White hat SEO describes a set of SEO techniques that strictly adhere to search engine guidelines. This practice is carried out to ensure the long-term success of a website, and its pages, in obtaining organic rankings for relevant keywords. The idea behind white hat SEO is to use techniques and practices that maintain a website’s compliance with the terms and guidelines of the major search engines (such as Google, Yahoo and Bing).
Generally, white hat SEO consists of approaches that focus on improving the quality of content and user experience on a website. This also includes outlining and optimising the structure of websites and increasing the presence and visibility on the web (through quality external links).
This is a stark contrast to ‘black hat’ SEO, which engages practices that aim to manipulate the rankings of search engines. Examples include keyword stuffing, door pages, link buying, and duplicate content. Black hat SEO is not recommended and can be illegal.
To succeed using white hat SEO, it’s important to have an understanding of Google’s guidelines, and how it evaluates user experience.
The quality of content is one of the main things search engines (particularly Google) look for when evaluating websites. Content of a website should focus on delivering authentically valuable insights and be written to engage readers.
When it comes to content length, research shows that longer, more detailed content typically outranks shorter content. This means that it’s essential to have detailed pages of content that offer thoroughly developed insights. However, quality should always come before quantity; if your content is too ‘thin’, or does not pass the test of quality content, then it could fail to rank.
An important aspect of writing content for SEO is to optimise your page title and meta description, as this content is what appears in the search result snippets. Title tags & meta descriptions should be unique to each page, and provide an accurate description of the page’s content.
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On-page SEO is the practice of optimising individual web pages with the purpose of ranking higher in search engine results. This is done by focusing on internal links and the structure of the website, as well as header tags, meta descriptions, and keyword placement.
When it comes to internal linking, it’s important to be thoughtful and consistent while creating the structure of the website. As such, the structure should define the flow of information on the website, as well as hinting to search engine crawlers which pages are most important and how they correlate.
Header tags and meta descriptions should also be given attention, as they are critical aspects of on-page SEO. Header tags are HTML tags that are used to define the different sections of the page. Additionally, meta descriptions should be around 160 characters and provide clear descriptions of the page’s content.
The words used on a page are also important for on-page SEO. This includes using relevant keywords that appear in the headlines, as well as in the body content. However, it's important to not ‘stuff’ keywords on a page as this can negatively impact rankings.
Off-page SEO is the practice of optimising external presence to increase a website’s search engine ranking. This is done by increasing the number of quality external links and citations that point to a website, thus indicating search engine algorithms that a website has relevance and authority in the particular industry.
The quality of the links is a major part of off-page SEO. As such, links should come from high-quality sources such as related websites, government websites, and educational institutions. Additionally, links should come naturally and naturally stem from content, such as articles and blog posts.
Link-building approaches can vary, as there are many strategies, such as guest blogging, link exchange, and broken link building. However, it’s important to be aware of manipulation practices such as link buying, link exchange with irrelevant websites, and automated link creation. These practices can be seen as a ‘black hat’ approach, and can result in a website being penalised.