Search engine optimization is a complicated vocation, with many different tactics and strategies you can employ to boost your website’s keyword rankings.
When it comes to these tactics and strategies, there are two different schools of thought: white hat and black hat SEO techniques.
Read our guide to learn about white hat SEO, why it’s important, and common strategies that will guarantee long-term success for your business in the search results.
White hat SEO is an approach that optimizes a website’s search engine ranking by relying on remaining compliant with the guidelines set by search engines rather than manipulating a page’s keyword rankings through practices that violate these search engine guidelines.
This type of SEO usually results in a website ranking higher in search results pages (SERPs) like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
It also contributes to a website receiving more organic traffic (with no pay-per-click adverts) as search engines rank websites based on quality and relevancy, not quantity of content.
For example, webmasters that follow white hat seo techniques would avoid using jargon-filled, keyword-stuffed, useless titles, meta descriptions, and content descriptions on their websites.
They would also avoid using spammy, duplicate content, and other shady SEO tactics.
Most importantly, they would pay more attention to a website’s and its website’s SEO strategy, so they could focus on providing readers with fresh, relevant and high-quality content.
Because white hat SEO is compliant with the webmaster guidelines set in place by search engines like Google and Bing, it will guarantee that your website will continue to rank and perform well in the long term, especially when Google makes changes to its algorithm.
It also safeguards against manual penalties imposed by search engines. Manual penalties will cause a website to lose keyword rankings, or not show up at all in the SERPs, until actions are taken to lift those penalties (this is most common on sites that perform unnatural link building, or purchase hundreds or thousands of backlinks).
White hat techniques are very different from black hat SEO tactics.
Black hat techniques take steps to rank for certain types of searches and specific keywords using unethical tactics. The most common methods among search engine spammers include creating gateway pages, spammy link building, purchasing paid links, keyword stuffing, or cloaking.
White hat SEO is also different from black hat SEO in that it follows best practices outlined by search engines. There’s no shady behavior used to get a site into the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). Users won’t be confused by random sites that rank on Google or Bing in the SERPS that don’t satisfy their search intent.
Following black hat SEO practices may yield results early on, but it’s a surefire way to get your site penalized, or negatively impacted by Google’s algorithm.
It will also force you to play catch up compared to your competitors if your site is penalized.
Below we’ll walk through the top white hat tactics used by most SEO experts.
First you want to ensure that you’re producing high quality and unique content for your website.
This includes performing keyword research and optimizing your pages for specific terms you want to rank for in the SERPs.
Your great content should be better than your competition. It needs to satisfy user intent, offer original or unique information that can’t be found elsewhere, and entice users to visit your website instead of other sites on the web that house similar information.
Google’s primary goal is to satisfy user intent. For example, if someone searched for “mortgage rates”, they should expect a page that showcases the most current rates available for different loan types.
User intent can often be bucketed into four different categories: informational, commercial, transactional and navigational.
Keep your audience top of mind as you create pages and content. You should also make sure that your pages are targeting the right keywords to best satisfy that user intent as they land on your web pages.
And again, make your page better than that of your competitors. Include interactive elements like tables and graphs. Upload videos and photos to complement the user experience.
Lastly, you want to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly and offers a great user experience.
Site speed and responsive design are two primary focuses that Google has narrowed in on over the years.
A site that doesn’t offer a good user experience on a mobile device won’t rank effectively on search engines.
User experience is also another factor that Google considered in its algorithm. If people land on your page, only to quickly leave, or spend little time on the page, it’s a bad signal to Google, telling them that your page either isn’t relevant to their search query or didn’t offer a good experience.
If this happens too often, Google will deprioritize your website for that keyword ranking, which will hurt your overall organic traffic opportunity for the site.
Keep mobile-friendliness and user experience top of mind as you develop web pages and craft your SEO strategy.