Everyone wants to see their website at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). There is no single way to get there, yet some website owners attempt to cheat their way to the top. White hat SEO is the correct strategy.
Your SEO strategy can make or break your rise to the top of the SERP. But don’t attempt to game the system. Search engines are designed to recognize shady SEO practices, and they penalize sites that use them.
Here’s what you need to know about ensuring your website rises to the top legitimately, plus the practices you should avoid so that search engines don’t penalize your site.
The following table summarizes some of the common good and bad SEO practices. These are known as white hat and black hat SEO practices respectively.
|White Hat SEO Practices||Black Hat SEO Practices|
|Keywords that flow naturally in the content||Keywords “stuffed” into content making it harder to read|
|Earned backlinks from relevant, reputable sites||Backlinks purchased from “link farms”|
|Mobile-friendliness||Mobile pinch-and-zoom mess|
|Original content||Duplicate content|
|Content created with the human user in mind||Content created with only the search engine in mind|
What Not to Do: Black Hat SEO
So-called “black hat SEO” is associated with trickery and dishonest techniques for boosting a website in search engine rankings. Black hat tactics may work in the short term, causing a site to shoot to the top of the SERP. But the site won’t remain there for long.
Using sketchy SEO tactics is similar to buying garden flowers that have been over-fertilized to bloom early. Sure, they look great now, but since they haven’t had the chance to grow strong roots, they will soon wither away.
Rest assured that search engine algorithms will discover black hat SEO tactics and penalize sites that use them. Not only that, black hat practices tend to damage the quality of your website content.
For example, keyword-stuffed content can be nearly unreadable. Low-quality content not only sinks toward the bottom of the SERP but can also damage your business reputation.
In short, black hat SEO is all about the search engines. It forgets about the actual human beings who use the website. At best, it results in high bounce rates for your website as users flee. At worst, it can cause search engines to ban your site from search results.
Examples of Black Hat SEO
These practices expose your website to search engine penalties:
- Keyword stuffing. Not only is this an obvious ploy, but it can also make your content unreadable.
- Link farming, trading, or buying. High-quality links to your content should result from the excellence of your content, not from devious companies promising unrealistic results.
- Hidden text. People have tried stuffing keywords onto their pages invisibly by matching the font color to the background color. But search engines can “see” them and will penalize them accordingly.
- Blog comment spamming. Blog comment threads are for discussion, not for links to your business website. Bloggers don’t like it, and you can harm your reputation by doing this.
If you see ads for companies promising unrealistic, instant SEO results, you can assume they are using black hat techniques and should stay away.
Do This Instead: White Hat SEO Practices
While white hat SEO techniques take time to produce results, they won’t trigger search engine penalties. These techniques are like strong roots on plants, in that they maximize performance over the long term.
Just as business integrity leads to long-term financial success, SEO integrity leads to long-term SERP success. It requires strategy and persistence, but the results are positive and long-lasting. Use these proven white hat SEO strategies.
Produce the Highest-Quality Content You Can
Search engines want nothing more than to connect users to content that is relevant, unique, and of high quality. Content that solves a searcher’s problem is the gold standard. If you only do one thing to boost SEO, it should be creating original, relevant, high-quality content.
Use Keyword Tools
The Google Keyword Planner is one of the most popular keyword tools. Another “tool” you can use is the search box itself. When you start typing a keyword phrase into the search box, you’ll notice that it suggests similar keywords. Make note of these, because they represent other important search terms.
Know Your Target Audience
The more you know about your target audience, the better situated you are to produce the content they need. What challenges do they want to overcome? How can your business help them overcome their challenges? Create content that speaks directly to your target audience.
Ensure a Top-Notch User Experience (UX)
Does your website take too long to load? If so, your position in the SERP could suffer. Great UX also means people can find your content easily and navigate your website intuitively.
Mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor. It falls under the category of “user experience” but is important enough to call out separately. As of 2022, mobile accounts for more than half of internet traffic, so ignore mobile-friendliness at your peril.
Give and Get Good Links
The links in your website content should go to reputable sources. Likewise, links to your site should come from reputable sources.
One technique for obtaining high-quality inbound links is to look for dead links on reputable sites relevant to your business. If you have a page that could replace that dead link, you can notify the site’s webmaster of the dead link and suggest a link to your page to replace it.
Learn the Value of Long-Tail Keywords
The importance of long-tail keywords in your SEO strategy cannot be overstated. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and finding these hidden gem keywords sets you up for long-term success.
While people search with long-tail keywords less frequently than typical keywords, they often represent users who are further down the sales funnel. Address these searchers, and you can see higher conversion rates.
While Google keeps its specific algorithm secret, it does tell you what you need to know in the Google Webmaster Guidelines. This page tells you how Google discovers, indexes, and ultimately ranks your site.
Revisit the guidelines periodically, because search engines fine-tune their algorithms. You need to know the latest guidelines.
Strategic SEO for Today and Tomorrow
White hat SEO isn’t about rocketing your website to the top of the search results by whatever means necessary. It’s about earning that position through the quality of your content and the other factors that make searchers want to visit and revisit your website. The longer you practice sound SEO techniques and strategies, the more secure your place will be in search engine rankings.
If a well-grounded white hat SEO strategy seems like hard work, that’s because it is. But like most things, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
Perhaps as a business owner, you don’t have the time or expertise to nurture your SEO strategy yourself. But we do! Our Best Websites products are designed for our clients’ SEO success, ensuring that customers who want what you have will find you. We invite you to schedule a call with us to learn more about our SEO-enriched websites that deliver.