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The 5 Best White Hat SEO Techniques

How to avoid black hat SEO practices while embracing a respectable standard of journalism

There’s a growing trend in which media reporters are investigating why certain websites rank so well. They want to differentiate the white hat SEO from the black hat.

If foul play is afoot, these reporters expose the black hat SEO practices and the offending websites typically feel the consequences. Google has penalized JC Penney, Overstock, Demand Media and many, many more for using black hat SEO practices.

Overstock and JC Penney were guilty of using robots designed to send links back to their website.

eHow.com, with content generated by Demand Media, got slapped pretty hard by Panda. But in record time, the revenues lost from the drop are back up due to some minor (OK, major) adjustments. Why? They deleted 600,000 low-quality articles, edited and revised the ones that were left, and let go of writers who weren’t genuine “experts” in their niches. Basically, they cried mercy, said they were sorry and went white hat.

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MPP

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This revised model reminds me of the always smart and innovative About.com, who assigns an “expert” to each of their niches, a business model they didn’t adapt recently for SEO but one that has always existed.

In fact, the application process takes several weeks and requires the applicant to write several articles in different styles (lists, reviews, etc.) before they’re selected for the position. The content from About has always been strong in search engines, but they’ve listened to what Google is saying and are publishing even more genuine content recently, encouraging writers to write in the first person and add personal anecdotes.

About.com guides run their own social media communities, send email newsletters and manage forums. Even though About.com is the overall brand, they encourage each niche to thrive on its own and in completely unique ways.

To avoid getting dropped from Google like JC Penney et al, online publishers must avoid creating SEO posts just for search engines. Instead, everything we write and publish online has to be high-quality content.

The constant conundrum we experience as publishers is that it’s imperative to write and publish frequently enough to hold a significant position within your market.

Online publishers can take a number of fundamental actions to get more traffic to their website. These include increasing post frequency, promoting all articles through social networks, adding more pages to your site and gaining more good inbound links than the competition. Google has revoked their emphasis on building inbound links due to people spamming their black hats off; however we all know that high-quality inbound links make you look good in the algorithm. Even no-follow social media links make you a look good. The more shares an article has, the more “influence” it has, and the higher it climbs.

In white hat SEO, quality trumps quantity

Demand Media would argue that they didn’t engage in black hat practices, yet Google penalized them anyway. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, has said that over 500 changes happen within the Google algorithm every 12 months. Cutts is aggressively tweaking the algorithm to differentiate high-quality content from non-quality content.

Currently, bloggers and other web authors are busy generating content. Whether you have a message to share, and need to make a living, or both, don’t abandon the scope of high-quality content. But it’s hard to slap a label on “high quality content.” What is it, really?

Sharing it in social media is an easy way to find out. If people share it, they found it to be interesting, precise and likable. If they don’t, then maybe it’s a dud. I don’t think it’s hard to determine yourself what content is high-quality, just hard to admit what’s not.

The next time you SEO an article, give yourself the white-hat test:

  • Is this something I’d be proud to share on my own social networks?
  • Is there a take-away or revelation that will make people want to leave a comment?
  • How many times have I proofread this, just because I’m proud of it?
  • Am I saying something in a different way than I’ve heard it everywhere else?

------------------------------------------------

MPP

Download a FREE copy of How to Increase Your Audience and Decrease Your Marketing Budget and discover how to get the most out of your website traffic and turn visitors into digital dollars. Download now.

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What publishers and bloggers need to do

There’s a danger that publishers and audience development managers face … if we don’t talk to our staff about proper white hat SEO practices, they might end up going down the wrong path. These tips will help:

  • White Hat SEO Practice #1: Refrain from sending the message of tricking search engines to editors. Use SEO as a service to readers who are looking for good content.
  • White Hat SEO Practice #2: Do not encourage bloggers to use a frequency that doesn’t allow them to add value to the content. If you’re publishing 10 short, light, uninteresting posts per week, consider making it five in order to make each post better.
  • White Hat SEO Practice #3: As a blogger, ask yourself this question everyday, and after every time you publish an article: “Did I help my readers understand something better than before?”
  • White Hat SEO Practice #4: Maintain a standard of journalism by creating posts with added value that are relevant to your audience. Don’t write about topics that you have no business writing about, just for the sake of SEO.
  • White Hat SEO Practice #5: When aggregating news content, put information in context that original sources fail to do. Don’t let editors copy and paste their lives away; write your own stories.

Above all else, never do anything purely for search engines. This is how companies cross the fine line between black hat SEO and legitimate, white hat SEO practices.

We use keyword research for many things, but we always put the content first. Having a keyword to accompany an article is great because when you write high-quality content it should be read for a long time, right? Without keywords, those great articles could get lost on the Internet, never to be read again. There are thousands of companies doing it wrong out there, and Google is penalizing them one by one.

As publishers, stand by your brand reputation and commit to publishing content that people trust. Just remember that Google still searches for keywords in order to help them define your content. They aren’t anti-optimization, they’re anti-spam. If you’re writing great, useful content, you’re doing readers a favor by optimizing them so that more people can read them days, months, and years later when they find them in search.

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.

Posted in Audience Development Strategy

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

32 thoughts on “The 5 Best White Hat SEO Techniques

  1. umashankar says:

    White hat techniques work but it will take some days. Many don’t understand that and they use blackhat and ruin their site/blog.

  2. artgirl says:

    It’s too bad organizations feel the need to cheat. It’s hard to believe that in the end the folks at google won’t be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys and make sure that the best content really comes up on page 1.

    SEO should just be about making sure the right content gets found.

  3. Carl Kravetz says:

    It’s interesting, but my attitude about SEO has changed… I used to over-think it, trying to come up with the “right” number of times to use key words and phrases. Now I just encourage our writers to focus on bringing something of value to our users’ lives in every single post. I then look to see if I can improve on the title to make it both catchier and stickier. It seems to be working. Google just upped our page rank from a 4 to a 5 and traffic went from 280,000 to 500,000 visits and from 800,000 to 1.5 million pageviews a month.

  4. Simon says:

    Regardless of how much money, you spend on SEO, even minor updates to search engine algorithms can waste your entire investment in a single day.

  5. Eugene says:

    But it all makes sense – Content first, search engine second. The future of S.E.O in my opition will depend on who keeps visitors longest on their website. It will not be enough to get them there but more to keep them longer, ie. Quality content.

  6. Danielle says:

    Great article Don!

    Relevant, SEO’d headers that lead to blogs infused with quality content is the key to our strategy. Deterring from that approach would risk putting our reputation at risk—something we are not willing to compromise.

    Danielle Werbick
    Online Director
    Interweave

  7. Corey says:

    White Hat SEO pretty much means, do no SEO.

    Just make your site and write about its unique niche.

    Presto.

  8. Frank F says:

    I agree with Corey – this is Googles directive with their web crawlers.

  9. Steve says:

    I wish more people were actually following this advice. The net is full of useless content and as a result, people acting on questionable information. Given what I have learned about Google’s recent search changes (and I am not an SEO expert) I hope more webpage owners are encouraged to provide real valuable content first. Thanks, Don for bringing these best practice principles to our attention.

  10. Nice post & my opinion is “Be smart, have patience, and outsource (wisely) your content marketing. It’s time we revamp our game, and be friends with Google, or they can easily spray out our web sites from the SERPs.”

    I think we should do all the works for ranking improve in Google. Like :
    1) Target a wider Range of Keywords.
    2) User Exprience is #1Priority.
    3). Write Compelling Content for our Audience.
    4). Keyword Density Not Overly Important.
    5). Content is Diverse etc.

  11. Practice #2 sounds very good for me Don. Quality vs. Quantity. On the web we don’t have time for Quantity. All that we want it’s a little Quality 🙂

  12. Bryan says:

    The most simple article for white hat SEO, Now I’m aware of it. Thanks for sharing.

  13. savannah says:

    Ԍreat delivery. Solpid arguments. Keep up the great effort.

  14. Hello to every one, the contents existing at this web page are actually awesome for people knowledge,
    well, keep up the good work fellows.

  15. James says:

    White hat technique is the best practice for someone who want s to build a lasting blog. It’s good to know that Google still favour guest posting.

  16. SEO is actually vital for increasing traffic to your site, but opting for black hat techniques can lead to total ruining of your website. So, stick to the white hat processes even if it takes time to work.

  17. Aman Bansal says:

    White Hat SEO works for the websites which are developed for the long term. If one is creating an event site, he must use black hat techniques which are not recommended.

    Better if one is following white hat seo.

  18. Tristan says:

    Doing white hat SEO is the best for websites that target long-term success in internet marketing. One of my favorite white hat SEO link building is guest posting. Why? Because posting on websites with high domain authority will not just give you high-quality links but it will also drive great traffic to your site.

  19. Joie says:

    White hat SEO is all about content this will bring the rank up higher but it takes a lot of patience.There are some useless misleading content just to get visit, this annoys me when clicking to a content that has a good title but a crappy content.

  20. thanks for the sharing with us. I believe in white Seo its slow but steady. I will not recommend black hat to anyone. thanks

  21. Nice Post. White hat is long but steady way to stay on the top. thanks for sharing white hat seo techniques with us.

  22. Sarah Moris says:

    Thanks for the share.

  23. Vince says:

    White hat takes time to see the result but gives you a long term success, you really need to be patient.Using short cuts or other black hat activities gives you long term punishment. Thank you for sharing,this article is worth reading!

  24. Rohit Singh says:

    I think the best way to increase blog traffic is to keep posting quality article as well as do link building as well. This is simple rule

  25. Optimising your website for all the types of devices such as Mobile, Tablets and Desktops would directly impact on your SEO. Informative Post, Indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Alena Sham says:

    I must say I was a bit worried when I saw your advice to use negative SEO
    First thing I think of when someone says ‘negative SEO’, is a competitor who is creating ‘bad’ backlinks, but your explanation makes sense.

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