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6 White Hat SEO Methods For Google To Like And Reward Your Content

White hat SEO is a term for website optimization methods that align with search engine guidelines to provide users with high-quality information.

But some search engine optimization practices are discouraged and can even lead to penalties for your website.

We'll cover both black-hat and white-hat SEO tactics. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial to achieving stable, long-term success for your website traffic.

What you will learn:

  • What white hat SEO is and why it is important.
  • The difference between white hat and black hat SEO.
  • 6 white hat tactics you can implement

What is white hat SEO?

White hat SEO techniques are steps that comply with the suggested optimization methods of major search engines' guidelines. These practices are deemed helpful and encourage website owners to put the interests of readers first.

Some examples of white hat SEO techniques include

  • publishing original high-quality content
  • optimizing meta tags
  • going mobile-friendly
  • linking to important pages
  • or improving a site's loading speed.

Since these practices comply with search engine guidelines, websites that employ them are generally regarded to be in good standing.

Is white hat SEO legal?

Yes, white-hat SEO is legal. It consists of SEO techniques that search engines actively approve of and encourage.

In any case, website optimization practices don't fall under the purview of law enforcement. Although practicing black hat SEO may violate search engine guidelines, it is not illegal.

However, it is important to note that search engines may penalize you for disregarding acceptable SEO guidelines by deindexing your website or limiting traffic.

What is gray hat SEO?

Gray hat SEO employs both black hat and white hat SEO techniques to minimize the detection of unethical practices and still obtain positive short-term results.

It is not as manipulative as black hat SEO, which blatantly disregards search engine guidelines, but it's not as clean as white hat SEO either.

For instance, a website practicing gray hat SEO could focus on a white hat practice like writing quality content but simultaneously purchase backlinks for its link-building strategy, which would be considered black hat.

Gray hat SEO practices are riskier than white hat techniques because they bend the rules to gain a competitive edge while not directly violating any specific guidelines.

However, search engines are too advanced to fall for these techniques, so it's best to avoid them altogether.

White hat SEO vs black hat SEO differences

White hat SEO techniques improve a website's user experience and offer visitors useful information. Black hat SEO solely manipulates search algorithms to achieve positive short-term results.

It involves banned practices like keyword stuffing, cloaking, using private link networks, and content scraping.

Search engines reward websites that use white-hat SEO techniques, whereas using black-hat SEO techniques may result in severe penalties that are difficult to recover from.

White-hat SEO strategies are sustainable and can lead to long-term search results, while black-hat tactics may lead to short-term success until you're found out.

Search engines continuously work against black-hat SEO strategies, making them increasingly difficult to employ.

On the other hand, white hat SEO tactics may take months to yield results, whereas black hat techniques usually show quicker results.

In summary, white hat SEO techniques are ethical strategies that comply with search engine guidelines and provide users with quality information, whereas black hat SEO uses deceptive tactics to manipulate search engines into ranking a website higher.

Why is white hat SEO important?

White hat SEO is important because it focuses on providing high-quality content that your readers can benefit from. These practices build your website's authority, leading to sustainable, long-term growth in website traffic.

White hat SEO ensures that your website's optimization complies with search engine advice. In contrast, the short-lived gains from black hat SEO techniques can damage your website's reputation and rankings in the long run.

White hat SEO practices are fundamental to building your website's organic presence in the search results.

6 white-hat SEO techniques to use

Don't be fooled by the short-term results that black hat techniques may promise. As search engine algorithms get smarter, it's almost impossible to manipulate them into giving you meaningful gains.

You'll constantly have to worry about being deindexed or manually penalized. Recovering from a sanction can take months, and it will only invite additional scrutiny.

Instead, plan for the long term and use these 6 white hat SEO methods to help your website rank higher.

1. Write for people

One of the primary differentiators between black hat and white hat SEO is that black hats strictly focus on manipulating search engine algorithms, whereas white hats are user-oriented.

Google's helpful content system rewards websites that follow a people-first approach and offer insightful information.

Google Search's core ranking systems are designed to better ensure people see original, helpful content that leaves them feeling they've had a satisfying experience.

- Google Search Central blog

The search engine classifies people-first content as information that successfully demonstrates your first-hand expertise on a specific topic, answers your target audience's needs, and leaves users satisfied, feeling like they've learned enough information to achieve their goals after reading.

Take the example of this article on mobile CSS from Alistapart, a blog about web design and development.

The page walks you through and uses images to help the user understand the subject.

Their articles provide actionable, genuinely helpful information that addresses the reader's needs while demonstrating their authors' expertise through examples, best practices, and how-to guides.

Here are some ways you can make your content appeal to readers.

Cite sources

Link to resources to help readers find more information and support your research on a specific topic. It also helps you credit content creators whose ideas you are referring to.

Include statistics

Use figures to back up your statements, add credibility, and give readers a better understanding of the points you make.

For instance, "92.3% of internet users use their mobile devices to access the internet" is more effective than "most internet users use their mobile devices to access the internet."

Use subheadings to structure your content logically

Subheadings allow readers to skim your content to easily extract the information they want. Search engines also use subheadings to understand the context and structure of your content.

Provide links for more context

Internal links help readers discover new content relevant to the topics discussed in your blog post. Search engine crawlers also use them to find and index new pages within your website.

External links to reputable sources allow you to boost your content's credibility.

Include assets like images and videos

Visual support improves the reading experience, adds additional context, and provides diversity, improving engagement.

Add image alt text to comply with Google's accessibility guidelines to appear in Google Image search results.

To decrease the time you spend on writing, you can use AI writing tools like Surfer AI to generate AI content that is based on customized outlines that meet your talking points.

You can then layer the generated content with additional insights and personal experiences for your readers.

2. Include relevant keywords

Understanding the intent and context behind a user's search query is crucial for search engines to deliver the most relevant results.

Including related keywords in your content can make it more likely for search engines to find it relevant to a user's question and move your page up the search rankings.

You can find search terms related to your main keyword using Google's autocomplete feature. Say, for example, you're writing an article on "essential oils in the bath." Here's a list of potential keywords to include.

You can also look into the People Also Ask results for your keyword to find popular subtopics for your article.

And don't forget the Related Searches section at the bottom.

Keep in mind that all these terms may not be relevant to your article.

You'll have to use your own judgment when selecting keywords for your content.

You can also use Surfer to identify related keywords and their suggested frequency to use in your article. This way, you can focus on writing, and leave the keyword research to Surfer.

This can guide you in creating content that covers a broader range of relevant topics and keywords, effectively anticipating and addressing the needs and questions of your audience.

While keywords are necessary for SEO, they must be used organically.

Overusing keywords – known as keyword stuffing, is a black-hat SEO tactic that can lead to penalties, including a drop in rankings.

3. Satisfy the reader's intent

Your target audience is scattered across various stages of the buyer's journey. Some may be in the awareness stage, others in the consideration or interest phase, and some may find themselves in the decision stage.

Each stage—awareness, consideration, interest, and decision—has unique informational needs and search behaviors.

When creating content, it's essential to recognize that your audience is distributed across different stages of the buyer's journey.

If your content does not align with the user's search intent, it can hurt your search rankings and turn away readers whose questions have not been answered properly.

Search intent can be widely split into the following categories:

1. Informational intent: Corresponds to the awareness stage. Users acknowledge they have a problem and start looking up potential solutions (e.g., "What is SEO?" or "How to improve website rankings?")

Content at this stage should be educational and provide a broad overview of the topic.

2. Navigational intent: Corresponds to the interest stage. Users start narrowing down their solutions by browsing for specific resources they've heard could solve their issues (e.g., "Surfer SEO Content Editor")

3. Commercial intent: Corresponds to the consideration stage. Users are fully aware of the solutions to their problems and start weighing up their options (e.g., "Best keyword research tools")

4. Transactional intent: Corresponds to the decision stage. Users have decided on their solutions and expect content that guides them to a purchase decision with clear calls to action and product information.

You can make content that resonates with your audience by correctly identifying the purpose behind their search.

This approach aligns with white hat SEO principles, where the goal is to provide real value to users, not to manipulate search engine algorithms.

4. Optimize for on-page SEO

Optimizing on-page elements helps search engines grasp the purpose of your content and how it relates to user queries.

Here are four basic areas where including keywords can make a significant difference.

Meta title

This is the title that appears in search engine results and should convey the main topic of your page. Include your primary keyword to immediately inform both users and search engines about the page's content.

Take a look at Investopedia's article on what a 401k is.

The meta title and description include the page's target primary keywords and are a good indicator of what to expect inside.

Notice how the text is displayed in full. As a general guideline, the meta title should be no more than 60 characters and the meta description should not exceed 155 characters.

Header tags

These are the H1, H2, H3, etc., tags used to structure your content.

By using relevant keywords, especially in the H1 and H2 tags, you can highlight the main topics and subtopics of your content, making it easier for search engines to parse and for readers to follow.

Investopdia's page includes secondary keywords in its H2 tags.

URL structure

A clean and descriptive URL that includes your target keyword aids search engines and gives users a clear indication of what to expect on the page.

It's best practice to keep URLs short and have your main keyword in.

Investopedia does have the primary keyword in its URL, but it isn't the best-formatted example of a URL.

Instead, Nerdwallet's URL is easier to read.

Paragraph tags

The body of your article is where you naturally incorporate primary and secondary keywords to reinforce the topic for search engines. Each paragraph should flow organically with relevant keywords to maintain readability and context.

Using Surfer's audit tool makes it clear that the article has been optimized with relevant keywords in its body.

5. Build backlinks

Backlinks are hyperlinked texts that lead from one website to another.

Reputable websites linking back to your content tell Google that your content is trustworthy and can increase its authority.

Backlinks on other websites can also direct traffic to your site.

However, purchasing links is considered a black-hat strategy.

When you buy backlinks, low-quality pages that have nothing to do with your site will often link to it. This sudden surge of links to your website could appear unnatural to Google and lead to a penalty.

It is better to have a steady buildup of high-quality backlinks than a quick rise.

A lower number of high-quality backlinks from reputable sites is always worth more than many links from questionable sources.

Here are some ways you can get backlinks.

Guest posting

A simple link-building technique that requires you to create content for other websites. You can include links that lead to your site throughout your guest post. Make sure to identify reputable sites that share a similar niche and target audience as you.

The skyscraper method

This method identifies high-ranking blog posts with numerous backlinks within your niche.

You spot its weaknesses and create content that fills in the gaps. Then, contact the website owners linking to the said post and ask them to replace it with your own.

Broken link building

You can identify broken links (links that lead to 404 pages) on other sites and contact the website owners to replace them with your own.

It's best to target resource pages, as they include numerous links.

You can find them by typing "search term" + inurl:resources or "search term" + intitle:links in the search bar.

Then use a broken link checker to identify dead links.

Content roundups

Identify websites that do weekly or monthly summaries of top content in your industry and pitch your best pieces. You can also do this for Twitter or LinkedIn as well.

While you won't benefit from a backlink, your pages will gain exposure from relevant audiences.

Each of these methods involves providing value to the linking site, which is the essence of white-hat SEO practices.

Focus on writing high-quality content and making connections in your business to build a strong backlink profile for your website.

6. Audit your pages frequently

On-page SEO audits can help you figure out where your site's general SEO performance might be weak and give you ideas on how to fix it.

  • Evaluate your titles and meta descriptions to ensure they are concise and contain your primary keywords.
  • Your H2s and H3 header tags structure your content not just for readability but also for search engine crawlers. They should include relevant keywords and reflect the hierarchy of the information presented on the page.
  • Another important thing to look closely at is your website's internal linking structure. This helps search engines figure out how the pages on your site relate to each other and can spread link authority across your domain.
  • Alt text in images makes your site more accessible to users with visual impairments but also gives search engines valuable context about the images, which can improve how they're indexed and displayed in search results.

On the more technical side, review your XML sitemaps and URL structure. XML sitemaps are like a roadmap for search engines, pointing out the pages that need to be crawled.

A clear and logical URL structure helps both users and search engines understand a page's content before visiting it.

Finally, ensure that canonical tags are used correctly to avoid issues with duplicate content. Canonical tags tell search engines which version of a page they should consider as the original.

Check for broken links on your site as well. Links to 404 pages will deplete search engine crawlers' budgets and potentially leave other relevant pages unindexed.

Optimize your XML sitemap, a site file with a list of URLs crawlers need to index.

You can create site maps with free XML generator tools.

If you add new pages to your website, make sure to include them in the sitemap as well.

You'll then need to submit the sitemap in Google Search Console.

You can use Surfer to audit your pages for most of these elements, including page load times and TTFB.

Surfer's audit report also includes backlink and keyword performance reports, as well as other information like,

  • Content length
  • Internal linking placements
  • On-page SEO opportunities
  • Relevant phrases to use in your content
  • Structure elements like paragraphs, headings, and images,
  • Meta header and descriptions
  • Keyword density
  • Backlink gap

Key Takeaways

  • Employing white hat SEO strategies is crucial for achieving long-term success and stable growth in website traffic.
  • Understanding the difference between white hat and black hat SEO tactics can help you avoid penalties and maintain your website's good standing with search engines.
  • White hat SEO is an ethical approach that aligns with search engine guidelines and values user experience. Focus on crafting valuable content that offers visitors genuinely helpful information and satisfies user intent.
  • On-page SEO matters just as much as the content. Make sure to optimize elements like page titles, URL structures, and meta descriptions. Run on-page SEO audits frequently to see where there's room for improvement.
  • Link building is a solid strategy for gaining exposure and boosting your website's credibility in the eyes of search engines. Consider guest posting, broken link building, or implementing the skyscraper technique.

Conclusion

White-hat SEO is a proven method to improve your rankings on Google and other search engines. Keep in mind that search algorithms love websites that provide excellent user experience in terms of information and satisfying search intent.

As long as you offer visitors helpful content and a pleasant browsing experience, you'll see consistently higher rankings.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics