What Is White Hat Optimization?
I have and solicitors practice and as such need to maintain my reputation both online as well as offline. I have been told that to do so I need to abide by purely white hat SEO to get my site to the top of Google… Is this the case?
White Hat SEO Strategies….. Before you start doing anything to your website to make it attract more traffic, you need to make a decision as to how you are going to carry out that activity & if you are going to only carry out white hat optimisation processes.
White hat optimization is the type of optimization that Google want you to do. It is in a nutshell, only using practices and activities that abide by Google terms and conditions.
Google publish webmaster guidelines which outline what they allow you to do and what they consider to be spam, or manipulative of their index.
The principle is that Google need you to ‘optimize’ your site to a certain extent, using headings, including keywords, naming images etc because without those indicators, they would struggle to understand your content at all.
If your website had pages called ‘page 1′, ‘page 2′, instead of ‘accounting services’, ‘bookkeeping services’ etc. Google wouldn’t be able to categorise your page content subject matter.
Optimization became more complex the moment that Google used back-links to assess the popularity and authority of your website.
Back-links are easy to manipulate and the SEO industry was built on link creation.
Google wants you to do the following;
1. Create high quality content
2. Share it socially across your networks
3. Allow others to link to it organically
If you do this then in time, assuming your content is exceptionally useful to others, it will rise in the rankings in line with Google’s White Hat expectations.
The downside is that it takes time for those organic links to grow, meaning that your progress to the top of SERP’s is usually quite slow.
The moment that you start to create links yourself, you are stepping into the field of ‘Grey Hat Optimisation’ which, by definition, means that you are trying to manipulate Google’s results to your benefit.
What should you do to remain white Hat?
Content is king. If you were Google, which site would you give the higher rankings?
- 8 pages of ‘sales’ content listing company products and services
- No useful information
- 8 pages of ‘sales’ content listing company products and services.
- 200 page blog, frequently updated with industry news, tips, how to’s etc
- Content contextually linked together
- Site that links to ‘authority’ resources
Google likes to see unselfish sites. Gone are the days of creating a sales funnel site with no exits from your content to anywhere other than making a purchase or making contact.
If you refer to a Government Tax Law website for example, Google want you to link to it’s content, rather than reproducing their content.
To create a White Hat site that works, you need to write high value content that covers your topic in detail, AND that links to useful information across the web. This is best done contextually (fron links within your content rather than from a sidebar or footer).
If you do this then you will begin to create a valuable resource that your readers find useful. In turn they will stay longer, share your content and recommend it to others and as a consequence, your Google rankings will increase.
Google is becoming increasingly punitive of any attempt to manipulate its results, it Page Rank system and webmasters caught violating its ever changing terms and conditions face demotion in the rankings or even exclusion.
If you are going to use Grey Hat or Black Hat SEO strategies, you need to know what you are doing, otherwise you will be found out very quickly.
The safest long term strategy is to base your Optimisation around a White Hat philosophy, because you will then be building for the long term without risk of penalty. As I have already said, the downside is that driving significant traffic will then take you a long time.
The minute you begin to move towards anything Grey Hat you run the risk of being penalised at some point in the future (If Google change their ranking requirements significantly). For example, in 2011 when many sites were penalised for low quality linking, many webmasters moved towards guest blogging as a strategy for creating quality links.
In principle guest blogging is a good thing to do. You find a quality site that is on topic, and they publish your unique, high quality article on their site, linking back to you as the author. All well and good so far.
The limitation was the time required to find suitable sites that were prepared to post your content, so guest blogging networks began to appear. All they really did was to make it easier to find blogs that would post your content as well as finding people who wanted to write content for you.
Google soon got wise to this and decided overnight to penalise all the sites using these networks. Their argument was that the process was manipulating their rankings and their PR (Page Rank) which as we all know is not what they want us to do.
The moral of the story, is that what works today to boost your rankings may not work tomorrow, and if you can find a linking network to join online then Google can too.
Google is going to continue to penalise ‘easy’ linking methods, systems and networks as it finds them. They have a manual spam team that are dedicated to squashing networks and removing their influence, so if your site is going to remain truly White Hat, you need to avoid lazy linking.
As a rule of thumb, the easier a link is to get, the less safe and indeed valuable it is considered to be.
The other danger of guest blogging is that even if you find a suitable site independently say via social media and the owner publishes your content, you have very little control over their other linking activities.
They might be using a guest blog network that you haven’t heard of yet and as and when that network gets discovered, the link you created could very easily be tarred with the same negative brush and punish your site too.
This makes knowing which sites to trust and which to run away from quite difficult and means that you should always be a little cautious of where you build your links.
White Hat SEO is the only strategy that will ensure that your site never receives the dreaded Google slap, and properly executed it will deliver the rankings and traffic you need through content marketing and organic popularity.