Google’s search algorithm has improved to the point that ethical white hat SEO strategies work but it wasn’t always great at sniffing out stinky spam. When many of us first started in the SEO industry, the level of spammy tactics people used was astounding. And it worked!?
Questionable link-building was king.
Manipulative practices like link-buying, link-farming, spamming website comments, and spinning low-quality content were the norm.
But a lot’s changed over the past several years.
People still try these things. But Google has drastically improved its ability to spot and quickly address manipulative practices.
In 2012, they rolled out the first Google Penguin algorithm update. And with each new update, Google continues to devalue shady practices. At the same time it rewards websites that care about user experience (UX) and a Google is promising a 2021 algorithm update that awards ranking to sites that pass Search Console’s Core Web Vitals tests. Web vitals include site speed, performance, and rendering scores because users form an opinion about a website in .05 seconds after clicking on a link to it – so if it’s not responsive, loading fast, and easy to navigate they’re going to click the back button.
Details like this are what White Hat SEO is all about.
These changes are better for businesses. And they’re better for our customers. Below, you’ll see White Hat SEO is the way to outmaneuver the competition.
What is White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO is a comprehensive set of organic marketing strategies that work to increase a brand’s website visibility among a target audience using ethical practices and following Google’s guidelines. White Hat SEO isn’t just a way to get to #1 in Google, it’s about improving the quality of the website and online presence to anticipate the needs of its users.
It helps increase brand visibility and affinity across the Internet, attracting people most likely to become customers or repeat customers to your website.
As you can imagine, White Hat SEO involves an intense focus on delivering exceptional customer experience. It generates brand love and loyalty and encourages people to share your brand with others.
While a White Hat SEO is not explicitly involved in revenue-generation, the goal of White Hat search is bringing very likely customers, clients, and leads your way. This creates a strong foundation on which businesses can increase revenues, cuts costs, and increase profitability.
White Hat SEO promotes the long-term health of your brand and business, so you can grow, reach new markets, and succeed.
Before we dig into the kinds of activities a White Hat SEO engages in to achieve this, let’s quickly look at its opposite — Black Hat SEO.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is not a marketing strategy, at least in the conventional sense. It is a set of spammy strategies that don’t care about the things marketers or businesses care about, like customer experience, brand awareness, or brand affinity. It sees ranking in Google as the end-all, be-all. It wants to be #1 and doesn’t care what it had to do to get there.
To put it simply black hats find a perceived vulnerability and exploit it in an attempt to gain high ranking quickly, because they don’t have the knowledge or resources to manage a campaign the right way.
It also doesn’t care what kind of traffic it drives to the website. That traffic is not targeted and unlikely to be your customer base.
Those applying these strategies do things that are clearly against Google’s rules. But often, Black Hat strategies work for a short time.
A website using them could get to page one briefly. But recent history shows us Google always catches on and punishes the websites that apply these strategies in the end, even if you didn’t know the person you hired to SEO your site is using Black Hat tactics.
Google applies algorithmic (automatic) penalties managed by advanced machine learning technology. This lets them address some things very quickly, often in real-time.
But Google could also apply a manual penalty to your site because your site is repeatedly breaking Google’s rules with less than ethical practices. If you get one of these penalties, it’s hard to recover from the damage it does to your website and business.
Sadly, in most cases the spammer has already been paid by the time you find out. You can see if manual penalties have been applied you your site by going to you Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Manual Actions.
Black Hat SEO uses spammy automation, inter-connected website schemes, and poor quality content, among other tactics, to obtain links to your website and increase visibility and traffic in the short-term. If you care about being visible in Google a year from now, not just three to six months from now, this is not the way you want to go.
Even though Black Hat SEO often seems cheaper, it will cost you more in both money and customer trust. Don’t outsource to a cheap freelancer, consider yourself warned.
What Does White Hat SEO Involve?
- Technical SEO – Making sure your website meets technical specifications to rank well including uniquely optimized content, title, and meta descriptions; semantic data deployment; eliminating page errors; configuring ssl certification; defining canonical urls; defining default url version; passing core web vitals test for page speed, user-friendliness, and responsiveness, etc.
- Audience Research – Understanding your audience and building a website experience that speaks to your target market.
- Content creation – publish new pages and posts and share them on social media and update existing content often finding content opportunities, gaps, and duplication to consolidate.
- Competitive Research – Monitoring and learning from your competitor’s tactics to out maneuver them
- Keyword Research – Knowing how your audience finds you and your competitors in search gives you insight into keyword and content opportunities.
- Outreach – Networking online to find mention opportunities, sponsorship ops, and businesses to partner with in order to leverage one another’s audience.
- Monitoring – Monitoring website health and the effectiveness of strategies to make it even better over time.
- Tracking & Reporting – Transparent reporting is so important because when customers know their ROI they can make decisions based on which campaigns reap the most leads and shift more of their budgets where it packs the biggest punch.
It’s easy to see why White Hat SEO costs more. There’s a lot more involved when someone cares about customer experience. And you know what, customers recognize when you can about the experience too.
White Hat SEO Techniques & Why They Work
What is White Hat SEO? Here are just a few common customer experience loving techniques White Hats use to increase website visibility and customer engagement.
Create Great Content
Creating consistently awesome content that your target is looking for and will appreciate is the centerpiece of White Hat SEO. This is what your customers find in search, on social media, or on an influencer’s website to direct them to your site.
Because the content is fantastic, it delivers on its promises. This builds trust and loyalty with prospects and customers alike.
While publishing new content is an important part, improving existing content regularly is also necessary if you want to dominate in competitive markets.
Streamline User Experience (UX)
From speed to navigation to personalized recommendations, you want everything to be perfect. Today’s customers won’t settle for a bad UX.
They just leave.
Google takes note of the number of people who back out of your website. So if UX is bad, it impacts ranking as well as being a missed opportunity to get a new customer.
Refresh Old Content
This is not the same as re-hashing old content or re-publishing it as if it were new.
Instead, because you care about customer experience, you review the content on your website regularly to check for things like:
- Broken links
- Outdated information
- Thin content that can be improved upon
When doing this, focus on pages getting more traffic first. But all pages should be reviewed from time to time. Improve the experience to help these pages perform better in search.
Leverage Schema Markup
This one is a bit more technical. But it is the best invention ever for White Hat SEO. Schema Markup is a special code that allows Google to display more meaningful information in search results.
Schema is why you see a picture of a big cat with furry ear tufts along with a lot of interesting facts in an information card when you Google, “What Is a Lynx”.
Google chooses which sites’ schema markups appear in search. You earn these spots by being deemed the best website to answer the query that also has schema markup.
Earning these spots through White Hat SEO is like getting a half-page ad in a major publication for “free”.
Black Hat SEO does not earn these spots in search. And most of your competitors are probably not using schema markup, giving you the advantage.
Learn the Power of Outreach
Outreach is a huge part of White Hat SEO. It takes time. But it’s so worth it. Outreach is not contacting websites to ask for a link to your site, or even a shout-out. Outreach is about building meaningful relationships with non-competitor–but related–websites, businesses, and influencers through various channels to reach new customers.
The most common forms of outreach are:
- social media
- quality guest blogging opportunities
- Helpareporterout.com and muckrack.com
Visits, links, and engagement are very beneficial by-products of these activities. This is marketing and what sets ethical SEO apart from manipulative practices.
Win the Long-game with White Hat SEO
Fortunately, even at the height of search result manipulation, there were some of us who insisted on doing things the right way. And it’s those of us who practice White Hat SEO who see our clients’ website rankings increase — not plummet — when Google releases a new update.
Want to beat the competition? You’re not going to do it if your website peaks in a few months, then tanks. Play the long-game and win with White Hat SEO. This is SEO that works.