in itself is a flawed strategy. Because cheating the system can only get you so far.
Black hat SEO may give you short term results in terms of traffic and exposure. But in the long run there are high chances of your site being penalized or removed completely from the search engine index.
Black hat SEO is implemented by a number of webmasters that solely focus on quick returns rather than long term gains. Here are some of the black hat techniques that need to be avoided at all costs:
- Scraping content from other sites and using it on your own website.
- Creating automated content or building automated low-quality, relevant backlinks that offer no real value.
- Reporting competing sites for spam that are not involved in any blackhat SEO.
- Producing gateway pages that pull in users with targeted keywords but deceivingly redirect them to irrelevant sites/pages.
This just goes on to show that blackhat SEO is a strict no no if you are building a real and ethical business. Your focus should be on getting the most out of the many proven white hat strategies and see to it that none of your SEO tactics are unethical.
Here’s What Happens When You Get Penalized by Google
Google is strict when maintaining the quality of the websites in its index. And why not?
After all, Google wants to give the best user experience to its users by sending them to relevant sites that offer real value. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the search engine giant actually punishes sites involved in unethical practices.
When you get penalized by Google, you may notice the “offending” pages have vanished from the search engine result pages. Or you may see that the organic search traffic has dramatically reduced over a period of time.
People who experience such changes can learn if and why they have been hit by a penalty by visiting the Google Search Console.
- Upon visiting the search console, you’ll notice that Google is kind enough to let you know if its webspam team has taken any “manual action” against your website. This is the first red flag before any further action is taken. Google is signalling you about the problem so that you can fix it before things get worse.
Even if your site has been deranked, you can get it back to where it was by fixing the issue at hand. Once taken care of, you’ll need to officially submit a “reconsideration request” to Google. When the site is checked for the fixed issue, you should have your website’s ranking restored in no time.
- Now, one of the drawbacks of implementing black hat SEO is that it’ll obviously get you in the bad books of Google. Depending on how serious your black hat accusations are, your website’s ranking can be reduced to a certain extent.
Even top ranking sites can be pushed out of sight if they indulge in shady SEO practices. Which can hit your site’s authority and traffic levels hard.
Solution? Just take care of the problem asap and let Google know of it.
- Finally, your site can get affected in the worst possible way when it gets banned from the search engine results. When a website gets excluded from the result pages, things can spiral down quickly for your business. Especially if your website is responsible for generating leads and sales. With no organic search traffic coming in, the business severely gets affected.
Even though the chance of a website getting banned is slim, it’s still possible. But the chance goes higher if the site has used black hat SEO practices.
Please note that undoing a ban is not easy. It requires you to get rid of all those unethical, dubious practices and choose the white hat way. Only after a considerable amount of undoing and doing can you send a reconsideration request to Google.
Why You Need to Invest in White Hat SEO
White hat SEO is the holy grail of search engine optimization. Because if you want the search engines to show mercy to your site and actually find it useful, you’ll have to play by the rules. Being a rebel can and will get your site banned by Google, Bing and other search engines.
Let’s face it, if your potential customers are unable to find you on Google, there’s little chance they’ll find you through some other smaller search engines. Which means if you’re not putting your efforts in white hat SEO, you’re taking a big risk.
Check out a few logical reasons for you to consider white hat SEO over any other questionable SEO tactic:
- Maintain Your Current Reputation: It takes a long time to build a strong reputation, especially in the business world. And it’s not easy maintaining it once you build it. So why make it harder by playing with unethical SEO techniques? Why risk it?
If your answer is “fast results”, think again. Because fast results can disappear equally fast when you get caught by Google. Any white hat technique you use is a shield against search engine penalties. It makes your site live longer in the search engines and deliver true value to users.
- Increase Organic Visibility: When you put in so much effort to reach the first page of Google, you ought to do everything you can to sustain your position. Because the longer you stay there, the more organic visibility you gain. Even though the results with white hat SEO aren’t as quick as black hat, they’re worth it.
Sites that practice white hat SEO rarely experience big fluctuations in their ranking unlike their black hat counterparts. The point is, when you treat users with respect and give real value, the search engines let you win the SEO race over time.
- Achieve Higher ROI: If you’re investing time and money into SEO, you obviously expect to see positive results. Or else what’s the use of it all. With white hat SEO, you can get a higher return on your investment because you’re in for the long haul. Which means you’ll not only recover your investment but earn consistent profits from your efforts over the years.
With black hat SEO you’re building a sand castle that can get swept away when a big wave (a.k.a Google update) comes crashing. In the end, you’ll lose both time and money, and gain a bad reputation to follow.
3 Good Reasons to Avoid Black Hat SEO
By now you should have a clear idea of how harmful black hat SEO can be to your website. But if you still need more convincing, here are three reasons to say no to black hat SEO.
- It’s Gettier Costlier: Think black hat SEO is cheaper than white hat? The answer is a big no. There used to be a time when Google was in its nascent stage when black hat was cheaper and maybe more effective. But things have changed for the better. Google is now not only smarter, but also faster. So the old-school black hat techniques no longer work.
Which means you’ll have to invest in costlier blackhat tactics to make it work, and still have no guarantee of a return. For example, simply building your own private blog network can cost a bomb. You’ll have to shell out a ton of money for buying expired domain names, a dedicated hosting server, etc. The costs prove that it is simply not worth it.
- It’s Getting Riskier: In the early days, many black hat SEO powered sites managed to fly under the radar and rake in the moolah. Today, it’s much more riskier to put your bet on black hat techniques. Getting a Google penalty isn’t pretty and getting out of one is uglier. So take the safe route and do what needs to be done the white hat way.
- It’s Getting Complicated: Black hat may be unethical, but it’s downright geeky. It requires you to have a decent amount of technical know-how about how the world wide web operates so that you can find holes in the system. And since this knowledge is well-guarded by the big black hat players, the whole black hat idea can get frustrating fairly quickly.
6 White Hat SEO Techniques to Implement in 2018
Regardless of the niche you are operating in, you cannot ignore white hat SEO if you want to rank higher. When it comes to Google’s ranking factors, both user intentions and content are seen as crucial factors by the search engine giant. This just goes on to show that white hat SEO embodies all those factors that Google wants you to focus on — in 2018 and beyond.
Let’s look into a few white hat techniques that you should apply year after year if you want to get the most out of your SEO efforts.
#1: Publish Relevant, Top Notch Content
Content is the life blood of a successful white hat SEO campaign. Quality content has been king and will continue to be king. See to it that your content is…
- Relevant to the niche that you are targeting so that your audience finds value on consuming and sharing it.
- Made up of top quality subject matter expertise and not generic advice.
- Written in good, error free English that people can easily read and understand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing 500 word blog post or a 5,000 word eBook. What actually matters is how your content is making the reader’s life easy and if it is solving a real-world problem.
If your content isn’t adding the needed value in an entertaining manner, your readers won’t have any issue skipping your site and moving on. The idea is to deliver so much value that competition doesn’t affect your site’s ability to attract links and rank well.
Today, bad and thin content can be easily spotted by users and as well as the search engine algorithms. This can not only affect your site’s authority but can also make you quickly lose your rankings.
So never take content for granted if you want to keep driving traffic from Google. Try publishing evergreen content that stays relevant for years, rather than time-sensitive content.
#2: Work to Improve User Experience
The kind of user experience you deliver to your website visitors matters to Google. Making sure your site uses the best UX practices is not rocket science. Look around the web and you’ll find a ton of information on how you can make your website more user friendly. Whether you work with a designer or use readymade templates, you can always improve your site’s UX with a bit of planning.
However, don’t make the mistake to go with your gut feeling when it comes to user experience. Always carry out A/B split tests to find out how your website should be changed. By experimenting with different UX ideas, you’ll know what your audience is liking the most. The testing and tweaking should continue until you reach a level where your visitors aren’t facing any issues.
#3: Freshen Up & Enhance Old Content
When people visit your site, they expect to see fresh and updated content. Even the search engines favor sites that keep their content up to date.
So the last thing you want is for your site look stale in any way. Instead of using 301 redirects to send your visitors to a new URL with new content (which affects your site’s mobile responsiveness and speed), try updating your old content. In other words, refurbish it so that your pages remain fresh and the quality is maintained. The old content can continue driving targeted traffic, so it makes sense to take this step.
Make sure that you’re careful when updating any old content with new matter. Don’t just mindlessly delete old content. Instead, create an archives page for it on the old URL. This not only makes your page look more user friendly, but also adds authority to the existing URL, which in turn adds authority to the main domain name.
#4: Beat Competition Using the Power of Schema
Does Google favor Schema? If you go by recent studies, then yes. It has been found that almost 35 percent of Google search results are seen with Rich Snippets supported wit Schema.
However, the surprising fact found was, only a minuscule 0.3% of sites are actually using the Schema tool, even though it has been approved by Google. This number may have slightly improved with the time, but still not using Schema is a big missed opportunity for sites that want to outrank competitors.
So what exactly is Schema and why is it important?
Schema is nothing but an organized collection of various HTML tags, which can found on Schema.org. These can be added to a page in order to produce a much more detailed description that is seen in the search engine result pages.
When you search on Google, you can find Rich Snippets created by Schema for all kinds of pages — right from movie ratings to recipes to videos.
Here are a few advantages of using Scheme:
- Rich Snippets enhance the user experience for people searching by giving them more information about a page.
- Your website can stand out from other sites in the search results with the help of these Rich Snippets.
- Using Schema makes the search engine’s job easier as it helps understand what your webpage is about.
- Providing upfront information/date about a page can increase the click-through rate in the SERPs.
#5: Do Keyword Research the Smart Way
How can we forget talking about keywords when we’re discussing SEO? The truth is, the importance of keywords hasn’t diminished over the years, it has only evolved and matured.
Regardless of the keyword research tool you’re using, how you get the results and what you do with them is all that matters. And this process has changed due to the new improvement in the Google algorithm called RankBrain. Which is an attempt by Google to use machine learning to put content in context.
Thanks to RankBrain, the search engine giant no longer relies only on metadata, but rather tries to understand what your site is about. Gone are the days when you could mindlessly stuff a website with keywords and fool Google. Today, Google has become so smart that it not only understands synonyms but also knows how to find answers to your questions.
Using the latest keyword research tools, you can mine in-depth information about the keywords that you want to rank for. Which in turn helps you create content that not only incorporates specific keyword queries but also relevant phrases that are highly contextual. So be smart, and be natural when using keyword phrases in your SEO content because that’s what white hat ultimately teaches.
#6: Attract the Right Type of Links
Links, links, links — the more we have them, the more confident we are of our ranking in the search engines. Even though the search engines have come a long way, they still rely on links when judging the relevance/quality of a page. So if you’re not actively attracting quality links, you’re only making your white hat SEO strategy weaker.
The idea is to not get any links. But only get those backlinks that:
- Are relevant to your website’s content and theme.
- Have human involvement and need to go through a real editorial review.
- Are earned purely on the basis of quality, value and relevance of content published.
While there are many ways to build links the white hat way, the easiest way is to create a page that offers so much value that other websites cannot help but linked to it. Whether this page valuable contains cornerstone content or lists a bunch of valuable resources curated by you, it’s up to you.
Here’s an example of link building the white hat way:
White hat SEO is not a dying trend nor it is a fad that will fade away. It’s the right way to do SEO that is relevant now, and will be relevant even in the future.
What’s more, with search engines getting smarter day by day, white hat SEO is only going to get stronger. Which means saying goodbye to websites with low quality content and user experience. Does your website need some updating? Perhaps it’s a little more work than you can handle right now. Consult experts at an SEO agency like ours to see how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation about your website.