Looking at SEO in more detail reveals ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’ tactics. For anyone not familiar with these terms, black hat SEO is “bad” or disingenuous while white hat SEO is “good” or ethical search engine optimisation. Adding to the mix is ‘grey hat’ SEO which is somewhere between manipulative and virtuous but still capable of reaping massive rewards.
While not all black hat SEO tactics will hurt your online business at the moment, it may do so in the near future. That’s not all though as several white hat techniques can actually have serious consequences if you don’t implement them correctly. White hat techniques may have the best intentions for the internet and user but it’s not always as simple as ‘black or white’.
Black Hat versus White Hat SEO
Essentially, black hat SEO techniques manipulate how search engines see the relevancy of a web page and don’t follow search engine guidelines. A few examples of black hat SEO include hidden text, cloaking, unrelated keywords, keyword stuffing (stacking) or blog comment spam. Here is an interesting article on ’17 Black Hat SEO Techniques To Avoid’.
White hat SEO provides users with quality, relevant and well-organised content. White hat SEO include relevant keywords in the title tag, h1 tag, and anchor text of inbound and internal links. The techniques mostly follow terms of service (TOS) agreements of search engines but can have a damaging effect if not used appropriately. We take a closer look at how some white hat SEO techniques can actually damage your online business.
Link building is one of the more prominent SEO tactics that can have good or bad connotations. Use it correctly and you could easily become an authority in your field. It’s also incredibly powerful at getting your hours, locations and services online. Good link building practices should make sense and be useful to users when searching for or reading about you online.
On the negative side, bad links exist and are actually far too easy to create. In fact, during Google’s infancy, marketers would build links with exact match anchor text without keeping human users in mind. These links essentially make no sense in terms of wording, structure or location within a section of content. This could be something like randomly adding “the best digital marketing agency” into a grammatically incorrect sentence. This tactic may have worked 10 years ago but no anymore. Today, link building is all about sending users to relevant, useful and logical content.
Your links should contain keywords that clearly reflect the web pages they point users to. The most effective URL structure is generally only 2-4 words. Good link building makes it easy for search engines to crawl your website without any obstacles. It also provides much better navigation options for the user.
Incorrectly Securing Your Website (HTTPS vs HTTP)
HTTPS is a fantastic way to secure your website while giving your business a small SEO boost. We can look at it as Google’s way of rewarding companies intent on building a safer internet. However, if you implement HTTPS incorrectly, your business could suffer and those SEO benefits will quickly go out the window. Some common HTTPS mistakes many businesses make include the following:
- Forgetting to redirect HTTP pages to HTTPS
- Only migrate parts of the site to HTTPS
- Still using HTTP pages for internal links
- Not revising robots.txt to ensure HTTPS is not restricted
- Still using mixed content (HTTPS page using an image sourced through HTTP)
- Not adding HTTPS to their Google Search Console
All your rel=canonical tags should point to proper HTTPS URLs. If your website uses rel=alternate or hreflang tags, you should take care of them before pushing your site live. You should also always let Google know that you have moved. Add your HTTPS property to your Google Search Console, create a new sitemap with HTTPS URLs and submit.
Redirect Chains And Updates
A redirect chain is when there is more than one redirect between the original URL and the destination URL. A URL should only have a single 301 redirect as the general consensus is that redirect chains result in link equity loss. So the more redirects you add to the process, the less valuable your backlinks become.
People redirect URLs for a number of reasons and while some are unavoidable, minimising it could greatly boost SEO. Plan ahead and do some research before you just change your URL. You may not realise it but incorporating a slash (/) at the end, a hyphen (-) between keywords or changing to title case can affect SEO as it generates entirely new URLs.
If someone creates a link to ‘mywebsite.com/blog?ContentTopic’ but changes it to ‘mywebsite.com/blog?Content-Topic/’, it becomes a redirect to a new URL which can affect the true value of your site.
Creating high-quality, engaging and relevant onsite content really helps to tell people about your products or services. It encourages users to link to you and also share your content across social media channels. Keep your content fresh and relevant in terms of targeted keywords and the current time of month or year. You don’t have to only write about your products or services as long as the content is relevant.
For example, if you sell shoes, you could write about ‘the best shoes for track running’, ‘why certain shoe designs are better’ or ‘how bad running shoes can affect your performance’. Try to write content surrounding your brand’s primary keywords in an attempt to maximise exposure. Just remember that no-one can afford to write bad content anymore so you need to write well. No more sentences with bad grammar and spelling, stuffed keywords, irrelevant content and pointless links.
While writing for SEO is important, don’t forget the main purpose is targeting human users to find you and become paying customers. White hat SEO is certainly the way forward and consists of good, non-manipulative SEO practices. However, it is very easy to overdo things and “good” techniques can quickly result in unwanted consequences. Doing it just right is often challenging and success does not happen overnight. You need to do your research and be vigilant in your approach.
If you need any assistance with your SEO efforts, please give us a call on 01453 542761 or get in touch on our website for a free consultation. We specialise in digital marketing, social media management and Marketing Automation among others.