With the advent of digital marketing, it has become mandatory for businesses and brands to have a strong online presence. One of the main goals of digital marketing strategies is to drive more traffic to your website. The more people visit your website, the easier it is for you to target potential customers. And that is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become the Holy Grail for today’s marketers and business owners.
Simply put, SEO is a set of strategies aimed at driving increased organic traffic from search engines to your website. Getting your website on the first page of search results for desired keywords isn’t enough. You have to ensure that it secures a top rank on the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Take a look at this screenshot from the September 2018 CTR study of Advanced Web Ranking:
Image via Advanced Web Ranking
It is evident that the first search result gets 30.16% of all clicks on desktops (22.83% on mobile devices). This is almost double the percentage of clicks received by the second result. Which clearly indicates that you need to focus your efforts on reaching the top of search result and staying there.
White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO
Broadly, there are two ways to approach SEO. One approach is to follow the search engine guidelines and slowly climb your way up the ladder. This is known as white hat SEO. All practices of white hat SEO focus on the human audience and comply with the rules of search engines.
Quality is at the core of white hat SEO. You have to create top-notch, unique content that is of value to your audience. At the same time, you have to ensure that the overall user experience (UX) on your website is of a high standard. Although this approach takes more time, it yields long-term results.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have black hat SEO. It refers to a set of aggressive tactics and practices that manipulate search engine algorithms for fast results. The typical methods used for black hat SEO include keyword stuffing, scraped content, sneaky redirects, negative SEO, etc.
Although they may seem lucrative, black hat SEO tactics are unethical in the eyes of search engines. There is a high chance that your website will get penalized when search engines recognize your strategies.
Before discussing how white hat SEO gives you an edge over competitors, let’s understand why you should avoid black hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO: An Absolute No-No
All leading search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. strive to deliver a quality experience and relevant content to their users. It is natural for search engines to prefer websites that offer a good UX and meaningful content.
Most poorly designed websites with duplicate content don’t see the light of day in SERPs. Even if you manage to get your shoddy website to rank high for certain keywords, the results will be short-lived.
The moment search engines recognize your unethical practices, they are likely to penalize your website. This means the penalized web pages will suffer a fall in search traffic. Furthermore, with prolonged usage of such tactics, your site can end up on the wrong side of the search engines.
The biggest risk associated with black hat SEO is that it can get your website entirely banned from search results. Undoing a ban is a herculean task that involves getting rid of all of the dubious practices. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money. Not to mention there is no guarantee whether the search engine will approve your reconsideration request at all.
The Going Gets Tough
Google has released several updates, including Hummingbird and Penguin, to identify and combat any SEO malpractice. So it is becoming increasingly difficult to succeed with black hat techniques.
You need to spend a lot of money to buy expired domain names and dedicated hosting servers. Even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll ever get good results.
With such unethical tactics, you often have to design a number of low-quality websites, hoping one of them garners traction. This is usually done to make some quick money while the traffic lasts.
In addition to being costly and risky, black hat SEO also requires a technical know-how of search engine operations. Most digital marketers and business owners do not have sufficient knowledge to identify loopholes in the search engine algorithms. With the increasing complexity of these algorithms, black hat SEO has become a cumbersome task.
We have clearly established that you must avoid unethical SEO practices at all costs. Now, let’s take a look at how white hat SEO can help you outrank your competitors.
White Hat SEO: The Only Way to Win
The reason many novice web developers and marketers shun white hat SEO is because it takes time to yield results. However, white hat SEO can definitely help you increase your search rankings.
White hat SEO involves the creation of a high-quality website with flawless UI/UX. Moreover, it demands unique, error-free, and meaningful content that offers value to the readers. Such legitimate practices ensure that your website doesn’t violate the search engine guidelines.
With white hat SEO, once your website has achieved a high search engine ranking, it is likely to hold its position. This is extremely useful in building a powerful online presence.
It also ensures that your website continues to see a steady influx of traffic. Your website will not experience any major rank fluctuations unless there is a technical glitch or an algorithm upgrade.
White hat SEO practices drive organic traffic to your website. You are likely to get leads from these visitors because they have actively searched for products/services related to your business. Since the results are long-term, you will definitely recover all of the time and capital you have invested into SEO. In addition, you will also be able to profit continuously.
Imagine if someone types your business name into Google and your website fails to show up in the search results. This could be the result of a website ban imposed due to unethical search optimization practices.
Whatever the reason, if people don’t find you on Google, their interest in your business will eventually fizzle out. This can take a toll on your online reputation.
With white hat techniques, you are assured of one thing: Your website will not be penalized by the search engines. Even if it doesn’t rank very high in search results, it will never be banished altogether. Your potential customers can at least take a look at your website when they actively search for it on Google.
Now that you have realized the importance of white hat SEO, let’s take a look at some white hat SEO best practices.
Renew Your Keyword Research and Content
In the initial days, SEO was all about identifying the appropriate keywords and stuffing your website with these keywords.
All that changed in 2015 when Google introduced RankBrain, their new algorithm update. With RankBrain, Google attempts to use machine learning to understand what your website is all about. You can no longer fool Google’s search engine bots with metadata.
Image via lyfemarketing
Once you have identified the keywords that you’d like to rank for, dig deep to find relevant phrases associated with these keywords. Next, you need to incorporate these keywords and phrases into your content in a natural manner.
In addition, make sure that your content is unique, easy to read, and free from any grammatical or spelling errors. It should also be of relevance to your target audience. Furthermore, make periodic updates to old and stale content on your website.
Organic Link Building
If you create meaningful and valuable content, your website will attract some healthy backlinks. In addition, you can also approach high authority domains for inbound links. Don’t indulge in malpractice such as paid and irrelevant backlinks.
Improved User Experience
Search engines tend to prefer websites that offer a top-notch UX. Make sure your website is easily navigable, user-friendly, and responsive across various devices including smartphones and tablets. Experiment with different UX ideas and test all of them to find the best ones.
You can add customer feedback or product description videos to your website and connect with your audience in an effective way. This will help you to improve your UX and strengthen your brand identity.
If your idea is to build a website that yields profit in the long run, white hat SEO is the way to go. Even though the process seems slow at first, it is safe and in compliance with search engine guidelines.
With search engines constantly upgrading their algorithms to identify malpractices, white hat SEO is the only way to achieve long-term results. It gives you an edge over your competitors and empowers you to outrank them.
What is your take on white hat SEO? What other tactics have you adopted? Share your views with us in the comments below.