White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO Methods that Will Help You Rank

The world of SEO is turbulent, to say the least. The primary reason for the turbulence is the constantly changing search engine algorithms. The big question that most digital marketers are asking is “what works today?” The simple answer is the last one most would have guessed a few years ago: white hat SEO.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what white hat SEO entails today and why it’s important. We will also review nine essential white hat SEO techniques that work today and will likely continue to work for years to come.

What is White Hat SEO?

Let’s open up by making sure we’re on the same page in terms of what white hat SEO is. White hat SEO is the umbrella term for the assortment of techniques that operate within the rules and expectations of search engines and their users. If you’re not trying to deceive or undermine the search engine ranking algorithms, you’re likely practicing white hat SEO.

White hat SEO techniques haven’t always been the preferred way to get content to rank. Back in the wild west days of SEO and affiliate marketing, many digital marketers earned their paycheck using techniques that fall under the label of black hat SEO today. A few of these less than kosher methods include keyword stuffing, invisible copy, low-quality content, and duplicate content.

So…what changed? Why is white hat SEO so important today? Well, there’s no simple answer, but here are a few of the primary reasons.

Why is White Hat SEO Important Today?

While black hat SEO tactics once promised strong rankings and a steady flow of organic traffic, most marketers scoffed at the thought of white hat SEO because it takes time to make an impact. Furthermore, it depends on secretive standards put in place by Google and the other core search engines.

However, white hat SEO is far more promising than black hat SEO due to new technologies, search standards, and overall transparency.

We have a good idea of the characteristics that search engines look for. We also know which white hat SEO strategies appeal to the search engines.

It’s not just that white hat SEO techniques are far less risky. Black hat SEO methods, such as hacked links and article spinning do not promise the benefits that they once did.

There are numerous reasons you should adopt white hat search engine optimization tactics in lieu of black hat SEO. However, this doesn’t mean that following the rules is enough. Incorporating a keyword or keyphrase into a headline or subheading simply isn’t enough these days.

There are numerous tips and white hat techniques that are simply more effective for website owners and bloggers who are trying to rank.

Here are nine strategies that will likely benefit your SEO efforts and get your content to rank.

9 White Hat SEO Techniques that Will Help Your Content Rank

You need to understand which tactics work and how to execute them so that they make the biggest impact. The following is everything I have learned about what works best within the limits of white hat SEO and how to pull it off.

1.) Make High-Quality Content a Priority

Content is king. The content you publish on your website is arguably the most significant search ranking factor. Some SEO experts believe that quality content is trending toward becoming even more important in the future.

However, it’s not as simple as writing relevant content that’s “good” though. Google evaluates your content on a number of different signals, such as:

The correct way to write content includes making sure that is appropriate in length, relevant, and well-sourced. Surfer is a great tool that provides an outline of the ideal elements for planning an article.

You need to plan ahead whenever you generate content to make sure that you have enough valuable information. Furthermore, you want your content to be interesting and authoritative so that it earns backlinks (we’ll discuss backlinks in more depth in a bit).

A quality piece of content can be a catalyst for the development of a page, multiple pages, or even an entire website. However, content needs time to mature in the SEO world. Even the most well-crafted content can take anywhere from 3-5 months to mature…sometimes longer.

Naturally, your site needs to satisfy your user’s intent. Up next, we’ll discuss why you need to focus on user intent regardless of which white hat SEO technique you employ.

2.) Meet (and Exceed) User Intent

For years, Google has been focused on delivering results that accurately match the deeper needs of users. Google refers to this simply as “user intent” and this element has pretty much all but taken over the white hat SEO world.

Each of Google’s updates has been about increasing the number and accuracy of factors that contribute to guessing user intent. Today, there are thousands of signals and they do not require much input to rank your site accordingly in the online world.

Everything you do on your site, whether the content you produce, the layout of your site, or the images you choose to include, needs to be based on aligning with the intent of users navigating to your site via the SERPs.

There are a number of techniques you can employ to accomplish this task. First, consider where your site falls in the buying process. Are users looking for general background information on a specific topic? Is the end goal of your site to convince users to purchase something they already want? Is the purpose of your site to convince those on the fence to take the leap and purchase your product and/or service?

Your end goal(s) need to directly influence how you design your site. If the answer is to inform your audience, then your content should educate your users. If the goal is to convert, then the product should be the first thing users encounter when they land on your page.

Today, it is easy to analyze user expectations. You can use TF*IDF tools to determine, with a relatively high level of accuracy, which topics users expect you to cover and to what degree.

3.) Focus on Mobile First

Naturally, not all SEO best practices are rich with reliable data such as high-quality content and user intent. Some search ranking factors have evolved a lot over the past few years, such as the importance of mobile.

If you haven’t updated your site to focus on mobile quality, then you’re way behind the curve. Google’s search engine started to emphasize mobile search results in 2016 when thy announced a mobile-friendly label designed to lead users toward content that users could read on any device.

A year later, Google warned 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.”

This warning included new guidelines about appropriate content, display ads, and email opt-in pop-ups. Site content designed without consideration for mobile users will likely suffer overall.

Thankfully, it’s not difficult to make a mobile-friendly website today. Google has released a mobile-friendly test app that you can use to make sure that your website isn’t penalized and figure out what changes you need to make. Even though web design isn’t a white hat SEO technique, it’s still important to understand the basic premise and ensure that your site meets Google’s expectations.

Furthermore, focusing on mobile users, there’s another audience you need to give some extra consideration to. The increasing importance of local intent has made it necessary that you secure your Google Business Profile.

4.) Claim Your Google Business Profile

Providing locally relevant results is one of the primary ways that the Google algorithm tries to match user intent. Users looking for home services, restaurants, or an outdoor activity don’t want to see results 100+ miles away.

A recent study found that 82% of smartphone shoppers conducted “near me” searches.

Focusing on local searchers is a prime opportunity for most web pages and businesses since it provides a chance to be the biggest fish in a small pond. It makes success far more attainable. The best way to make the most of these searches is to claim the Google Business Profile (formally Google My Business) page for your company.

Google Business Profiles, when claimed, ap9pear in a box above other Google search results. This box is called a Map Pack. Users see the physical location of all relevant businesses and have access to the address, phone number, reviews, prices, website, and more.

Claiming your Google Business Profile is as easy as applying for it and completing the confirmation process.

A specific entry point for local searches is a great way to improve user experience. However, you can accomplish far more with a wider view of what that means.

5.) Make User Experience (UX) a Priority

Meeting the demands for a better user experience on your website is one of the ways that white hat SEO techniques have pulled ahead of black hat SEO tactics in recent years. Google relies on a massive range of signals that allows its algorithm to identify (and potentially punish) bad site experiences.

In the past, signals like bounce rates helped identify when a site delivered a poor experience. Even without any sort of analysis, you don’t need to be an SEO pro to agree that a user’s needs aren’t being met if they leave a site right away.

Planning and delivering a well-rounded UX was harder in the past since it includes every part of the website. However, Google’s efforts to provide transparency include providing a massive UX guide that covers numerous different standards.

Setting site UX as a top priority is as simple as incorporating these guidelines as you build out your site.

The core concepts of great UX haven’t changed much since the birth of search engines. However, the next strategy is one that has a far more rocky history. Keywords have been the primary point of contention between black hat SEO and search engines.

6.) Dominate Keyword Research

If you asked a digital marketer in 2009 and a modern digital marketer what it means to properly use keywords, you would get two very different responses. The keyword research methods we use today are vastly different from those of the past.

Keywords were once the primary tool for manipulating early algorithms. This has led to many major changes over the years.

The previous techniques of using keywords – picking a collection and then planting them as often as possible – is officially dead. Google’s algorithm doesn’t respond to basic keywords anymore.

Today, Google’s algorithm takes a wide array of signals into account to determine if the author applies the keywords correctly, authentically, and with consideration for the user’s requirements.

“Keywords” no longer refer to single terms today. Instead, search engines focus on the whole body of terms that are used in a niche. This includes longer phrases known as longtail keywords, which point to intent and the context in which the keywords are used.

The techniques used to properly use keywords require marketers to seamlessly incorporate all of them, use them naturally, and ensure that they mesh with the topics in which they are introduced. Keyword research tools serve a new purpose in campaigns today. You need to review your website, whether it be for a business or a blog, holistically.

Again, TF*IDF is one of the best ways to develop a full list of terms that top-performing websites use. Large-scale SEO analysis tools, like Ahrefs and SEMrush, look at how keywords are applied and document the effectiveness in various niches over a given period of time.

7.) Focus on Content Marketing

Content marketing is another major ranking factor. This is one white hat SEO technique that is great for bloggers and one of the tricks that rookie SEOs often miss.

As a white hat SEO tactic, content marketing involves the ways you deliver your high-quality content to the right people, who often include prospects and/or customers. You can accomplish this by sharing your content via social media, developing backlinks and internal links, publishing posts on more prestigious sites, or delivering directly via your email list.

Naturally, there is a right way to go about all of this. Surprisingly, it’s not SEO-based. Instead, you need to focus on finding the right audience. First, you need great content that is well researched in terms of keywords and has great on-page SEO. We’re not talking about good content here – it truly needs to be valuable. You also need to have a repeatable process for promoting your content via social media. Furthermore, you also want to help those who want to promote it to their personal audiences.

You need to focus on creating content that discusses concepts and subjects that you understand so that you can establish yourself as an authority within your industry. Building relationships with those who promote your content is clutch because you don’t want to be “that person” who constantly pesters strangers when your content needs a little help. Naturally, you’ll want to reciprocate when your peers ask for assistance.

Good content marketing is based on forging strong relationships. When done correctly, this can take a while. Thankfully, the next technique takes a lot less time to see the results!

8.) Utilize Schema Markup

Google’s algorithm is very powerful and relies on a number of factors. However, it is not magic. Like any piece of code, it struggles to understand the context of certain information or even what it’s looking at sometimes.

Schema markup is a method of structuring the data on your website so that Google gets additional clues as to the information that is presented and why it is presented. Schema markup goes well beyond simple meta tags and title tags.

For instance, you can tell Google that you’re publishing a post that outlines a recipe, a video, or even a certain type of data.

You can use schema meta properties to let Google know which Facebook and Twitter profiles are associated with your business.

Structured data gives you a simple (and easy) advantage over anyone who isn’t using it on their site. Google encourages SEO professionals to use it and has even released a guide about how and when it should be used.

Schema markup has become even more important since Google has expanded the use of rich snippets. By using schema markup, you improve the chances that your content is selected for rich results in certain categories.

9.) Quality Link Building (the White Hat SEO Way!)

So…what exactly is link building? Link building is a delicate process within the white hat SEO kit. Links are essential, in that a site without any links is going to limp along instead of dashing to the top of the search results. However, it is very easy to overdo it.

A hallmark of a white hat SEO link-building strategy is the dedication to earning quality links from legitimate websites that are similar to your website. These are links with various forms of anchor text and are built for the long haul.

Most links are going to come from the content or other resources that you generate for other sites or their audiences.

Naturally, this is by no means a simple task. You need to do a lot of email outreach to partners that you properly vet. You will need to make a lot of pitches, and delicately manage the rate at which you accept and acquire new links back to your site.

Nobody said white hat SEO was easy, just that it (typically) works.

Thankfully, this isn’t too difficult as long as you understand the process and how to work the system. It’s not hard to form a team of writers to handle your outreach. Nor is it a nightmare to carefully choose and then benefit from high-quality backlinks.

Remaining on the white hat SEO side of things is just a matter of being discerning, and caring about what your audience shares with the audience of the people to whom you link.

Future Proof Your Content with White Hat SEO

One of the many beauties of white hat SEO is that the techniques are essentially future-proof. Most black hat SEO methods eventually get caught, even when search engines don’t fully understand how they operate. Google can catch black hat SEO techniques based on search results that don’t make sense. From there, it’s just a matter of working backward.

By focusing your efforts on quality content and user experience, you can ensure that your work isn’t going to be undone down the road by an update, and suddenly, out of nowhere, your website traffic takes a nosedive. Quality content, keywords, links, and site design work together with best practices like Google Business Profile, schema markup, and mobile-first principles to generate lasting, and reliable increases in traffic.

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