White-Hat SEO: How To Succeed While Avoiding Black-Hat Techniques
White-hat SEO can only be understood by looking at its counterpart: black-hat SEO. White-hat SEO includes SEO tactics that are approved by Google, and this kind of honest strategy can improve your traffic and ranking. Meanwhile, black-hat SEO includes tactics that Google frowns upon and can get you penalized, or even banned, when appearing in the SERPs.
You may not care about how many black-hat SEO tactics you’re using, but Google definitely does. Maybe you aren’t aware which tactics are now considered black hat that were once acceptable (since Google’s algorithm is constantly changing.) Either way, it’s important to understand that time spent on black-hat SEO is a waste – you’re hurting your business, alienating your customers, and potentially making search engines angry.
What are White-Hat SEO Techniques?
White-hat SEO primarily benefits the user (which in turn benefits you). It ensures the person doing the searching finds interesting, relevant information when they search online, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is Google’s main goal – keeping your customers happy means that Google’s users are happy, too, because you’re catering to the same audience.
Here are a few common white-hat SEO techniques:
- Building a mobile-friendly website with fast-loading pages that facilitates low bounce-rate.
- Creating meta tags that are descriptive and keyword-rich.
- Including relevant and helpful internal and external links.
- Guest posting on other websites to raise your visibility and influence (without paying for links — more on that later!).
- Organizing your website in a way that’s clear and easy to navigate.
- Using keywords in a way that’s both natural and strategic for both the reader and Google’s site crawlers.
- Writing high-quality, often long-form, content.
Approved SEO techniques can change as Google becomes savvier, while content creators and marketers come up with new ways to get their content seen. It’s important to stay on top of the industry and know the latest algorithm changes to remain search-engine friendly. By knowing the latest digital trends and best practices, like highly targeted bespoke marketing, omnichannel strategies, and European GDPR regulations, you’ll remain in good standing with Google and your audience. In general, if your SEO marketing is honest and doesn’t try to trick anyone into navigating to your site, you are probably participating in white-hat SEO without even knowing it!
How to Avoid Black-Hat SEO
Using white-hat SEO techniques isn’t enough – you also have to avoid black-hat SEO techniques. Here are common black-hat SEO techniques that you want to stay far, far away from:
- Buying backlinks so that your web pages are linked to from numerous sites (which is different from white-hat link building, which involves no money exchanging hands).
- Filling web pages with auto-generated content instead of creating it on your own.
- Keyword stuffing, or squeezing in keywords anywhere and everywhere they fit, even if it sounds forced or unnatural.
- Invisible links or text that try to trick Google.
- Malicious content that can harm a computer or that tries to solicit private information.
- Using irrelevant keywords for the sake of ranking.
- Web cloaking, which is when the user sees different web page information than Google.
Black-hat SEO is misleading from the backend because it may result in positive results at first — however, these techniques are all shortcuts, and the only results they produce are short term. In the worst case scenario, your site may be banned from the SERPs, which could mean the end of your business and website. Less common, but still time-consuming, you might get stuck manually disavowing links from shady sites until Google is satisfied with your backlink portfolio once more.
Three More Ways to Get Traffic to Your Website
While you want your SEO strategy to be a well-oiled machine, there are other ways to increase your website traffic and overall reach that aren’t entirely Google-dependent:
- Engage with your audience on social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter do something that Google can’t: give you the chance to speak directly with your fans and customers, regardless of your industry. If you catch a user’s interest on social media, there’s a good chance they’ll head over to your website to learn more about you.
- Set up a YouTube channel. YouTube has almost as many users as Facebook (nearly 2 billion). Yes, Google displays YouTube videos in search results, but YouTube is a hyper-focused social media platform frequented by video-watchers. This is a targeted way to reach your audience, and you can direct them to your website when they’re finished watching a video.
- Pair up with an influencer. If you take a close look at white-hat and black-hat SEO techniques, it all comes back to trust. What can your audience members (and Google) trust? What sends up a red flag? Influencer marketing has trust at its core. People are more likely to trust a brand that someone else recommends.
Whichever content marketing techniques you use, track them as best you can. Prioritize your current goals and monitor complementary KPIs to evaluate how well you’re doing. For example, if you want to increase word-of-mouth marketing or social proof, you can track mentions on social media. If you’re using videos in your marketing, the video completion rate KPI will tell you how many people watch to the end.
The Benefits of Proper SEO
White-hat SEO benefits everyone – the user, Google, and you. You’ll give the user — your customer — a better experience on your website and when reading your content. You’ll provide them with helpful information that they can’t get many other places. At the same time, you’ll impress Google in a way that can improve your site’s traffic, SERP rankings and, potentially, overall conversion rates. Everybody wins.