By Andrew Oziemblo, Founder & CEO of Chicago SEO Geeks, the digital marketing & Chicago SEO agency helping businesses achieve long-term growth goals.
If you have been looking into SEO, you have probably heard a few terms thrown around like Black-hat and White-hat SEO. In the end, all businesses have the same goals when it comes to their online presence. Increased traffic, increased sales of services and products, increased brand recognition, and the coveted front page appearance on a Google search.
Defining White-hat and Black-hat SEO
Any SEO agency will have the same goal. To improve your websites standing in search engines. However, there is a divide in the ranks, and you will see white-hats and black-hats.
The difference between the two are –
Typically the use of strategies, tactics and techniques that might not adhere fully to Google’s guidelines. In some cases that are totally unethical. However – they do still give results.
Black-Hats work on exploiting and finding algorithm loopholes. It should be noted that most of the loopholes don’t ‘hurt’ anyone other than your competitors. There are, however, some darker tactics like injecting backlinks.
In black-hat, you’ll see the following:
- Search engine focus over the user experience
- Cloaking and doorway pages
- (Rarely) website hacking
- Bending and breaking Google’s guidelines
Overall you might consider black-hat as risky, and it isn’t endorsed but many ranking websites, although they will say some ‘grey-hat’ doesn’t hurt from time to time.
This kind of SEO, White-hat, refers to adherence to the Google-approved website optimization strategies, tactics and techniques. It is focused on creating the best experience for the user and gives them the best search engine results.
In White-hat, you’ll see the following:
- Creating a website that stands out in the niche for the right reasons
- Creating quality content with the reader in mind (working on the content marketing strategy at all times)
- Optimizing the website for users
- Playing by the Google guidelines
No doubt, in the long run, you’ll want to play firmly in the White-hat SEO playground. So here is how to make that happen.
If you are stealing content, and lightly rejigging it, you are playing dirty. Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and it doesn’t help your readers either. Likewise, if you are using writers that have little grasp of the English language and the work is questionable at best. There is no value in stuffing keywords (where you keep repeating keywords with no regard to the flow of the content) either. A healthy mix of keywords, ranging from 1-3% is typically best. Well researched pieces take time to create, as well as finding the right supporting links to include.
So aim to create something unique, or at least find a fresh spin on older content. Google and your reader will be looking for that type of content. Great headlines that tell the reader what they are going to get, and some structure in the form of headers to break the piece up. Images can add to the story, and break up walls of text, so it always pays to add something visually pleasing too. Keywords should naturally weave their way into the work.
When you are moving forward with an SEO agency, they will keep you and your content marketing efforts on the right path.
You want to have a single website that took time and effort to put together. It should be clean, easy to navigate and always user-focused. The bottom line is that people enjoy a good looking website!
- Mobile-friendly websites are essential. There are occasions where the text is too small, or buttons are too close together, and Google will alert you to them. You can make the appropriate changes and see an improved mobile user experience.
- Your branding will be the crowning glory of your whole website. The font you use, the tone and style of writing and the images you use.
- Space is important too. When your website is cluttered, it is harder to read, and people will leave much sooner than you hoped – causing a high bounce rate, which negatively affects ranking.
Getting the right links is important. If you want to rank for specific keywords and content, then you are going to want to work on your link building strategy. This is one of the more complicated SEO services and tasks though. Your chosen SEO expert will be able to guide you to the best practice way of tackling it and provide you with regular reports.
Although they were an option in the past, Google isn’t a fan of bought links and your site can be penalized if they are discovered.
The best options for a clean link building strategy are:
- Broken link building
- Blog Commenting (look for follow links rather than nofollow)
- Guest posting
- Link baiting – making content that people flock to and share:
- Tool lists
- Niche content
There are two ways to do outreach, and only one of them will get the go-ahead from your SEO agency. You could scrape an email list and send the same thing to everyone, or you could spend the time creating highly targeted content and sending it to the right places.
Personalise the emails, build relationships and keep it safely in the white-hat zone.
Have the right people and websites link to your content, and you’ll have high-quality links on websites that are also playing by the rules.
In general, you want to play by the rules in the most above-board way as possible. Google is always changing and improving their ranking systems, and they hand out penalties and penalize sites that are found to be playing dirty. So, when you start looking into your company goals when it comes to things like local SEO, ranking for ‘XYZ product’ and seeing increased recognition, it pays to work with an SEO consultant who plays by the rules, and typically the best ones are US-based.
Finally, white-hat SEO works over a period of time, and you will reap the rewards for your hard work further down the road. With higher quality links, better ranking keywords, and real engagement you’ll position yourself firmly where you want to be.