Everyone who wants to build a successful website needs to be familiar with SEO (search engine optimization), or optimization techniques for making sites rank higher in the search results. When doing this, one can use either white hat SEO, which uses techniques considered legitimate, or black hat SEO, which involves techniques many consider cheating. The following will explain what everyone promoting websites should know about white hat SEO.
Reasons to do white hat SEO
When comparing white hat and black hat techniques, the major difference people will notice is that black hat techniques often can be automated and bring faster results. Why then, are white hat techniques recommended for most people? The main reason is black hat techniques may only provide a short-term boost. As the search engines catch on to these tricks and refine their search algorithms, sites that do not use white hat techniques may drop in, or possibly totally drop from, the rankings.
What is white hat SEO?
White hat SEO techniques can be best thought of as those ways of promoting sites that add value to the web. The goal of any search engine is to provide the information and content users are looking for. A webmaster promoting a good site will strive to create the content and ways for users to find it easily.
Doing white hat SEO
Good SEO starts with building a nice site that keeps both the visitors and search engines in mind. The SEO steps that can be taken on the site are referred to as on site SEO. To create the kind of site both visitors and search engines like, it is best to start with a plan and keywords. Use keyword tools to find out the kinds of keyword phrases people are searching for in a niche. Then, organize the keywords into categories and plan out the site. The site should be easy for both search engines and visitors to navigate.
Other on-page SEO strategies
Some of the other things that can be done on the site for SEO include:
- Keyword density: Roughly 2% to 5% can be thought of as a nice balance between including the keywords enough for the search engines to notice but not stuffing them into the content.
- Keywords in title and meta tags: Include the keywords one time in each of the tags.
- Internal linking: There should be internal links in the site that include the keywords in the anchor text. Do this with both the search engines and site navigation in mind
- LSI keywords: This involves using semantically related keywords in the content. These keywords are best found using software.
While on site SEO provides a good foundation, everyone needs to keep in mind that what is happening off site will count for more with search engines algorithms. This kind of SEO takes more time and effort and webmasters must resist the temptation to use black hat or gray hat techniques.
Basically, search engines see links to a site as votes of confidence for it. A good site will attract these links naturally over time. White hat SEO involves building links to get a site noticed much more quickly and stand out above the crowd.
Distinguishing what is white hat SEO
Distinguishing between white hat and other forms of SEO basically boils down to a form of buyer beware. If the process can be automated and does not add any value to the web, it probably is not the white hat. An example of this can be seen in blog commenting. While those who read blogs and make useful comments with links going back to their blogs are doing white hat SEO, those who use software to spam generic comments to many sites clearly are not.
Some good white hat techniques
Article marketing is a very common white hat SEO technique. In exchange for publishing an article on their sites, article directories will give the publisher one or more links back to their websites. As with blog commenting, this technique can also be abused with software that sends the article to thousands of sites. This is often considered gray hat SEO.
Press releases work well for many. Those who are not interested in learning to do these can outsource the process.
Social bookmarking and syndicating content can help get a site noticed. Any kind of social networking online can also be used for SEO purposes.
Forum commenting is a good way to learn more about the site’s niche, make contacts and draw visitors to a site. Most forums will allow homepage links to be placed in the signature box, and one can occasionally leave links in forum posts.
Links from related sites are often the best white hat SEO strategy. A single one of these links may be worth more than a thousand low-quality links. Unfortunately, they can be hard to get. The process should start with doing a search of the top ranking sites for a particular keyword. Then, try to find a way to get a link from these sites. This could be making a comment, offering to write an article for the site (see guest blogging) with a return link (keywords should always be in the anchor text), link exchange or even purchasing a link. Expect a lot of rejections when using this method, but when it does work, the return links can be very valuable.
A word on SEO outsourcing
There are a lot of companies that do SEO for a price. Since the temptation for these companies is to go the easy road, check for transparency to ensure they are using white hat SEO strategies.
While they take more time and effort, white hat SEO is the best long-term strategy for more stable web traffic.