What is white hat SEO?

Anyone who has studied the topic of SEO knows there is a contention about how to perform it effectively. 

Fifteen years ago, you could gain high search placement by stuffing your keywords in content and meta tags.

Those days are over.

Google has since grown more sophisticated, and so has the practice of SEO.

The changes to the search algorithm, specifically Google, have led an almost cowboy-like comparison in the practice of SEO.

This comparison is white hat and black hat SEO.

How Are White Hat & Black Hat SEO Different?

So, what is white hat SEO and black hat SEO anyway? To understand, it is best first to understand a little about the black hat cousin.

Black Hat SEO Basics

At a very high level, black hat looks for loopholes in the search algorithm. Practitioners then exploit these to gain quick gains in search placement.

Unfortunately, this exploitation is with no regard to the actual user experience.

Several questionable practices fall within this realm. Some of these are in the development of your site. Others have to do with strategies for developing the inbound signals back to your site. Even more, include predatory practices against your competitor sites.

Through any of these, the issue is that these practices are very short-term focused, and Search Engine Result Page (SERP) placement can disappear overnight.

What Is The White Hat Side?

So what is white hat SEO then?

It is an approach that balances what is useful for the user with what provides the results in the SERP’s.

As search engine algorithms have become more complex, the distance between these continues to shrink.

Currently, these are the most significant factors to consider in what is white hat SEO.

Website-Related Factors

A significant part of SEO is “on-page optimization.” These are related to both coding as well as content-type topics.

In the end, the name of the game is good user experience. Here are some considerations that affect the user experience:

  • Does the website have a fast load speed? If not, people will not stay around, waiting forever for the page to load.
  • Is your content long enough? You need to make sure your content is valuable to your users.
  • Are there images? Yup, search engines want to see pictures in addition to text. That is because most users are visually oriented and respond well to photos.
  • Is your content broken up into smaller sections using headings and subheadings to help people skim your content?
  • Make good use of the URL structure, keeping it short and straightforward.
  • Be sure your website is easy to navigate. Group pages together in a way that will make sense to your user. And for heaven’s sake, include a sitemap.
  • Finally, make sure you link to your various pages from within your site content where it makes sense. Do you mention something on a page you expound upon on a different page? Give a link to it.

Next, let’s consider the importance of keywords.

Use Effective Keywords Strategically

Be sure to find the most effective keywords that people are using to understand your information, services, or products.

Here are some critical things about keyword usage to keep in mind:

  • You do not have to have the “exact match” keywords for it to work in the search algorithms any longer. Modern algorithm technology allows for the use of different tenses, using connecting words, and more. All that means you can use keywords as you would in conversation and still have it be effective.
  • Do not be afraid of “long-tail keywords” or keyword phrases with three or more words in them. These help you get in front of your targeted audience more quickly.
  • Keywords should be part of your URL structure and include both pages and sub-pages.
  • Use your keywords in meta tags (title, description, etc.), but be sure it makes sense to someone who will read it as well. Try using a different tense as well as using connecting words, where it may make sense.
  • Keyword stuffing is a big no-no! Do not think that dropping a keyword frequently on a page will make that page rank higher. That is so early 2000’s.

Get with The Times and Cater to The Mobile User

It does not matter what kind of business you run; the world has moved to mobile. The search engines have recognized this and are forcing sites to do the same to continue getting search visibility.

If you want to have effective SEO, you must have a robust mobile site. No, this does not mean you have to have a stand-alone site just for mobile users.

Responsive design is now a standard for coding. It allows your site to adjust automatically to fit the size screen displaying it and helps provide a much smoother experience for the mobile user.

Use the Google mobile-friendliness tool to see how your site is doing quickly and easily. It will give you a rapid glimpse into how Google sees your site as it relates to mobile.

Mobile is also closely tied to local search.

The Importance of Local

Estimates put more than 20% of mobile searches as looking for something locally.

One of the best ways to optimize your website for local is by claiming your local listings on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp and claiming newer, not as commonly used local listings.

Regardless of how you use them, be sure you have an accurate phone number, your local address, and URL. This URL is vital as part of your SEO strategy, forming a crucial inbound signal to your site. Also, make use of categories, services or product options in your listing, as well as the description.

Your local listings are the first line of links, or inbound signals, that will come back to your site. Being these are sites that many people use frequently, search engines love them.

Links, Links and More Links

Links are a critical factor that separates one site from another in the eyes of Google. These are “votes of popularity” if you will and are called inbound signals by search professionals.

However, not all links are equal, thanks to some revolutionary algorithm updates. One of the most notable was the series of updates known as “Panda.”

It used to be that you could build a bunch of mediocre sites, and then link them back to your “money” site. Such a practice would give you an inbound signal boost, and help you rank higher in the SERP’s.

Because of this, entire private blog networks formed for site owners to exchange links. Many marketers exploited this to gain more visibility.

However, developing a high-quality link profile is crucial to gaining and maintaining competitive SERP placements.

Do this by developing links from websites that generate significant traffic from your target audience. It helps establish the signals Google currently seeks.

White Hat Ensures Long-Term Search Success

Now you better understand what white hat SEO is. Taking the time to develop an excellent experience for users and meaningful inbound signals can take a while to succeed.

However, putting in the time ensures you will not disappear after the next major update closing the loopholes.