In this brave new world of content and post-Google algorithm changes such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, white hat SEO is the only way to go if you want your site to get ahead and become a useful part of the internet. Carrying out white hat practices also means that the search giants will like your site, too, and position it accordingly in the SERPs.
What is White Hat SEO?
In simple terms, it’s using various techniques that ensure that your site performs well in the SERPs without resorting to what many people now refer to as cheating. These nefarious tactics are known as black hat SEO and involve numerous spamming techniques, keyword stuffing, and more.
White hat, on the other hand, uses organic techniques and demands quality in a site in order to ensure it performs well for search. This means that numerous factors have to be taken into consideration and optimized, such as:
- Written content
- Images and video
- Meta information
- Site architecture
- Site performance
A note on keywords
Keywords still hold value but must be used correctly. Many SEO professionals don’t bother putting keywords in the Meta information as Google doesn’t look at them anymore. See the video below for Google’s Matt Cutt’s reasoning on why keywords in meta information are more or less ignored by the search engine now:
Keyword ‘stuffing’ used to be a very common practice and was a black hat method intended to ensure that the word associated with a company was picked up. We’ve all seen those articles that are barely legible, as every other word is a keyword. Many good SEO content writers now refuse to write content where a client may ask them for a keyword density of 7%, as it lessens the quality of the piece considerably.
However, keywords do still have their place for use with site content, including blogs, images, videos, and PPC/Adwords. These days, it’s better practice to use similar words throughout a piece of writing as well as the main keyword. Key phrases are also good practice and should be used. It’s also important that these are used in Titles and sub-headers as well as throughout the text.
For example: Keyword = SEO software
This should be used a couple of times in the text, in the headline, and in a similar phrase in a subheader. Throughout the piece, related words and phrases can be used for context, such as:
- SEO analysis software
- SEO tools
- Search engine optimization
- Search tools
And so on. A great tool for this is Google’s Keyword Planner,
As you can see from the image, I’ve searched using the key terms mentioned above and narrowed down the audience to the countries I would like to target and the industry niche that the site is in. This gives ideas for Ad Groups (for PPC) and suggested keywords that perform the best.
As this is a term that’s searched for often, it’s necessary to get a bit more creative than just using Google suggestions and experimenting so that you can get a competitive word with which you stand a chance at competing and gaining good placements. This applies to paid-for and organic searches, and it’s not necessarily a speedy process.
Content – ascended from King
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘content is king’? This is no longer true; content is everything (well, pretty much). It’s no longer enough to stick a poorly written blog up once a month – or worse, use text spinners to rejig old content.
Content must be:
- Original and not infringe on the intellectual property rights of others
- Highly relevant and useful to your industry and audience
- Very well written with good grammar and spelling
- The image and videos should include a title, ALT tag, and description, and if appropriate, give credit to the original artist (if using Creative Commons licensed images, for example)
- Point to the source of research and quotes where applicable
Providing value to your audience
The best possible way you can perform best in the search is by giving value to your audience and, preferably, your industry, too.
- Having a site that is well built, performs well, and is capable of being used across platforms (desktop, tablet, mobile)
- Producing content that is actionable and contains fresh ideas
- Having a good mix of multimedia content, not just written
- Utilizing social media so that your brand is recognizable across all platforms and content can be distributed. This is becoming more important now than ever; social signals (Facebook likes, G +1s, Retweets, etc.) indicate that your content is useful, as people are reading/watching and, ideally, sharing and commenting.
It’s also worth mentioning that your link profile remains important but that this is something that takes time and should be carried out sensibly and organically. Buying links will get you a Google penalty, as will any indication that you might have.
Guest blogging remains a valid white hat technique, but this must be approached naturally. This means that you begin guest posting on sites that are of a similar Domain Authority to your own. If you suddenly appear to have a lot of very high-quality links to your site, then this seems to Google as if they have been purchased.
We’ve really just touched upon the white hat here, and many techniques can help you, including SEO professionals and SMEs, using specialist SEO software. The most important thing to remember is that content should always be excellent, and this should be the main driver of your site.