Google has hundreds of billions of web pages in its index. And ten (or fewer) of those are on the first page of search results.
If you want your site to rank in those first few results, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Using effective, reliable white hat SEO techniques is the best path to get there.
Let’s look at what’s working in 2019 for search engine optimization.
What Is White Hat SEO?
The term “white hat” search engine optimization describes SEO tactics that meet several criteria:
- Respect your website’s visitors
- Don’t take advantage of or work around the search engines’ algorithms
If you didn’t spend any time thinking about your SEO, all these things could happen naturally over time. Putting the white hat SEO techniques we’re about to cover into action helps speed up the process.
Note: We’re focused on Google because it’s the most popular search engine by a large margin. Optimizing your website for Google will help it rank higher in other search engines so you’ll see results across the board.
The 4 Pillars of Optimizing Your Website
Search engine optimization is a blanket term that covers several areas of your site. There are four “pillars” that all work together to get the best results:
- On-page factors
Optimizing for any of them can help but you’ll see the best results when you target them all.
Keywords are the foundation of SEO. Most Google searches are for words and short phrases, not full sentences. Identifying the keywords that people are looking for tells you what you should be optimizing your website for.
There are several ways you can find effective keywords to target, some provided by Google itself.
The Google Suggest tool is one of the simplest. When you search for something on Google, you’ll get a list of similar phrases that other people have searched for. These are ideal keywords to target with your SEO efforts because you know people are searching for them.
The Google Search Console will also provide search terms, provided your website is already getting some traffic from Google searches. It tells you what phrases people are using to find your website so you can focus your efforts on improving those results.
A helpful non-Google tool is Answer the Public. You can enter a keyword or phrase on their site and it will give you a list of related questions people are searching for. These questions are perfect as the basis for new content on your site.
Your Website’s Content
A website’s content is a critical part of effective white hat SEO strategies. You can do everything else perfectly but if you’re not providing high-quality content, it will all be for nothing.
In 2019, longer-form content gets the best results. The most valuable pages on your website should be at least 2,000 words in length but 5,000 to 10,000 is even better.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, make sure that content provides real value to your visitors.
The search engines, especially Google, are getting better and better at assessing the quality of a web page. They can track your site’s visitors to see how long they stay on the site. If they click back to Google within a few seconds of landing on your website, that’s going to negatively affect your SEO results.
On-page SEO includes things like internal linking (links between pages on your site), tagging images properly, and the keyword density of your content.
In the early days of SEO, the search engines weren’t very sophisticated and using your keyword more times in your content could help you rank higher. This is called keyword stuffing and resulted in hard-to-read content that rarely offered any value to the reader.
The search engines have come a long way since those early days and not only will this not help, it will work against you. Use your keywords naturally – include them where it makes sense but don’t force it just to get the words on the page.
The same applies to internal linking. Link to other pages on your site when it makes logical sense, but don’t add links only for the sake of another link.
Any images on the page should include “alt” tags to describe what they are. These tags can include your keywords (when it’s done naturally) but they also help with accessibility for people using screen readers or other such tools.
Anything that is helpful for your site’s visitors is going to make Google and other search engines happy.
Links are one of the most valuable white hat SEO techniques. Google has evolved over the years but its original Pagerank formula was based on how many links point to a web page, how many links point to each of those pages, and so on.
Their thinking was that if a lot of pages are linking to a particular page, it must be worth linking to. That led to a lot of black hat SEO link building, with people generating massive numbers of links to trick Google into ranking their page higher.
These days, mass linking can actually hurt your ranking or even get your website banned from the results. But if you use white hat SEO tactics to build links, it can make a big difference to your rankings.
The Best Ways to Build Links
The best way to get links is pretty simple – create high-quality content that people will link to because it’s so useful. This is the reason links were so important in the first place.
If you want to rank for a particular keyword, go through the top-ranked sites for that keyword. Look at the content on those pages and how they’re structured. Take what you learn from them and create a page on your site that outshines them all.
Once you have the best quality page on the topic, use a service like Ahrefs.com or SEMRush.com to find sites that are linking to your competition and reach out to them. Send them a personalized email (no form letters) or pick up the phone and call them and let them know you have an even better resource on the topic if they would like to link to your page instead of the one they’re already referring people to.
Another effective way to get links back to your website is to write guest posts on related websites. Many websites are in need of good content and if you can provide something worth posting, you’ll be able to include links back to your own website. This might be in a short bio or even in the article itself.
How Do You Know if My Technique is White Hat?
If you’re ever wondering if a technique is white hat, ask yourself if you would be comfortable telling a Google engineer or one of your best clients about it. If you wouldn’t want to tell them what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
White hat SEO is a good way to get more visitors to your website but once they’re there, you need to convert them into leads and ultimately into clients. Growth Agency can help with that. We’ll create a growth plan based on your needs and help you put it into action. Contact us today to find out how we can help you grow your business.