Did you know that Google's search algorithms rely on over 200 factors to rank websites? In other words, Search Engine Optimization is a pretty vast field.
Did you know that Google's search algorithms rely on over 200 factors to rank websites? In other words, Search Engine Optimization is a pretty vast field. There are plenty of strategies you can employ to increase your website's position in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). But, these strategies are split up into two camps: Black Hat and White Hat SEO.
So what are they and what you need to know about them? Let's take a look.
The difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO
Think about action movies. There are the bad guys and the good guys, right? The good guys strive for honesty and aim to achieve their goals ethically, helping others in the meantime, whereas the bad guys want to be at the top. They don't care how they get there and will do anything in their power to win, disregarding any morals.
The same thing goes with SEO. White Hats are the good guys.
This is what serious digital marketing companies and professional website design agency will always do.
They only use SEO techniques Google approves of while also focusing on improving user experience. Although it might take a while to see results, White Hat SEOs don't mind it.
Black Hats are the baddies.
They aim to increase their rankings in the SERP as fast and easy as they can. Thus, they'll exploit any weaknesses they can find without worrying about violating the guidelines.
In other words, White Hat SEO puts users in the first place. It mainly relies on improving their experience to increase a site's ranking in the SERP. This means that they'll go for the long-term approach.
Black Hat SEO prioritizes search engine bots. They'll look for weaknesses and use them to their advantage. Consequently, Black Hats will boost their rankings in a relatively short time. Until Google finds out about it, that is.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at a few Black and White Hat SEO techniques you need to know about.
White Hat SEO Techniques
1. Quality Content
As we've said, White Hat SEO puts people first. To rank higher in the SERP, it improves the user experience of a website.
One way to do this is by creating quality content.
For that, you'll need to research your audience to see what makes them click and what information they're looking for.
Next, you'll have to study your competition. You need to spot their strengths and weaknesses and figure out a way to create better content than them.
After that, you'll create the content itself. It needs to be informative and give readers the impression that you genuinely want to help them.
You should also watch for its length. Articles with a word count above 1500 typically perform the best in rankings.
But, this doesn't mean you should stretch your content out. If you can say your ideas in 1000 words, your article should take no longer.
Also, bear the keywords in mind. You'll have to insert them into your content naturally. If you were to do the opposite and stuff them in, Google will likely notice this and negatively impact your website's rankings.
2. Loading Times
Everybody hates long loading times, both visitors and Google.
40% of users will abandon a web page if it doesn't load within the first three seconds. In terms of SEO, Google accounts for loading speed in its ranking factors.
That said, slow web pages will take a significant hit. Consider speed testing your website to see if it holds up to the standards.
If it goes beyond the three-second mark, start by compressing your images, and you'll likely notice improvements.
Other methods include reducing redirects, enabling lazy loading, eliminating unnecessary plugins, and even changing the hosting provider.
3. Mobile Friendliness
Mobile devices generate 55% of all web traffic. What's more, Google uses the mobile version of the content for ranking in indexing.
In other words, if your website is not mobile-friendly, you'll most likely drive visitors away and lower your rankings.
When going mobile-friendly, you've got three options: adaptive, responsive, and mobile-first. Choosing the responsive approach might be your best bet.
That's because it's cheap and ensures a consistent user experience across all types of devices.
4. Link Building
Link building is an integral part of SEO. This is the process of increasing the number of inbound links to a web page. You'll need to get links from authoritative websites.
This way, you'll let Google know that your website is trustworthy and relevant, increasing your rankings in the search engine as a result. Earning backlinks can be done in multiple ways, like guest posting, for example. But, one of the best ways to go around this is by writing high-quality content.
By doing this, you'll likely get other content creators to link back to your website.
5. Meta Titles and Descriptions
Another White Hat SEO technique is to optimize the meta titles and descriptions. The meta title is the clickable headline users see in the SERP, whereas the meta description is the snippet of text beneath the title.
So, what does it mean to optimize them? In terms of the meta-title, start by writing something catchy. It's the first thing users will see in the search engine, so you'll need to grab their attention and get them to enter your website.
You should insert the keywords naturally. Also, try to place them as close to the beginning of the title as possible.
And finally, you should watch out for your title's length. You should have it no longer than 75 characters. Otherwise, the title won't appear in full.
The same thing goes for the meta description. But, you can have up to 165 characters in length. Now that we've seen what you should do to rank higher in the SERPs, let's look at what you shouldn't.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
1. Keyword stuffing
In contrast to White Hat SEO, black hats usually don't focus on inserting keywords naturally. Instead, they insert keywords anywhere they can, including meta titles and descriptions.
This is sometimes done up to the point where the content becomes unreadable.
But here's the thing: Search engine bots will notice that the keywords don't make any sense. Consequently, a website will drop down in rankings.
Cloaking involves showing one thing to visitors and another to search engine bots. For example, when a visitor looks at an image, search engine bots may see a page of HTML text that includes links or keywords.
This method allows websites to rank for irrelevant content or specific keywords. This tactic is deemed deceptive. Thus, it violates Google's guidelines.
3. Automatically Generated Content
Creating quality content takes a lot of time and effort, and black hats rarely bother with it. Instead, they rely on tools to generate content automatically. After that, they'll resort to keyword stuffing. Usually, the same piece of content will appear on multiple pages, with variations in the title in some cases.
Google registers this as duplicate content, dropping the website down in ranking as a result.
4. Doorway Pages
Doorway pages usually come in the form of plain HTML code containing text stuffed with keywords. Consequently, search engine bots may rank the page higher.
But, what about the users? Well, upon entering it, they are quickly redirected to a functional page.
In most cases, black hats use multiple domains to create doorway pages that redirect users to the same website. That way, black hats can occupy more space in the SERP.
5. Negative SEO
As opposed to the other tactics, negative SEO has nothing to do with the marketer's website. Instead, he targets the competitors.
The most common tactic of this nature is to point a large number of bad links to the competitors to get them penalized.
But, negative SEO can also revolve around publishing fake negative reviews, removing backlinks, creating duplicates of other websites or parts of their content, and spreading it around the web.
Although Black Hat SEO might seem like the easy way to boost rankings in the SERPs, note that Google's search engine bots are getting increasingly sophisticated.
They're getting better at spotting unethical practices and will cause a drop in ranking or even the deletion of the website in question.
Ellie Northcott is a long-time marketer, currently working as a freelancer in Miami, Florida. She is also a passionate writer and loves to explore new, innovative and digital news. In spare time she is an eco activist and editor at Digital Strategy One company.