Similar to any other large industry where the idea of the “best approach” is highly subjective, there are also a lot of different ways to optimise your website efficiently. While these tactics can work, there are two distinctions you need to be well aware of: White hat and black hat SEO.
Understanding the Difference Between Black Hat and White Hat SEO
The terms ‘black hat SEO’ and ‘white hat SEO’ originated from old Western movies where good characters would typically wear white hats and bad guys would wear black ones. In a nutshell, black hat SEO refers to a set of practices that are used to improve rankings in ways that are not approved by search engines while white hat SEO refers to the correct, ethical way to optimise a website.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO is the practice of manipulating search engine rankings in the hopes to achieve a higher SERP ranking. Instead of earning a high ranking on search engine results pages the right way, black hat SEO uses shady tactics to get you there. While this may work during the first few times, it may likely have the opposite effect in the long run. Consistent use of black hat SEO techniques may result in damaging your presence in search engines rather than improving it.
White Hat SEO
Compared to black hat SEO which uses manipulative tactics to improve search engine rankings, white hat SEO abides to search engine guidelines. Thus, allowing you to maintain the integrity of your brand while staying within the terms of service of the search engines. Unlike black hat SEO which focuses mainly on search engine results, white hat SEO focuses on creating high-quality content for its users. It prioritises on readability, relevance and structure of the content and how it will be useful to the people who read it.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of repeating target keywords in an attempt to manipulate the search engine rankings. This tactic can be easily found as it usually sits outside of the main content. In most cases, it makes little to no sense when read aloud.
Cloaking involves the practice of presenting one piece of content to visitors and a different piece of content to search engines. This practice is considered as one of the many violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as it provides users with different content as they expected.
Manipulative links, also known as link schemes, are one of the most common techniques of black hat SEO. This occurs when black hat SEOs hide links in various parts of their sites such as in blog comments and even physically hidden (font size zero or matching the background color of the webpage). Since adding links to any content is an efficient way to improve search engine rankings, black hat SEOs pack them into their sites, even when they contribute no value to their content.
White Hat SEO Techniques
Providing users with high-quality content is still the most efficient way to increase search engine ranking. After all, content is still king. Thus, it is best to create content that meets your users’ needs and helps resolve their issues rather than producing content for search engine crawlers.
Thorough Keyword Research
Yup, the use of relevant keywords is still important. However, it is best to understand how to use these powerful phrases organically and strategically. Conducting keyword analysis, for starters, can be of great help. Doing thorough research can keep you away from overly competitive keywords while helping you identify both short and long-tail keywords. To better optimise your pages, ensure keyword-rich titles and meta descriptions.
According to Statista, mobile accounts for approximately half of the web traffic worldwide. As such, ensuring mobile optimisation is necessary. If you aren’t focusing on a mobile-first approach, you’re falling behind. In fact, Google has warned everyone that “starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.
Fortunately, Google has made it easier for startup businesses to create mobile-friendly sites. It has released its own mobile-friendly test app which you can use to make sure that your website isn’t penalized.
The key to effective SEO is to focus on what’s best and what’s right for your audience rather than what’s good for the search engine itself. When in doubt about which direction to go, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable telling the search engines about the techniques you’re planning to use. Taking the time to reflect on your actions is the best way to ensure your site is on the right path.