There are a lot of low-cost marketing companies out there who will promise you results in just one month. You’ll get started working with them, see some results, but you’ll notice that these results don’t usually last very long. Perhaps your website will get penalized or you’ll see a huge drop in traffic. If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a marketing company such as this, it’s a possibility that they were using black hat SEO techniques.
In short, the term “white hat SEO” refers to techniques or practices that abide by the terms and conditions set forth by major search engines like Google. Black hat SEO, on the other hand, refers to practices that are used to increase a website’s rankings and traffic but fail to fall in line with search engines’ terms of service. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – if you want to rank for highly competitive terms to drive more traffic to your website, you have to avoid Google penalties. The best way to do this is with a comprehensive white hat SEO strategy.
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO is a practice that maintains the integrity of your website and stays within search engines’ terms and conditions all while improving your search rankings. This means that marketers are using Google-approved search engine optimization strategies. Examples of these include:
- Creating one website for your business rather than multiple spammy ones
- Building links naturally rather than paying for low-quality links
- Offering quality content and services on your website that are applicable to your industry and business
- Doing keyword research to use long-tail, short-tail, and relevant keywords
- Making your website mobile-friendly and easy to navigate
So, exactly how do you determine whether or not an SEO technique is white hat? When doing white hat SEO, marketers will:
- Follow the guidelines clearly established by Google
- Focus on optimizing their websites for humans rather than robots or search engines
- Create user-friendly websites that are unique from others in their niche
- Develop and publish original, quality content that readers will be interested in
The Importance Of Using White Hat SEO Techniques
In short, using black hat SEO techniques can get your website penalized or even banned from Google or other major search engines. If Google is a major route in which customers find your business, seeing a dramatic drop in traffic as a result of black hat SEO can devastate your business – especially if Google doesn’t agree to reinstate your site. Although many of the loopholes used in black hat methods don’t necessarily hurt anyone except your competitors, they are seen as unethical. Strategies like trying to deceive users and search engines, hacking into websites, or purchasing spammy backlinks are all methods that are very risky and could ultimately do more damage than anything.
White hat SEO allows you to avoid these penalties and drops in traffic by staying in-line with the ethical guidelines set forth by Google. It is always safer to use white hat methods over black hat ones, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a grey area that many companies can benefit from diving into. In addition, some industries are already saturated with black hat SEO. If you’re in a spammy niche, such as cash for cars, white hat SEO may not cut it. However, if you’re in the healthcare industry, you have a better chance of seeing long-term results by using white hat methods.
Benefits of Using White Hat SEO
The three primary benefits of using white hat methods are:
- You will see your organic visibility grow – White hat methods take time to show results, but the results are more likely to grow steadily over time because it won’t cause spikes and valleys in your rankings.
- White hat SEO allows you to protect your business’ reputation – Enacting techniques that follow search engine guidelines will help you get noticed by Google in a good way. Penalties can kill your traffic, but white hat methods ensure that Google sees your business as ethical and trustworthy.
- You will gain a larger return on investment (ROI) – As a long term strategy, white hat SEO takes time to deliver results. However, when you use black hat methods, you’re more likely to get penalized and have to start all over again (with a new investment, too). White hat methods provide you sustainable, long-term results.
Put simply, if you want long-term results that give you a better ROI, white hat SEO is the way to go.
4 White Hat SEO Strategies That Will Earn You More Traffic
Throughout the years, it has become harder and harder for websites to use black hat SEO and to find loopholes so they can rank for high volume search times. Now, when people try to cheat their way up to the top ranking positions, Google catches it and may penalize a site. Knowing this, you might be wary about whether or not the SEO you’re doing is white hat or black hat. However, doing white hat SEO isn’t hard. As long as you and your marketing team are operating ethically – without trying to outsmart or trick a ranking algorithm – you are using white hat techniques.
Four important areas of SEO where you should focus on using white hat strategies include:
- User experience
- Business Listings
Let’s take a look at each of these areas, why they are important, and how to use white hat SEO to optimize each.
1. Provide a Seamless User Experience (UX) and a Responsive Design
Google has always rewarded websites that make user experience a top priority. And, as search engine algorithms continue to evolve and change to provide more accurate results, responsive websites have continued to see higher rankings as a result of their efforts. Creating a seamless UX design involves more than just writing clean code and speeding up your site. After all, the entire goal of user experience is to improve customer satisfaction through the easy-to-use website functions you offer.
One of Google’s goals is to help users find the best answers to their questions regardless of the type of device they are using. That’s exactly why, as of January 2017, Google updated its algorithm to improve users’ mobile search experience. Google explains,
“Pages, where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results, may not rank as highly.”
If your website isn’t responsive on mobile, tablet, and PC, it will hurt your overall rankings. It may also encourage users to click away from your website faster and decrease your conversion rates. And, since more than 50% of search queries worldwide come from mobile devices, you can’t afford to miss out on making your website responsive and user friendly.
As search engine algorithms evolve, so do website platforms. As a result, it’s easy to incorporate UX design into any SEO strategy. There are various templates that are already user friendly, or you can hire a programmer to custom-code a user-friendly website for you. Once you have a UX design ready to go, you can run A/B testing to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can improve to provide a better user experience.
2. Create Unique and Valuable Content
Content is one of the top two most important Google ranking signals, so it’s vital that you do it right. If you’ve worked with a digital marketing team before, you’ve probably heard them refer to “great content” a lot. But what makes some content great and some content not-so-great? Well, it comes down to a few factors.
- Provides value to your readers
- Is unique and on-brand
- Is tailored to attract the right audience
- Reaches your target audience
Great content is also written for real people – not search engines. If all your content focuses on is cramming in as many keywords as you can or regurgitating similar content that is posted on other websites, you aren’t going to see the same results as you would when publishing unique, human-friendly content. On the other hand, using black hat methods like spun content or duplicate content could result in a penalty.
So, how do you create great content? First, it means no copying, duplicating, or spinning content. It also involves doing keyword research with your prospective audience in mind. Once you’ve identified your keywords and come up with a topic, take the following steps to enrich your content while staying in line with Google’s SEO best-practices.
- Come up with a descriptive page title – Your title or headline should be captivating, but shouldn’t come off as “clickbait.” Writing descriptive titles that include your keywords helps search engines determine what your page is about.
- Keep structure and readability in mind – Lengthy paragraphs of never ending text can feel overwhelming to read. Focus on readability and structure by using subheadings, bullet points, numbered lists, and short paragraphs. You may consider adding an infographic to spruce up your content even more.
- No keyword stuffing – If your keywords show up in every other sentence of your content, you have a problem. Not only does this feel unnatural to readers, but search engines will pick up on this. Instead of ranking you for your keywords, they might ignore them altogether. Focus on your topic at hand while writing and your keywords should come naturally. While you should always keep them in mind and distribute them evenly throughout the content, you should never sacrifice readability for a keyword.
- Meta descriptions matter – Meta descriptions are an on-page ranking factor that is the first thing users see when your website shows up in the SERPs. Instead of cramming in keywords or spammy information, write a short description of your content that compels readers to click on your page.
It might seem quick and efficient to fill your website with duplicate or spun content – it may even rank. However, content like this doesn’t provide your website with authority, trust, or a strong foundation. Creating unique and informative content will be easier to build links to and it will actually interest your users, causing them to spend more time on your page and be more likely to convert into real customers.
3. Build Links Organically and Ethically
Links are another one of the top two most crucial signals Google uses to rank websites. If you want to rank for high search volume keywords, you’re going to need backlinks. It’s rare to find a page ranking in the first three positions for valuable keywords that don’t have any backlinks.
Link Building is one of the most time-consuming SEO tasks, which is why so many people end up buying links. Buying links is an easy way to get your website a decent number of backlinks over a short period of time. The problem is that these links are usually not quality. Some are posted on spammy, irrelevant websites, some are clearly marked as “sponsored,” and others appear numerous times across a private-blog-network (PBN). No matter how you do it, buying links is considered a black hat SEO strategy.
According to Google,
“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank can dilute the quality of search results. Participating in link schemes violates the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”
White hat SEO strategies will build links rather than buying them. There are many ways to do this, and although it’s time-consuming, your efforts are sure to pay off. Some popular and effective white hat link building strategies are:
- Broken link building – this involves finding broken links on other sites, creating a piece of content on your site to take the place of the broken link, and having it placed on the website.
- Guest blogging – there are endless blogs on the internet, so regardless of what type of business you have, you’ll be able to find relevant blogs out there that accept guest posts. Reach out to these sites, contribute valuable and original content, and include a backlink back to your site in the post.
- PR and media outreach – have an exciting event happening or big news to share? Or, do you have a qualified expert who can speak on current events? If so, take advantage of press releases and the media by sharing your expertise and business with the world. Usually, these mentions will include a backlink to your business.
- Resource pages – think about your audience – where might people go to find businesses like yours? What types of websites could benefit from posting a link to the information on your site? Schools, universities, community centers, local clinics, and other organizations will typically have useful resources on their website that direct users to other pages. Find websites that are relevant to your industry and request link placement on their site.
All of this being said, quality over quantity should be your motto when it comes to building backlinks. Even if you’re using a white hat method, doing so in an unethical way can make it black hat. For example, posting 5 guest articles per day on websites that have nothing to do with your business or content is a shady practice. Sending out 1000 generic “outreach” emails a day to a random list of websites asking for backlinks is nothing more than spam. Instead of doing these things, focus on obtaining links on trustworthy and authoritative websites that are relevant to your industry.
In the end, buying links is expensive, risky, and they’re usually low-quality. And, spamming people or building low-quality links is a waste of time. It’s always best to stick to white hat link building methods.
4. Claim Your Business Listings
We’ve already discussed user experience, so you know it’s important that your website displays correctly on mobile devices. But, it’s also important that people using mobile devices can easily find your services in the SERPs. According to Hubspot, approximately 88% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit or call business within 24 hours, and more than 46% of all searches are looking for local information, businesses, or services.
As Google continues enhancing its ability to deliver accurate local search results, it’s vital that you have accurate data in your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Since search terms like “near me” have continued to increase and Google automatically shows local results for popular terms and industries, local SEO is more important than ever. However, there are both black hat and white hat SEO techniques that are used in local search marketing.
GMB takes black hat methods seriously. For example, if your business name doesn’t accurately represent the actual name of your business, they might change your business name for you, penalize your listing, or even suspend your listing temporarily or permanently. Or, if you have multiple GMB listings for one location, Google will see this as trying to manipulate the search results.
Instead, use the following white hat methods to complete and manage your GMB listing and other business listings, like Yelp.
- Make sure your business name, address, and phone number represent your business accurately.
- Only create and claim one GMB listing per location.
- Make sure your hours of operation, services, and business descriptions are up to date and have the correct presentation.
- Post pictures, videos, and updates regularly.
- Keep your listing up-to-date by updating your information, responding to reviews, and actively managing your listing
Using complete and accurate data on your GMB listing and other business listings will help ensure that your listings stay up, rank high, and attract the right kinds of customers.
White Hat Digital Marketing with Stodzy
Failing to market your website in accordance with Google’s best practices can result in a penalty and a dip in traffic. It might be tempting to go with an SEO strategy that promises you quick results by spinning content, buying links, or building a cheap website. Ultimately, doing so will only hurt your rankings and your business as a whole, so why risk it?
If you’re looking for a white hat marketing company to help you move up in the search rankings and earn traffic for years to come, contact us at Stodzy Internet Marketing today.