What is White Hat SEO?
There are three main categories of SEO. Black Hat, White Hat and Gray Hat; it’s up to you which one you choose to wear.
Black Hat SEO means you will use any means necessary to rank your website. These techniques may eventually get your website banned, but people in this camp understand the risk and are willing to bet it all on today instead of building for the future.
White Hat SEO on the other hand, is all about using safe and “ethical” SEO practices to achieve rankings. Unlike Black Hats, White Hat SEO is all about long-term stability. There are no here-today-gone-tomorrow tricks or hacks. White Hats simply uses safe search-engine friendly tactics to build rankings.
Gray Hat SEO is what most people practice even if they don’t know it. Gray Hat a blend of White and Black Hat techniques. Search engines change their “Rules” for what is an acceptable or unacceptable SEO practice all the time. Many clients we review are completely unaware that they are using questionable methods in an attempt to improve their rankings.
So Who is Right?
Surprisingly, all three! People will go on and on about the ethics and morality of SEO but the truth is there is a time when being risky and breaking rules can be a huge advantage and the only way to keep up with certain industries.
However, the majority of people can’t play Russian Roulette with their website. If you are in this camp the best things for you to do is decide how risk averse you are and craft an SEO plan that fits within your goals.
The Case for White Hat
By now it seems everyone knows you have to get other websites to link back to your content or you will never be able to rank for anything competitive. In the past it has been much easier to use Black/Gray Hat techniques to gain back-links instead of getting links naturally.
However, as the web has grown more social it has become easier for a piece of content to be shared out into different channels. Twitter, Facebook and Blogs have become a part of everyday life. Nowadays, when people find a piece of content that is useful they share it.
Due to advances in technology it is easy to find out exactly what your customers are interested in online. By producing content that is targeted to your customers it is easy to get people to link to your site naturally with no manipulation. If you are not getting links, you are not producing the right content.
What to Watch Out for
White Hat SEO has gotten a bit of a bad rap because people use it to claim their SEO techniques are safe and “Google Approved” when they are not. Even safe techniques like producing targeted content can be abused.
If you are producing keyword stuffed articles just for search-engines and not actual humans you are spamming. We have all seen ads like, “100 targeted articles for $50”. Think about where those articles will be written. Think about how your customers will react when they read those articles. Think about how a Google Spam Engineer will judge those articles if they come up for review.
A human can tell an article is spam within seconds of reading it. Don’t waste your time! It is safer and more cost effective to produce quality content that actually fills a need than to pump out articles like a spam factory. Ask yourself two simple questions; would I link to this and would I share this on twitter or Facebook? If the answer is NO go back to the drawing board.
Safe White Hat Techniques
It’s so easy to do White Hat right that it amazes me the lengths people will go to do it wrong.
- Title Tags
- Meta Description
- Main Body Text
- On-Page Navigation
- Keywords in URL Paths
- Keywords in Text Links
- Alt Text for Images
- Image Names
With each of these comes a caveat; do not stuff keywords! If you simply write naturally your keywords will usually appear plenty of times and will not disrupt readability.
To be honest if you are not going to pay someone to link to you the best way to get links is to “compel” someone to link to you.
Reach out to bloggers within your community and ask to be a Guest Blogger. Sites like My Blog Guest can help you get started. If you show a blogger some quality work you have done in the past and don’t write them a canned letter, it goes a long way.
Take a look at your press releases, are they really news worthy? If not make them so.
While info graphics and contest are a bit overdone right now you can still gain a lot of links by pulling them off successfully.
Unless you have very good reasons (I know some of you do) why you need to practice Black/Gray Hat SEO, I strongly encourage you to take a fresh look at White Hat techniques in 2011. Embracing White Hat can make link building a creative and engaging process again. It also helps you sleep a little better at night. We have passed the tipping point. White Hat has gone from a huge pain to the path of least resistance. Make sure you don’t get left behind!