What Is White Hat SEO?
If you have a business website, chances are you’ve heard the terms “white hat SEO” and “black hat SEO.” But what exactly do these terms mean? Businesses that practice white hat SEO are making an effort to follow Google’s base guidelines, essentially following the “laws” of the internet. Businesses that don’t follow these laws may enjoy the benefits of high rankings for a short time, but they will eventually face consequences and penalties from Google.
This can sound scary—especially if you aren’t fully aware of Google’s best practices and you’re merely doing what you believe will have the best results for your company. You may be following several of these rules just by trying to create good products and run an effective marketing campaign, but you may still be able to improve in a few areas. Today, we’ll go over what white hat SEO is, how to follow it, and what may happen if you don’t. Once you equip yourself with this knowledge, you’ll have the tools you need to you retain a quality website.
What Makes Content White Hat?
In this section, we’ll give a brief overview on what makes content white hat, which is more attractive in Google’s very particular eyes. We recommend that you use this information to review any content on your website to ensure you’ve created a website that Google’s algorithm will deem worthy of awarding higher rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). You should also keep these guidelines in mind as you add any content or implement any changes to your site in the future.
- Relevant keywords: If someone types “Honda rims” into Google and clicks on a link only to find themselves on a page that features Honda tires instead, they’re going to click away from that page. A frequent poor bounce rate suggests to Google that this page isn’t giving users what they’re looking for. This means that your rankings will plummet and that you’re investing in a keyword that doesn’t create conversions. It’s important to only target keywords that are relevant to their respective landing pages.
- Unique content: It’s important that users feel they have something to gain from the websites they’re browsing. Your website should be helpful as well as unique. Don’t steal content from other sites or even from other pages on your own website. Blogs and about pages that are fleshed out and that have unique copy are more likely to keep users on your site longer—and gain their trust.
- Backlinks: One way Google can determine the relevancy and usefulness of a site is through how many backlinks it has earned from other reliable websites. This means that outside websites that also practice white hat SEO are linking back to yours. When several websites are confident in sending their users to your site, this is essentially a vote of confidence. What you don’t want is for low-quality websites or comment sections in blogs and videos to link back to your website, as Google doesn’t deem these sites trustworthy.
- Easy-to-read content: Internet users looking to receive immediate answers don’t want to pull up dense pages of text that they have to pour through to find what they need. What they want instead is something they can skim. H2s and bullet points are great options for making a website more user-friendly.
Your focus may be to make your website look good in the eyes of Google, but this search engine’s algorithm ultimately loops back the user. Google distinguishes between white hat and black hat SEO is because they want their users to have a positive experience and use their search engine as opposed to their competitors’. They created the rules above because these rules make web browsing easy. When you think about what Google is looking for, you have to consider how the above points factor into our own online expectations.
Why is White Hat SEO Important?
White hat SEO exists because, without it, the search engine results would be all over the place. Internet users would continuously find themselves on sites that weren’t useful to them because site owners would be using dubious methods to earn their places on the search page. This isn’t beneficial to Google, which is why they’ve long been honing their engine so that the best-quality websites are the ones that ultimately rank.
Google consistently makes updates to its algorithm to promote the user-friendliness we just mentioned. You’re probably aware of the major updates Google has released over the years, but Google actually implements hundreds of updates per year. Most of them are simply so subtle that we don’t even notice. These updates are each designed to further improve the user’s experience, meaning Google is continually figuring out ways to penalize websites that don’t follow the rules and reward the ones that do.
Whenever a major update is announced, many business owners hurriedly review what changes have been made and evaluate what, if anything, is going to impact their site. Technically speaking, there’s no way to prepare your site for an update because no one knows what the update will be before Google implements it. However, anyone who follows Google’s best practices and uses white hat SEO is far less likely to see a negative impact on their site. The reason for this is, of course, is that their website is already optimized to benefit the individual user above all else.
On the other hand, a major algorithm change is more likely to hurt a website that uses black hat SEO, which we’ll discuss more below. Google may even direct these changes toward specific black hat websites.
The Advantages of White Hat SEO
Who does white hat SEO benefit the most? In a word: everyone. It benefits Google because it encourages users to use their search engine; it benefits users who want to find what they’re looking for quickly; and it benefits website owners, as they can earn visitors without “cheating.” In this section, we’ll focus on what white hat SEO can do for you.
- Improve your rankings: A marketing campaign that follows Google’s best practices—such as matching keywords with relevant landing pages, creating good content, and receiving reliable backlinks—will improve your rankings on the SERPs.
- Save money long-term: Companies that practice black hat SEO do so because they’re hoping to see an immediate ROI, but this will only benefit them short-term, as Google will eventually penalize them. Running a marketing campaign generally requires an investment, but white hat SEO yields more consistent long-term results.
- Produces good content: As we mentioned, everything you do should be with the intention of creating a positive customer experience. Users recognize quality content, and they’ll ultimately reward you for it.
- Prepares your site for updates: There’s no way to know what Google’s next big update will encompass. However, if you keep in mind their goal of providing a good customer experience, you can be sure that a fully optimized website will be out of harm’s way.
What Happens if You Ignore White Hat SEO?
Following the rules and creating a campaign takes time. You have to make an investment, create a quality website, and find good sites that are willing to link back to yours. Taking the easier route may seem far simpler—you can invest less money and spend time on other areas of your business. However, we can’t stress enough how important it is to follow these best practices. If you don’t, your business may greatly suffer in the future.
Black Hat SEO
People who use black hat SEO tactics for their sites want to achieve the results that others spend years working toward in a fraction of the time—and they may even see the results they want for a while. Ignoring the guidelines and instead taking the actions we’re about to list can often work for a while for black hat sites. These sites may dominate the SERPS for a spell, tempting others to try out their strategies as opposed to the recommended ones. However, you’ll almost certainly plummet in the SERPs eventually if you continue to utilize black hat techniques. Google algorithm updates are created to combat these actions. Techniques you shouldn’t use include the following:
- Duplicate content: Having the exact same content on more than one page on your website.
- Thin content: Content that isn’t fleshed out or helpful to the user.
- Keyword stuffing: Using the same keyword, or similar keywords, many times on a single page.
- Spamming links: Throwing links everywhere you can online, such as on untrustworthy sites and blog posts.
- Hidden text: To flesh out word count, some sites will place text on a page and make it invisible to users.
- Irrelevant landing pages: Keywords that don’t match the page the site is trying to rank for.
Gray Hat SEO
There’s a third hat in the ring, and that’s gray hat SEO. This lies somewhere between white and black hat, and it’s a sketchy territory to be in. Grey hat SEO won’t protect you from Google updates, and you’re essentially playing with fire when you use it. Our recommendation is to follow white hat practices without exception.
Start Using White Hat
In a 2007 film called Stardust, Robert De Niro plays a character named Captain Shakespeare. At one point in the film, he makes a profound statement: “Reputation, you know—a lifetime to build, seconds to destroy.” A good website takes time to build, but it will, ideally, eventually yield a profit. When someone uses incorrect practices, their reputation with Google can crumble in the few minutes it takes to implement an update. When you’re building a business, patience is required. Let’s review a few things you should do to continue practicing white hat SEO:
- Have relevant landing pages and keywords
- Create content that’s valuable and unique
- Only seek out backlinks from reliable sites
- Know your audience and what they want
- Stay educated on Google’s guidelines and updates
Logical Position Can Help
An effective marketing campaign takes time and expertise. Logical Position can take a significant amount of work off your shoulders and use our knowledge of SEO to create a successful ROI. Whether you’re looking for national or local SEO services, our experts can help you use best practices to excel. We’ll collaborate with you to find out what you’re looking for and what we can provide. To learn more about the services we offer, contact us today.