White Hat SEO Vs Black Hat SEO: How to Play by the Rules and Win
Ranking your pages higher in search engines like Google is more important than ever for the success of your business. Unfortunately, at the same time, competition for precious real-estate on Google SERPs has never been higher.
That leads many to try anything, and we mean anything, to improve their search rankings. What you might not know is there is a right, and a wrong, way to do SEO, at least that’s what Google says.
Falling on the wrong side of the line could result in stiff penalties to your search rankings, or even being blacklisted by the search engine giant.
Using these tactics that are not in line with Google’s guidelines is what we call “black hat SEO.”
On the other hand, we have what’s called “white hat SEO” strategies. These are techniques, strategies, and tactics that are Google approved.
The ideological battle between black hat and white hat SEO largely comes down to your priorities. White hat SEO strategies prioritize providing the most value to users so that they reward you with healthy ranking signals.
On the other hand, black hat SEO prioritizes results above all else, and strategies are largely based on trying to exploit loopholes in how Google ranks website pages.
We’re not going to lie. It is impossible to achieve impressive results using only black hat SEO strategies.
However, this also requires a lot of hard work, discipline, and know-how.
At the same time, it’s also less likely to result in sustainable success because Google is continually improving its countermeasures to crack down on black hat SEOs.
So, for those of you who want to go about ranking highly for SERPs the right way, we present this guide on how to win with white hat SEO.
Focus on One Amazing Website Instead of Multiple Bad-quality Websites
You’ve heard of the term quality over quantity, right?
Well, when you first decide to launch an SEO-focused online business this is a decision you’ll have to make.
On the one hand, white hat SEOs prefer to hedge their bets with a single site, giving it all their attention and resources.
On the other, black hat SEOs create a multitude of sites, dividing their intention between them and seeing which one(s) happen to “stick.”
Eventually, if a clear winner emerges, a black hat SEO may dump the other sites and put all their time and effort into the top candidate.
However, in most cases, the point is to try and get the maximum benefit from the minimum effort.
So, why do we prefer going the white-hat route?
The problem with the black-hat approach is that a very low percentage of your websites will get any results. You’re trying to build, research keywords, and create content as quickly and cheaply as possible for each site.
That means you end up not spending much time on the branding, appearance, UX/UI, and other things that make a great site.
However, if you choose your niche wisely and put all your effort into building a single, high-quality site, it stands a solid chance of succeeding eventually.
OK, so let’s say that you build 10 black-hat sites and only 2 of them start showing some results. That’s better than just relying on one white-hat site, right? Well, not necessarily.
Don’t forget that these will be two “cheaply built” websites. In their original form, they probably don’t have what it takes to really grow and build a successful brand online.
That leaves you with two choices: effectively give them the white-hat treatment, or launch another bunch of black-hat sites.
Don’t forget that an attractive, professional, and usable website will have better engagement signals, like bounce rate, dwell time, click-through rates, return visitors, etc.
High-quality sites are also likely to get more legit backlinks. That should result in better SEO rankings and more organic traffic.
Even if you “automate” the entire black-hat process by hiring a VA and a bunch of cheap content writers, you will still need to manage multiple domains.
You’re banking on creating a large network of websites that each only generates a little bit of income on their own.
With a high-quality, white-hat site, however, you’ll be building something you can be proud of. The end goal is to take over and become the ultimate authority in your niche, generating a significant amount of income.
That being said, it might be best for some to go with a middle ground. Create a handful of websites and invest a decent amount of time and effort into all of them.
Once you get some results, you can identify the top 2 or 3 candidates and try and build them into authoritative domains. That way, all your eggs aren’t in one basket.
It’s also worth noting that you have to be realistic about your expectations. If you choose to build a white hat site in a saturated niche, it could be very hard to succeed.
The ideal situation is to find a niche with potential which hasn’t been dominated yet and try and establish yourself as the leader. The so called “blue ocean” approach.
Craft High-quality Content
There’s one saying that’s survived the test of time despite all the changes to search rankings: content is king.
For now, and the foreseeable future, allowing its users to find the best content possible is Google’s main priority.
While we don’t know 100% how Google’s algorithm identifies valuable content, we do now what Google wants:
- Content that’s unique: Duplicate content doesn’t bring anything new to the table. That means it’s not valuable. Copying someone else’s work, spun content, or regurgitating facts tends to not perform as well. To be clear, it is acceptable to publish content if it’s properly attributed, for example, through syndication or posting your own content on your blog as well as Medium. However, copy/pasting content from other sites without proper attribution is not.
- High-quality content: Basically, this means content that’s well-written as well as free from spelling and grammatical errors. It also means the content is well-organized, with proper headings, paragraphs, contains media like images/video, and uses bullet points or lists where possible.
- Relevant: If no one is interested in the topic you are writing about, why should it rank highly in Google? If you want to get more traffic, you should target keywords and topics that generate a decent amount of search volume. Competitor research can also be valuable to reveal which topics attract the most attention.
Sure, simply rewriting existing content well enough to fool plagiarism tests is a quick and easy way to create content about popular subjects.
As a black hat SEO, you could simply hire a bunch of cheap writers to churn out words for as little as $2.5/1,000 words.
However, for the same reasons as above, this is unlikely to bring you long-term, sustainable results.
Even if you create enough low-quality content that you inevitably get some clicks, they are unlikely to improve your other metrics.
How many visitors will finish reading a poorly written article instead of simply leaving at the first spelling error or inconsistency?
As a white hat SEO, you should aim to provide the most value to your readers as possible. That will improve your dwell time and CTRs while lowering your bounce rates.
Website visitors are often smarter than we give them credit for. So, avoid fluff, don’t stuff keywords, and pay attention to the quality of both the content and the page itself to provide a pleasant experience.
Build Legitimate, High-value Backlinks
When it comes to SEO, backlinks to your content are as valuable as gold. They are the internet’s version of word-of-mouth advertising and each is a vote of confidence in your content.
However, earning links is much harder than it seems. In fact, 94% of content never gets any links. That’s unfortunate because backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors.
As you can imagine, SEOs can be stingy when it comes to linking to external pages. Firstly, you’re risking your own metrics by pointing your readers elsewhere.
Secondly, you need to feel that the content you are linking to really brings value to your readers and deserves your recommendation.
Because they are so important, that has led many to take the black hat route and simply buy links to their pages. The problem is that buying links undermines the principle of links being a trust signal between two domains.
Unsurprisingly, Google doesn’t take kindly to trying to use paid-for links to gain higher search rankings. Don’t believe us? Then see what Google themselves have to say about buying links.
So, how do you “earn” links? Good question!
First of all, think about what would make you want to link to someone else’s content. Would you link to a low-quality website that looks unprofessional or unattractive?
Would you link to content that’s full of spelling errors, false statements, or that’s just badly written? Of course, you wouldn’t.
So, the first step is to make sure that your website and content are impressive, trustworthy, valuable, and relevant.
Secondly, you can also take steps to make your content more “linkable.”
For example, data-driven content, how-to guides, infographics, listicles, and videos/webinars are inherently more likely to be shared and linked to.
Long-form content also tends to generate more links and rank higher in search engines.
You can work link-building strategies into your overall SEO campaigns. For example, through blogger outreach, guest posting, and other collaborations.
Lastly, in addition to these tactics, you can also boost your link profile through the following:
- Guest posting: When using guest posting, you are attempting to earn a small number of high-value links. It can work both ways, with you posting content you create on external sites and linking to relevant pages on your domain. Or, with having others publish content on your site and linking to it from their domains.
- Content promotion: Guest posting is usually a slow process because your targeting specific sites. However, content promotion involves contacting online media outlets, news stations, magazines, and other popular online publications and asking them to publish your content.
- Unlinked mentions: Using off-page SEO tools, you can find instances where your website is mentioned but not linked to. You can then reach out the the writers/publishers and ask that they link to relevant content on your site.
- Broken link building: As you grow and change your website, some of your internal links may no longer point to the pages they are meant to. For example, you may have removed some pages or products. You can find these broken links and point them to new resources.
Just remember that the value of the links is relevant according to the domain authority (DA) score of the party linking to you.
Google factors that in, because it’s harder to earn links from better and higher-traffic sites. Likewise, you can get a negative score if you only get links from low DA sites.
For these reasons, link-building remains one of the most difficult areas of SEO. If you don’t have any experience in it, you can spend a lot of time and effort without any guaranteed results.
For most, the best option is to partner with an expert link-building service, like Uprankly.
They are experienced when it comes to identifying the best link-building strategy, depending on your situation and needs.
From there, they can carry out blogger outreach or guest blogging campaigns to earn more links from high-DA sites.
Typically, you can choose the ideal DA range and the number of links you want and they will deliver according to those requirements. What’s more, they will do so using white hat SEO strategies.
Get Technical SEO Right
Sure, technical SEO is probably the least glamorous part of ranking a website for search engines, but it’s no less important.
However, the good news is that you usually only have to do it once to get the best results. Afterward, you just need to periodically check on your settings and make sure that everything works as expected.
So, what exactly does technical SEO involve?
- Use clean and SEO-friendly coding standards
- Install an SSL certificate for your website
- Make sure you’re not hiding your website from search engines (via robots.txt file)
- Use search engine friendly URLs
- Create an XML sitemap of your website and submit it to Google Search Console
If you’re serious about ranking for search engines, you MUST put the foundations in place. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot of your other efforts down the line.
Make Sure Your Website Is Fast and Mobile-friendly
As mentioned, the quality of your site is just as important as the quality of your content.
It turns out that one thing that significantly impacts the user experience is the performance of your website. In fact, up to 53% of visitors abandon a site that takes more than 3s to load.
Some of the main ways you can improve your website performance is to:
- Optimize images and videos
- Use a CDN
- Use a high-performance hosting provider
Today, the majority of internet traffic originates from mobile devices. If your website isn’t responsive or doesn’t function correctly on mobile devices, you’ll be disappointing the majority of internet users.
Conclusion – Is White Hat SEO Really the Best Way to Rank for Google?
In short, white hat SEO is about putting your users first by trying to give them the best content and experience possible.
On the other hand, black hat SEO is mostly about how you can exploit the system for quick gains.
Sure, a very small group of people have had tremendous, rapid success using black hat SEO strategies.
However, these results often aren’t sustainable and it’s only a matter of time until the ever-improving Google algorithm catches up.
If Google finds you guilty of using black hat strategies, it could result in penalties that will undo all of your hard work.
Nothing good in life comes easy, and you could say that that applies to white hat SEO. In most cases, it will take longer to achieve impressive results.
However, you can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that you’re unlikely to get punished by Google. Also, with enough grit and determination, white hat SEO strategies have more growth potential in the long run.
Not to mention, you’ll be building something that you can be proud of.