No doubt, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is essential to online visibility, whether you run a personal blog, a small business or major global brand. While most SEO techniques are quite straightforward, many people still fall foul of Google’s optimisation regulations. So much so, the need for shortcuts to ranking success has led to certain unacceptable practices.
Usually known as blackhat techniques, such practices are deceptive and attract penalties from Google. The search engine giant will eventually find out; even if they don’t do so immediately, corrective search algorithms such as Panda and Penguin perform major updates that affect erring sites significantly. In some cases, these sites never recover.
To be on the right side of the ‘law’ and keep your site fully functional, it’s advisable to adopt white hat SEO practices. These techniques will keep your website visible, build lasting relationships and ensure online conversion.
What is white hat SEO?
Before we proceed, it’s important to explain what white hat SEO means in some detail. Simply put, it entails following the proper optimisation guidelines set by Google.
It is a direct opposite of black hat SEO, which means using deceptive methods to make Google algorithms boost your search ranking. The term originated from the black hat worn and used by wily magicians during a performance.
If you practice white hat SEO, you will abide by Google’s standards. So, why is white hat SEO important?
Failure to follow these guidelines can result in the following:
- Severe ranking demotion and poor competitive edge online
- Outright Google ban; no presence on Google search for prolonged periods
Besides Google penalties, the consequential effects may include:
- Distrust from online visitors and potential customers
- Poor online visibility
- Decline in sales
- Increased cost of digital spend
- Risk of suffering a backlash offline
So, why take the risk? It’s a lot easier and commercially rewarding to follow the proper SEO channels, especially when you run a business. Here are some best practice search optimisation techniques to adopt:
1. Keep your content relevant & high quality
We cannot over-emphasise the importance of relevant content. Consider this; if you were looking for a vegan restaurant in a new neighbourhood and you clicked a web link offering vegan delights, yet it opened to display a page featuring a meat-only menu, how would you feel? Disappointed certainly. Maybe even angry. You will likely bounce off the site immediately and vow never to return. Some people even go as far as sharing the bad news with others.
Keep your content topical and focused on a particular subject. Posting relevant content makes it easier to establish trust and build relationships. Google will also notice the increased traffic to that page and adjust ranking favourably. Your business can build authority on high-quality, relevant content alone. Conversely, if your site records a consistently high bounce rate, it may be demoted to some extent.
2. Make your content rich & meaty
When creating content for your website, fill it with valuable material and useful resources. Are you writing a ‘How-to’ guide on car maintenance or purchasing insurance? Keep it strong on these points and make sure you provide credible links with which your readers can easily verify.
The advantage of valuable content is that people remember a website that helped them achieve something like fix a recurring car problem or save money on insurance. It doesn’t stop there, as they can bookmark the page or share it with colleagues and loved ones. Nothing builds online trust as fast as valuable content, delivered by a perceived authority.
3. Be Original
Fresh content is any website’s best weapon. Look for trending topics, issues or breaking news and weave it into your content. This way, you will stay fresh and relevant.
Sometimes, you might experience an idea drought, which is quite normal. However, many people resort to copying or duplicating material from other websites. This is black hat territory and the consequences include being blacklisted. Therefore, don’t compromise the integrity of your website by plagiarising another site’s content, word for word.
According to Tim Fisher, Team Leader at domains4less.co.nz, you can repurpose web content to retain freshness and usefulness value. “Originality enables Google algorithms to continue indexing the page for improved ranking positions,” he says.
4. Refurbish old content
So, how do you repurpose old content to make it relevant? Firstly, find out how things have changed since the last time you discussed it. For example, have there been any new developments since Britain announced its decision to exit the EU? How have various sectors of the economy fared as the country draws closer to D-day?
“If you manage a gardening blog and previously wrote about planting daisies in early spring, you can discuss how to you care for the young sprouts in summer, and what to do when they blossom into grown plants. Follow this sequence and you’ll have repurposed content with freshness value“, Fisher buttressed.
5. Keep it topical
One common black hat technique is to stuff content with keywords. Google’s RankBrain algorithm has since moved on from analysing semantics with single keywords alone. Instead, it scans pages in a topical manner and uses sentences or paragraphs to determine relevance.
This means writing content about a given topic will be most effective if you want to be presented for search with regards that subject. So, focus on long-tail phrases and topical material. If you’re writing about ‘How to stay hydrated during a workout in summer’, instead of stuffing the page with ‘water’, ‘juice’ or whatever drink you want to promote, use a specific set of words.
Consider word sets like ‘replenish your electrolytes by drinking…’, ‘drink water at regular intervals’ and so on. Keep the topic centred around water and hydration via long-tail key phrases and RankBrain will pick up the post accordingly.
6. Link legitimately
Finally, watch your backlinking practice. Do you collaborate with certain sites to link indiscriminately, even when they have no relation to the topic you’re discussing? This is one of the major reasons why websites are penalised.
To avoid throwing your reader off course, don’t write guest posts and link to sites that have no correlation with your subject matter. Keep it within your territory and if it’s a different industry, restrict the link to the ‘author’s bio’ section. You will subsequently retain the reading flow and maintain your credibility.
How many techniques are you practicing right now? Certainly, you can add more from this list to boost your rankings.