If you are a business owner, marketer, or anyone trying to compete for attention in the digital landscape, you probably know that SEO, in general, is a reliable strategy for growing your online presence. However, it’s only a solid strategy if the tactics follow the rules. That’s right, the world of SEO has an “unofficial” rulebook, and if you aren’t playing by it, your efforts could be wasted – or worse, backfire and downgrade your SEO rankings with search engines.
There are two camps in the world of SEO strategies: white hat SEO or black hat SEO. Like the old west, the white hat represents reasonable and fair SEO practices, while the black hat denotes underhanded tactics designed to trick search engines into ranking recognition. If you aren’t wearing the white hat in this situation, you could be jeopardizing your online reputation and self-sabotaging your SEO efforts.
In this article, we’ll explain the differences between white hat vs. black hat SEO and why search engines prefer white hat SEO techniques. We’ll also share which white hat SEO strategies are the most effective for improving online visibility and engagement. And finally, we’ll peek into the future of SEO, including what role AI (Artificial Intelligence) may play in online ranking strategies.
White Hat Vs.
Black Hat SEO
We’ve already explained what white hat SEO means (ahem, rule-following), and we’ll give you pointers and advice on results-oriented white hat SEO techniques in the next section. For now, let’s discuss “black hat” and why search engines police it, including examples of what is white hat and black hat SEO for comparison.
Black hat SEO techniques are the SEO tactics that violate the search engine guidelines to increase a site’s rankings on the search engine results pages. Google and the other major search engines know this is happening, which is why they are constantly working on ways to recognize and penalize black hat SEO tactics.
Let’s look at an example to help establish the difference. We’ll start with keywords – which are significant to both white hat and black hat SEO tactics. Keywords are the terms or phrases used in published online content to improve search engine rankings for those terms. Keywords are critical to better SEO rankings – when used naturally and relevantly (the white hat way).
A typical black hat SEO tactic with keywords includes “stuffing” them into an article or piece of content in ways that don’t make sense to the readers, i.e., just throwing in the keywords to catch a search engine’s attention. We elaborate on keyword stuffing and other tricky black hat SEO techniques in this article: What is Black Hat SEO.
Here’s why white hat SEO techniques will always win – especially in the marketing long game. Google and other search engines’ technology and software are so advanced that even if they do not catch keyword stuffing right away, they will eventually – and downgrade your content. So any work you put into creating that keyword-stuffed piece isn’t just a waste, but the content will stagnate.
On the other hand, if you write an article using a keyword or keyphrase to elaborate on a topic in a natural and informative way, search engines will recognize the quality of your content and reward it with higher rankings. As we said, the entire search engine ranking process is highly complicated and seems “all-knowing,” but that’s because search engines are programmed to be the internet’s ultimate authority on information.
Top 10 White Hat
Now that we’ve established what is white hat and black hat SEO, let’s regroup and focus on what matters, which are the top 10 white hat SEO tactics for winning search engines over.
Write Useful and Quality Content
If you want to improve your website’s search rankings, then give Google and your audience what they want – high-quality, useful content. However, giving Google what it wants means writing exclusively for the benefit of your audience. Your content should answer questions, solve problems, and establish you as an authority on topics that are relevant to your product or service.
Meet User Intent
User intent is everything to Google, which places satisfying said intent very high on the priority list of SEO tactics. For the best results, identify how your customers use your website and content. Is it for education? Or to make a purchase? Once identified, your content and website should focus on meeting that intent.
Don’t Overuse Keywords
Again, keywords are critical to your SEO efforts. However, their usage in your content should always be natural and informative, not forced. Your keyword usage should favor quality over quantity, or your efforts could backfire.
Utilize Keywords Organically
If your keyword usage isn’t authentic and organic, search engines – and your audience – will know. In 2011, the Google Panda algorithm debuted to give content a “quality” score that flagged and punished poor-quality material, such as duplicate, thin, or obviously keyword-stuffed content.
Use Relevant Keywords In Metadata
Incorporating keywords into your metadata is a very strategic white hat SEO tactic if it is authentic. Well-researched keywords should be easy to include based on their relevance to the content; however, metadata keyword usage should always be semantically correct, relevant, and natural-sounding to count favorably.
Focus on UX/UI
The goal of SEO is to encourage visibility and engagement. So, if your website has a high bounce rate, you are probably not meeting the UX (user experience) or UI (user interface) expectations. It’s essential to track your site’s bounce rates and identify where content is falling short – because Google is definitely paying attention to bounce rates and organizing search results accordingly. The content with high bounce rates will always be found lacking and left behind.
Since 2015, Google has dropped at least three mobile-readiness algorithm updates – a clear indication that having a mobile-friendly site is a must for doing business. Although this may seem like a no-brainer in 2022, it’s always surprising to discover how many websites aren’t mobile-ready. If your business’s website falls into this category, it’s time to get with the program.
A high-quality website incorporates much of what we’ve discussed so far, i.e., inviting UX/UI, easy navigation, informative and high-quality content, and mobile-ready. High-quality websites also utilize other white hat SEO tactics, such as schema markup, which involves structuring the data on your website so that search engines can quickly identify what information is being presented and why.
Proper Internal Linking
Proper internal linking helps website users and search engines easily navigate the content. This white hat SEO tactic can also improve content visibility and time spent on pages, which count favorably toward search engine ranking. However, internal site linking, like keyword usage, should be strategic, natural, and always benefit the user experience.
Relevant External Linking
Externally linking to other high-quality websites relevant to your own is a massive win for anyone trying to improve their site’s SEO, which is probably why it’s one of the more challenging tactics to achieve. External links involve another site linking to your content on their site, thereby exposing its users to your information.
What is the Future of SEO?
Looking ahead, quality content and mobile-readiness will continue to top the SEO priority list. As algorithm AI (artificial intelligence) functions like deep learning and natural language processing improve, search engines are becoming smarter about content and its context. What does this mean for marketers? We have to become smarter too.
Rather than hastily implementing black hat SEO tactics to garner short-term results, online growth needs a strategy that nurtures and satisfies the user’s intent by answering questions and providing solutions with high-quality content. The future of SEO will also include more emphasis on voice search, which tends to be more “conversational” than typed searches. Therefore, keyword research around conversational queries and high-quality, valuable content with a conversational tone will win the ranking wars.
Is Using an AI Copywriter Considered White Hat SEO Tactic?
As AI improves, more applications, like AI Copywriting, are emerging. AI copywriting uses artificial intelligence like natural language processing and machine learning to automatically generate copy that sounds as human as possible. If you’ve ever used Grammarly or WordTune, you’ve already experienced AI copywriting to some degree.
So is AI copywriting a white hat or black hat SEO tactic? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. If it’s a Google search executive in 20221, they will stick to their guns and say AI copywriting typically produces low-quality content, which Google categorically does not favor. However, plenty of content creators and marketers use AI copywriting to help with content writing, so both AI and human efforts influence the content.
So, it’s kind of a grey area for now. However, it’s good to remember that AI can’t produce truly original content like a human. Nor can it write with emotion, which is a significant human driver—food for thought.
Should You Only Use White Hat SEO?
The bottom line is that black hat SEO tactics may produce quick results, but they will not be lasting results. The practice also leaves your content vulnerable to the threats of potential fines, high bounce rates, dissatisfied users, and site shutdowns – all of which spell disaster for your SERP.
Long-term marketing strategies using white hat SEO tactics are the safe, future-proof course of action, and the practice will keep your content SEO-friendly and safe from future search engine updates.
Are you ready to grow your online visibility with cutting-edge digital and white hat SEO services? The digital marketing savants at Living Proof Creative are here to help.