An In-Depth Guide To White Hat SEO
To commemorate my 100th post on this website, today’s article, which is the second longest article I’ve ever written on this website (the first is the Big List of 230 Niches), will be about what white hat SEO is, what white hat SEO is not, why it’s important, and how to properly do it.
- Section 1: What Is White Hat SEO?
- Section 2:Why Is White Hat SEO Important?
- Section 3: Pre-SEO
- Section 3-1: Webmaster Tools
- Section 3-2: Google Analytics
- Section 3-3: Other Tools
- Section 4: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: On-Page SEO
- Section 4-1: Planning and Creating Your Website’s Structure
- Section 4-1-1: Internal Link Structure
- Section 4-1-2: Site Map
- Section 4-2: Planning, Creating, And Optimising Your Page Content
- Section 4-2-1: Keyword Research
- Section 4-2-2: Page Titles
- Section 4-2-3: Headers
- Section 4-2-4: Quality Content
- Section 4-2-5: Outbound Links
- Section 4-2-6: Meta Tags
- Section 4-2-7: Categories & Tags
- Section 4-2-8: URLs
- Section 4-2-9: Keyword Density
- Section 5: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: Off-Page SEO
- Section 5-1: Inbound Links
- Section 5-2: Social Signals
- Section 6: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: Post-SEO
- Section 6-1: Freshness
- Section 6-2: Site Speed
- Section 6-3: Bounce Rate
- Section 6-4: Locality
- Section 6-5: Canonicalisation
- Section 6-6: Keyword Cannibalisation
- Section 6-7: Domain Age
- Section 6-8: Exact-Match Domains and Partial-Match Domains
- Section 6-9: Legal Information
Section 1: What Is White Hat SEO?
The simplest definition for white hat SEO is following the Google Webmaster Guidelines, Bing Webmaster Guidelines, or any other webmaster guidelines. However, these guidelines are not always easy to understand, which is why I will be simplifying them in this article.
Another definition for white hat SEO is focusing on the user, not the search engines. Search engines such as Google strongly prefer it when a webmaster focuses on what’s best for their audience rather than what’s best for the search engine, which is something I vaguely mention in my article, “White Hat SEO or Black Hat SEO? Which One Is Better?”.
Section 2: Why Is White Hat SEO Important?
Back when I created my first few websites, I did not understand what SEO was. At the time, I had assumed that white hat SEO was focusing only on my potential visitors and completely ignoring the search engine’s existence (I had a “build it and they will come” mentality about creating websites). Needless to say, these first few websites failed because they were only attracting around 32 visitors a month, but it was only when I started learning SEO did I understand why these websites failed.
You see, if a web crawler cannot find your page through inbound links (do-follow or no-follow links on other websites) or through a website submission through the Google Webmaster Tools, then how is a search engine supposed to know that your website exists. Even in the event a web crawler found your website through a site submission, if the web crawler cannot navigate your website or determine what keywords your pages are targeting, then how is it supposed to index your website?
This is where SEO comes in handy.
Section 3: Pre-SEO
Before you begin doing any SEO on your website, it’s important to get a few things out of the way. First, you should use webmaster tools to stay up-to-date on important information about your website. Second, you should install Google Analytics on your website to track your user’s behaviour (so that you can know what works and what doesn’t work).
Section 3-1: Webmaster Tools
Google and Bing offer a set of tools called the Google Wemaster Tools and the Bing Webmaster Tools respectively. Like I described above, these tools will provide you with important information regarding your website’s status in the search engines (CTR, impressions, keywords, penalties, etcetera).
Section 3-2: Google Analytics
Google Analytics will provide you with a chance to track your user’s behaviour. Google Analytics displays information about your users such as age, gender, bounce rate, views, session duration, and more! In addition to this, you can even find use a real-time function which allows you to see when users are currently on your website, where they are located, and what page they are currently viewing.
Section 3-3: Other Tools
There are few other useful tools that will come in handy such as Moz and Majestic for analysing your competition. I highly recommend Moz for this over Majestic since Moz has a toolbar called the Moz Toolbar which allows you to analyse your competitors in the search engine without having to visit their websites.
For other free online marketing tools, read my article, “20 Free Online Marketing Tools”.
Section 4: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: On-Page SEO
Section 4-1: Planning and Creating Your Website’s Structure
Your website’s structure is important for a variety of reasons. For one, you want a website that is easy to navigate both for you and your audience to find content quickly and easily. Secondly, a website with a great structure will also be easily crawled by search engine crawlers, which are bots sent out by search engines to find and index your webpages.
Section 4-1-1: Internal Link Structure
This is less important for static pages (such as the pages on your navigation bar), but for posts, you should link to relevant posts on your website. This has the potential to keep your visitors on your website longer as well as make it easier for search engines to index your pages.
Section 4-1-2: Site Map
While nearly all of your visitors will not notice your sitemap (which is just the links to every page on your website on one page), having a sitemap available is a great way to ensure that your pages are indexed. For an example of a sitemap, you can view the sitemap on this website. For instructions on how to create a sitemap, view these instructions on Google’s Webmaster support page.
Section 4-2: Planning, Creating, And Optimising Your Page Content
Once you have your overall site structure completed, now it’s time to start focusing on your page content. The page content is probably the more important factors in search engine optimisation since, in the event that you do drive traffic to your website through search engines, they will not want to stay on your website if your pages are abysmal and uninteresting.
Section 4-2-1: Keyword Research
Before you begin writing or posting any articles, it’s important for you to do keyword research. To do basic keyword research, first use the Google Keyword Planner in Google Adwords to search for keywords. I like to aim for long tail keywords (2 or more words) that receive between 500 and 2000 searches each month. In my experience, these keywords are usually the least competitive since most of the popular authority websites are competing for the big keywords that receive over 100,000 searches each month.
Now, this is where keyword research gets a little tricky. In order to determine whether or not you should try to compete for that keyword, you’re going to want to analyse what appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs). For example, if you notice any of the following, do not try to rank for that keyword:
- Google Images in the SERPs
- Google Maps
- Authroity Websites (e.g., Hufington Post)
If the keyword you searched did not display any of the items listed above, then you’re going to want to check out the competition to determine whether or not your keyword is capable of ranking on the first or second page. The easiest ways to do that is to install the Moz Toolbar, which displays metrics under every result in the SERPs. Compare these websites to your own, and if most of the websites displayed are websites with low scores, then you can try to rank for this keyword.
Additionally, don’t just find exact-match keywords. Instead, also collect keywords that are similar to your primary keyword (these are called “LSI keywords, and you can learn more about them in my article, “Why You Should Start Using LSI Keywords Right Now”). Adding these into your articles will keep your articles from sounding repetitive and help the search engines understand what your page is about (Apple the product vs Apple the fruit).
Section 4-2-2: Page Titles
Once you have your keyword, you’re going to want to add it in your page title. In addition to adding the keyword, make sure your page title is captivating and makes sense; n other words, don’t just toss the keyword anywhere in the title. In my experience, titles similar to the ones below often attract the most attention:
- “20 Free Online Marketing Tools” (lists and “free” content)
- “Big List of 230 Niches” (unique title)
- “4 Tips For Using Like4Like: YouTube Edition” (tips and tricks)
Section 4-2-3: Headers
You don’t have to write your headers first, although this is a personal preference of mine. Once your keyword is selected and you’ve created your page title, you should be sure to organise your content using header tags and use your keyword in at least 1 of those header tags.
Section 4-2-4: Quality Content
Now it’s time to create quality content. In order to do this, you should first understand who your target demographic is. Since the target demographic for each niche is different, you’ll want to look for any data pertaining to target demographics in your niche (for popular niches, this may already be available on various websites). If you have or know of a popular Facebook fan page in your niche, take a small sample of their audience and analyse them to determine your target demographic
Once you have information on your target demographic, you’re going to want to write your articles to answer a previously unanswered question and then tailor your articles to their preferences. As an example of tailoring your article, if you noticed that your target demographic responds better to short articles in lieu of long articles, you may want to take this into consideration when creating your articles. Another example is if you notice that your target demographic responds better to casual articles that are written as if one of their friends wrote it (except without all of the syntax errors).
Section 4-2-5: Outbound Links
Many people erroneously believe that buying or spamming do-follow inbound links (both of which are against the Google Webmaster Guidelines) will help them rank, but there is also another type of link that many people fail to take into consideration: the outbound link.
Now, where placing outbound links in your posts, you’re going to want to link to relevant websites. In addition to linking to relevant websites, you’re also going to want to avoid linking to too many websites on one page as Google may accidentally interpret a high OBL (outbound links) website as link farm (these are websites that are dedicated to hyperlinking to each other to pass on link juice and increase their own rankings) and penalise your website.
Section 4-2-6: Meta Tags
Your article is almost done being optimised! Right now, you’re going to want to include meta tags for your page description and for your images. In the case of images, optimising the tags on the images also provides you with the additional benefit of ranking in Google Images, which can also increase the traffic to your website. For more information on how to do Google Images SEO, read my
Section 4-2-7: Categories & Tags
Categorising your posts and then adding tags (which are more specific than categories) is a great ways to help search engines determine what your content is about. Additionally, you can also add a description to your category and tag page (I like to make these descriptions around 300 words) for both visitors and web crawlers.
Section 4-2-8: URLs
For URLs, you’re going to want to make sure your keyword is included in the URL as well as ensure that your URL is simple (just take a look at the URL for this page as an example). A short URL is easy to remember and easy to link to, which allows your visitors to easily share your post on social media websites or even on their own website!
Section 4-2-9: Keyword Density
Last but not lest, before you post your article, you should make sure your keyword density is not too high or too low. A low keyword density would make it difficult for the search engines to determine which keyword your post should rank for and a high keyword density may be interpreted as spam, or more specifically keyword stuffing, by the search engines. Not only does a high keyword density have the possibility of getting your website penalised, but it is also very difficult to read an article with a high keyword density (for an example of this, read my article titled “Poor Website Ranking? Here Are 15 Reasons Why”. As for what keyword density you should aim for, I’ve always found it best to keep my keyword density between 1 and 3%.
Section 5: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: Off-Page SEO
Section 5-1: Inbound Links
I’ve decided to cover inbound links, also known as backlinks, first in section 5 since I’ve noticed that most of the confusion about white hat SEO revolves around inbound links. Now, according to the Google Webmaster Guidelines, “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.“. This means that any of the following links are against the Google Webmastyer Guidelines:
- Links created using automated programs.
- Links created to manipulate PageRank or your rankings.
- Purchased links
- Link exchanges
- Large-scale guest posted links
Pretty much any links that can manipulate your ranks and are created directly by you are considered link schemes. For a more detailed explanation on this, you can view my article titled, “White Hat Link Building: How To Avoid Link Schemes”.
Section 5-2: Social Signals
Social signals by themselves are not a factor in Google’s algorithm, although social signals can be used to procure do-follow inbound links from other websites. For example, by sharing a post on your Facebook fan page (which only provides you with a no-follow inbound link by itself), one of your fans could potentially link to your post on their own website.
Section 6: How To Properly Do White Hat SEO: Post-SEO
Finally, once you’re done optimising your website, you’re going to want to go over a few more important factors which could possibly affect your rankings in the SERPs.
Section 6-1: Freshness
Google likes fresh content, so it’s best if you post regularly (at least twice a week) on your website. Editing your older articles again by correcting your spelling and grammar or optimising them again is also a good way to let search engines know that the website is still maintained.
Section 6-2: Site Speed
In today’s fast-paced world, many Internet users are expecting a website to load in under a second these days, so it’s best to keep your website loading as fast as possible to prevent potential visitors from abandoning your website while it’s loading. Ensuring that your website doesn’t have a lot of downtime is another good way to keep your visitors on your website (frequent downtime can be detrimental to your website since web crawlers cannot crawl websites that are not currently online).
Section 6-3: Bounce Rate
When a user visits one page on your website and then leaves your website without visiting any of your other pages, this is called a bounce. Some search engine optimisers believe that a high bounce rate is a sign of a low-quality website, although if the users are staying on your website and consuming your content, then you cpuld argue that they found what they were looking for, therefore they left your website to go back to what they normally do.
Section 6-4: Locality
If you are based in a country tha has its own country code top-level domain name, then it may benefit you to register your website’s domain name with that country-code top-level domain. This will improve your rankings locally, which will help you outrank regular “.com” for search terms originating in that country.
Section 6-5: Canonicalisation
In Google Webmaster Tools, it’s important to set your canonicalisation so that the search engines only index either the “www” or “non-www” version of your domain (e.g., www.sycosure.com vs sycosure.com). This is because the www and non-www version of your website are considered different websites, so when you have both of them appearing in the search engines
Section 6-6: Keyword Cannibalisation
Keyword cannibalisation occurs when 2 or more pages on your website are targeting the same keyword, which causes them to compete with each other with 1 outranking the other and the other being pushed further down in the SERPs. For more information on keyword cannibalisation, read my article titled “What Is Keyword Cannibalization and How To Avoid It”.
Section 6-7: Domain Age
Domain age is another factor that provides a small SEO boost, although this factor is largely out of your control unless you searched specifically for aged domains when you bought your website.
Section 6-8: Exact-Match Domains and Partial-Match Domains
While not as powerful as they once were, EMDs and PMDs still provide a small, although mostly negligible SEO boost to your website to help you rank for whichever keyword you targeted.
Section 6-9: Legal Information