- White Hat SEO = Inbound Targeted Leads
- Black Hat SEO = Cold Traffic That Will Never Convert
- Grey Hat (Middle Ground) SEO Techniques
- White Hat SEO Techniques
- Shady (Not White Hat SEO) Techniques
- How Saving on Search Engine Optimisation Can Backfire
- Is White Hat SEO More Expensive?
- How To Check Your Backlink Profile
- White Hat SEO Helps You Avoid Google Penalties
- Best Practices of Search Engine Optimisation from Google
There are many misconceptions about search engine optimization, and many people fall for the hype instead of focusing on results. The truth is that there is a fine line between black hat and white hat SEO and you will need to know when you are playing by Google’s rules and when you are not. If you don’t follow the recommendations and are going for the easy wins, chances are that you will see your site disappear from results, even if you are ranking now.
In this post, we will give you an overview of white hat search engine optimisation services to help you decide which road to take.
White Hat SEO = Inbound Targeted Leads
There are many benefits of using ethical link building and on site search engine optimisation methods. First of all; you will get the people to your site who are most likely to buy from you. Most of the black hat SEO experts will send you worthless traffic; from Asia and Africa, so it will not get you more customers, unless they are the demographic you are targeting.
If you set up your SEO strategy from the beginning, you will be able to measure against the benchmark and see where all your leads and customers are coming from. This means that you can determine the most valuable keywords for your business and industry. When you work with an SEO expert, you might want to discuss your goals and have a look at the research they conducted before coming up with a strategy. After all, the numbers are there; you just have to make sense of them.
While using a white hat SEO agency will not get you immediate results, it gives you the best return on investment long term.
Black Hat SEO = Cold Traffic That Will Never Convert
As a contrast, most people engage with black hat marketers because they want fast results and would like to save money. Do you know the saying; you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Well, in this case it is really true. There’s a massive difference between being able to push a few buttons or coming up with a strategy that can get you to rank higher than some of the leading brands in your industry.
If you want to play the “vanity game” and show off your traffic statistics, you might think that black hat is the way, but if you are in business to get customers, you should pay for expert advice and services.
Grey Hat (Middle Ground) SEO Techniques
Generally speaking, these are not as bad as black hat search engine optimisation, but they are bad enough to do more damage than good. While the methods used are not directly banned or discouraged by Google, you will get little or no results. Plus, there is no guarantee that Google’s algorithms will not clock on to them in a few months.
- Buying backlinks from sites that make money off selling them
- Buying old domains and redirecting traffic
- Buying social media followers
- Cloaking website links (adding doorway pages, altering meta title and description)
- Filler content that is not valuable for the audience
- Using blogging platforms for backlinks
- Paying for user interaction, such as likes, follows, comments, and reviews
Avoid grey hat SEO techniques, even if they promise faster results.
White Hat SEO Techniques
If you are a patient person and are not looking for instant gratification, you might want to sit down with an SEO expert to discuss which areas you should focus on when you create your campaign. There are plenty of layers of optimising a website, but – almost every time – you will need to start with on-site setup and improve your results over time using off-site search engine optimisation methods. Here are some of the activities white hat SEO agencies will recommend.
You know marketers who keep on saying: “content is king”. It is true, but it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality and the level of user engagement. If you can create content that talks to your target audience about their problems and the solutions you offer, or you can create educational posts that your visitors find valuable, you will get loads of sites linking to you, even without asking.
In case writing is not your forte and you still want to create content to engage with your audience, you can get in touch with an expert content writing agency to help you craft the message. Remember that you will have to give them the skeleton or just a few bullet points, as they might be good at writing, but might not be experts at your field. You know your ideal customers the best.
This should not be mistaken for paid guest posts or other black hat link building strategies. The purpose of this collaboration is to build partnership with people who offer complimentary services. For example, let’s say that you are a startup business advisor. You can ask accountants and people dealing with business finance to write a valuable piece on your blog. In exchange, you will share your insights with their audience. As long as both parties (and all readers) benefit, there’s nothing wrong with content collaboration.
One of the things Google is looking for when determining how popular your site is manual interaction and comments. So don’t be afraid to read other people’s opinion pieces and blogs on their sites, comment on them, and take part in the conversation. You will also be able to learn a lot from them, and gain an insight into what your audience is interested in. The same applies to your own site; always reply to comments and try to be as helpful as possible. It pays off long term.
Unfortunately, most people focus on the number of backlinks, instead of the relevancy. Not Google. The artificial intelligence that runs Google’s search spiders and indexes your site knows whether you are getting links for the sake of getting them, or because you think the audience will benefit from knowing you. Back in the 2000s, before the intelligence of AI increased, many marketers tried to trick bots to get loads of links from popular adult sites. As far as I know, most of those sites are gone by now.
You might think that the world has stopped when you are trying to grow your social media following. Well, the truth is that you have to spend a bit of time building up to the momentum and it will take time. The more relevant and valuable content you post the better you will serve your ideal clients and the more followers you will get. It is about the quality of followers and not the number of them. Build a social media marketing strategy and stick to it. If you need help, you could download our social media calendar to help you with brainstorming.
Never engage in like-for-like social media follows or buying followers. You will get found out.
Communicating with Your Prospects
Initially, websites and social media were created to enable two-way or group communication. Many people don’t remember this function of websites and think that they have to shout louder than others. Hence, they focus all their energy on talking, instead of stopping to listen.
Communication is a two-way street, and this means that you have to engage with others’ blog posts, content, comment, and social media as well. Some experts say that you should spend 80 percent of your time on social media engaging with others and 20 percent on promoting yourself. Of course, this ratio will be different for websites, as you need to be both educational and informative. That means more talking but you still have to listen and take part in the conversation.
On Site Optimisation
It is important that you look at your SEO strategy and optimise your site accordingly. For example, you will have to make the most out of freemium tools that work with multiple content management systems, such as Yoast SEO or All in One SEO. This includes adding the right keywords and descriptions, but also making sure that they are relevant to your content. After all, Google bots can now tell if the synonyms and descriptions of the keyword are included in the text.
Ad hoc on site SEO is the worst thing you can do. You have to develop your strategy from the ground up and make adjustments as you go along and algorithms and competitors’ rankings change.
One of the low hanging fruits of off-site search engine optimisation is local directories. You can get your business registered for free on most of them. However, before you go ahead and register on Yell and other third party sites, you might want to start optimising your Google Maps listing (previously Google My Business, previous to that Google Places). The good news is that you can do this for free, and there are plenty of guides that tell you how to do that.
So if you get a phone call saying that they are from Google and would like to optimise your listing, make sure you put the phone down. 1. Google never calls you. 2. You (or a marketing expert) can do the job yourself without having to pay a subscription fee.
User Intent Targeting
One of the things that most SEO experts forget talking about is user intent targeting. This means that every keyword is associated with the intent of the person searching. Search Engine Journal calls this SEOs secret weapon.
The main user intents search engine experts differentiate among are: Navigational. Informational, Transactional, and Commercial.
For example, let’s say that you are a carpenter. Searches related to how to sand oak wood will be Informational. In other words, you are not likely to make money off these people. Those searching for carpenters near me will be actively looking for your services. This is a transactional keyword. People searching for your business name will use a Navigational keyword. Finally, people who include “buy” in their search are using a commercial keyword.
Knowing which keywords represent which user intent will help you build an SEO strategy around your business goals.
UX is short for user experience and it matters more in 2022 than ever. Google wants you to serve your audience the best way possible and give them the best ride they ever had. This means that your site has to be as easy to navigate as it gets. So check the menu, the structure, make sure all links and buttons work, and get strangers to look at your site often.
Sometimes having a fresh pair of eyes is all it takes to spot a mistake that is frowned upon by Google and other search engines. As you know your own site and don’t use it often, it might be a good idea to have an outsider to test it. Broken links are a no-no, so is content that is incomplete or outdated.
The greatest aspect of user experience optimisation is speed and mobile display settings. You have to test all your pages on various screen types and sizes, to ensure all text is visible and the menu is working fine. Next, you will have to check the speed of the site on mobiles.
A few years back, Google introduced Mobile First indexing, which means that the speed of your site on mobiles matters more than its loading time on the big screen. Thankfully, most themes and website builders will do most of the hard work for you, but not all.
If you want to be in Google’s good books, check your site for UX errors regularly.
Shady (Not White Hat SEO) Techniques
In the below list I will include both Grey Hat and Black Hat SEO techniques. Simply because Google doesn’t directly tell you not to do something, it doesn’t mean you will get away with it long term. So here comes the list of things you want to avoid if you want your site to come up in SERPs (search engine result pages).
Participating in Link Sharing Schemes
While the golden age of link farms (around 2005) is over, they still exist. You will recognise them because they contain no valuable information, just a bunch of links with the keywords website owners want to rank for. While getting into one of these “fake directories” is relatively easy, you will not gain much targeted traffic from them, either. As there are thousands of links going out from the sites, your link will be worth less than if you got it from a quality and informative website.
If you see the headline “post your links here” just hit the BACK button and never return. It’s very bad for your overall SEO to be associated with low quality links and traffic.
Keyword stuffing is more common than you would think. It did – up to an extent – work about 10 years ago, but now it is a dangerous practice. It means that you will carry on using the same keywords no matter if they make sense in the context, just for the sake of using them.
At LMNts We have come across a few sites that were built like that, and we had to get to work on the SEO quickly, before the domain got blocked. Here’s how keyword stuffing looks like. The more irrelevant the keywords are to the text the more likely you will have to face Google’s wrath. Here’s an example from Google of about keyword stuffing:
Thankfully, we managed to sort out the problems on our clients’ sites and that means they are still benefiting from white hat SEO services years down the road.
You have to remember that SEO – just like any other internet marketing activity – is an investment and you should not look at it as an unnecessary expense.
This is a method that is often used by people who are trying to hide the real identity of their site or pages. Affiliates, for example, use this method to get people to visit their referral links. After all, nobody will visit a site that looks like “https/www.example.com/ref=54545488”
Cloaked links are considered to be deceptive and low quantity, so you should always be as transparent as you would be with your tax advisor.
Link cloaking includes installing a frame and adding a dummy page. This method is created to try to cheat search engine bots. They will see one thing, while the real visitor will see another page. Don’t do it! You will get found out.
Getting AI (Or Monkeys) to Write Your Content
Low quality content is one of the main reasons for not ranking high. You might be ticking all the boxes, format your content according to Google’s guidelines, but the information sucks. Well, how does AI know? Well, you will be surprised how much they actually understand about context and human language patterns.
So if you are getting monkeys or bots to write your posts and pages, maybe your product descriptions (which is the lesser sin), you are risking not only Google penalties, but also losing your engaged audience just to save a bit of time or/and money.
The truth is that content mills and AI will never be able to hit the right tone for your ideal clients and understand the problems they are facing. A good copywriter with your guidance can, or one of your team members if they are good at that kind of stuff.
Some writers or software will cheat to save time so they will “spin” content to make it “just unique enough” and the result will be unreadable content. Others will just copy other sites and only change a word or two. This means if you publish the content you will have to deal with Google’s duplicate content penalty.
Duplicate Content on Multiple Domains
We have recently come across this when we took over a new client’s website in the UK. They had two main domains; one was .org the other one .com. On top of this, they also had location pages for multiple cities. And all of them had the same content. It was bad!
If you are publishing duplicate content you will be hit by search engine penalties, and no matter how well you optimised the rest of the site, you will not get anywhere with your SEO.
Using Guest Posting Networks or PBNs
This technique used to be big among digital marketers and the WSO section of the Warrior Forum was full of offers selling memberships. Of course, Google clocked onto these networks and downgraded their page value, just like they did previously with article directories.
Paid Link Placement
Buying links on websites that have a higher authority in Google than you can – in short term – increase your credibility. However, sooner or later the backlink dealer (usually from Asia called Jessica or David) will get greedy and oversell the backlinks. Too many links going out will water down the quality of the site, it will lose its authority rank during the next Google update. End of story. No matter how many emails like this you get a week, you should not buy backlinks.
Just do yourself a favour and hit the SPAM button. You can thank me later.
Blog Comment Spam
The final method we have to mention is blog comment spam. It is not the kind of activity when you are browsing the blogs from your industry and put your twopence in. No, it is done by bots that will place your links to posts and websites that have high authority but no relevance whatsoever to your industry. These links will do you more damage than good so make sure you don’t do it.
How Saving on Search Engine Optimisation Can Backfire
You might be saying to yourself that proper SEO seems to be a hard work and must be expensive. True, white hat SEO is not cheap, as a lot of planning and research goes into it. Most companies (us included) will charge you a setup fee to cover the cost of dozens of working hours that go into planning, keyword research, and technical analysis.
Your other option is to go cheap, but dangerous. Here are the main consequences of trying to cut corners when ordering search engine optimisation services.
- You can get banned from search engines
- You might get traffic but of very low quality
- You will have poor content that you will have to eventually rewrite
- Your customers will not trust you
- You will focus on keywords that will not bring in any sales
Of course, the above list is not exhaustive. But we don’t want to scare you more.
Is White Hat SEO More Expensive?
Of course. As they say “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys”. If you want someone to do a good job, you are not fussed about the money. The question is: would you get a college kid to cut your hair for £5 risking that you will end up with a mohican haircut, or would you rather trust a master stylist at Toni & Guy?
The same applies to your site; would you ask your 10-year-old niece to do it as a school project or someone who has a little bit more experience?
How To Check Your Backlink Profile
If you are not sure whether your backlink profile includes shady links, you can go on SEMRush for free and get an overview of the profile. You will not get the full picture on the free account, but you will get a good idea. There is also a site called SEO Review tools that will generate a report in just minutes.
If you see a lot of sites from not .co.uk or .com or .org domains, you will know that someone messed with bad software. You will need to speak to a professions SEO agency to come up with a plan. They will have to talk to Google and get on with manually “disavowing” the links telling the search engine bots that you no longer want to be associated with those sites.
And it will cost you as manually undoing the damage is a lengthy and time consuming process.
White Hat SEO Helps You Avoid Google Penalties
The good news is that SEO still brings in some of the highest return on investment long term. Unlike with paid advertising, the traffic doesn’t die off as soon as you stop paying Google. That said, if you want immediate results, you might be better off with paid ads until the efforts of your search engine optimisation company pay off.
If you team up with a digital marketing agency that follows the rules and is Google Digital Garage certified, you can be assured that they will play nice and your site will get the traffic and search engine bot attention it deserves. You will not have to worry about penalties and getting banned.
Best Practices of Search Engine Optimisation from Google
As a summary, we have collected some of the recommendations Google lists on their website to help you determine whether you are on track or need to change some of your SEO or content strategy.
- Write quality content with the reader in mind, also including the well researched keywords.
- Format your content for easy reads, and communicate the importance of each section to search engine bots by using heading and titles.
- Optimise the meta titles and meta descriptions
- Optimise your images and media delivery
- Use both internal and external linking to improve your navigation and to help out your readers with further research
- Make sure your content is easy to consume on all screens
- Speed up content delivery
- Add a sitemap and navigation
- When embarking on a link building strategy, make sure you are referring to the most relevant page on your website.
Hope we managed to give you enough information to decide whether to stick with white hat SEO. Do you have any questions regarding search engine optimisation? Ask them below.
Want to talk about your site’s ranking? Book a free SEO consultation.