White hat SEO means using SEO methods that do not run afoul of Google and other search engine policies and guidelines. To get a feel for what is white hat SEO, then, it’s helpful to start with Google’s guidelines for SEO — because Google publishes its webmaster guidelines and spells out what constitutes black hat SEO, although Google reserves the right to deem other tactics, techniques and strategies black hat as well. Specific items white hat SEO agencies do not engage in include:
- Implementing search engine-first rather than human-first techniques
- Using manipulative or deceptive tactics and techniques of any kind
- Participating in link schemes
- Creating low-quality or plagiarized content
- Using hidden text (of certain types)
- Scraping content
- Using doorway pages
- Keyword stuffing
- Creating rich snippets that are deceptive or where they are not applicable
A Brief History of Black Hat Tactics
As long as search engines have been around, there has been a temptation to try to trick the search algorithms to obtain high organic rankings for web pages that don’t deserve it — black hat SEO.
In past decades, when Google’s algorithm was much less developed and its ability to police SEO activities was much less efficient, black hats were, at times, able to produce some very impressive, though usually short-term, results.
However, as Google’s ability to detect manipulative SEO tactics has improved, the risk-reward equation for black hat SEO has diminished considerably. Using black hat tactics today puts an organization at great risk for incurring a Google penalty or being permanently banned. Being invisible on Google, the largest sales prospecting pool on the planet, is something virtually no company can afford.
What Is White Hat SEO in Practice?
White hat SEO violates neither the spirit nor letter of Google guidelines (as well as those of other search engines). This does not mean, however, that white hat SEO slavishly follows Google suggestions for SEO. White hat SEO at its best is highly creative and, as we do at Straight North, relies on its own data as well as factoring in Google’s suggestions when developing campaign strategy and tactics.
A good example of this is in the area of keywords. Google has been suggesting for some time that on-page keywords are not necessarily vital for SEO because Google can figure out the meaning of a web page without matching keywords. While this is, no doubt, true to one extent or another, our research (and other independent research) has shown that keywords continue to make a difference in ranking. White hat SEO agencies continually collect and interpret data to make sure its campaigns evolve properly as conditions change. At some point it’s possible that keywords will not make a difference for SEO, and it’s up to the white hat agency to determine when a change in the approach to keywords is warranted.
Defining What Is White Hat SEO Changes
Here is another thing to keep in mind when trying to get a handle on what is white hat SEO: Yesterday’s white hat SEO tactic could be today’s black hat tactic. This is because Google changes its guidelines as it recognizes abuse in one area or another. Here are examples of this:
- Certain types of linking arrangements now considered linking schemes were once legitimate white hat techniques.
- Heavy use of keywords in anchor text is now considered spammy, whereas at one time it was perfectly acceptable.
- Obtaining a high volume of backlinks from certain content-aggregating websites (such as some press release depositories) is now considered manipulative, whereas it was once standard operating procedure for link building.
The reasons activities such as these become black hat techniques are overuse and abuse. Google’s webmaster guidelines are geared toward making sure the highest-ranked content goes to the web pages with the highest value to its users. High-value content is useful, authoritative, relevant and engaging. Pushing a page up in the rankings by virtue of having links from 100 press releases that all say the same thing does not produce the results that Google (and Google users) want. When press release link building got out of hand, Google updated its algorithm to discourage or even penalize the practice depending on circumstances.
In summary, the best results and safest course is to work with an established white hat SEO agency. Black hat techniques carry great risk; any business with a long-term outlook would not even consider trying to take black hat shortcuts.
To talk about a new SEO campaign, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.