White Hat SEO:The Definitive Guide 2020
What is white hat SEO? These are the methods and strategies that Google itself recommends in the instructions that are legal, i.e. the search network allows such promotion methods.
We will talk exclusively about white hat SEO is. If you are interested in information about gray hat or black hat SEO, read the article White Hat VS Grey Hat VS Black Hat SEO.
White SEO Strategies
Keywords are phrases that users search for content or product of interest to them with.
This is an important part of search engine optimization. A well-performed search and analysis of keywords will allow you to build an effective strategy for creating content and optimizing a resource.
Important tip: Use only site-relevant keywords.
If the page does not meet the user’s request, they will again return to the search results to search for the necessary information or product.
Since Google takes behavioral factors into account, you will never rise to the top for such keywords.
In this part of the article, I will discuss several strategies and techniques for finding keywords.
This is one of the most effective strategies. Most of your successful competitors have already carried out a thorough analysis of the keywords and have chosen the most suitable ones.
An analysis of competitors’ keys is easy to perform:
- Find competitor sites in your niche.
Special services for SEO allow you to quickly find competitors, but this can also be done manually. Especially if your site is still at the development stage and services will not be able to pinpoint competitors.
The easiest way to see your competitors and market leaders is to check the top search results for high-frequency keywords relevant to your site.
Let’s say you create a website for a toy store for children– “Toys for kids” could be a key.
- Using specialized white hat SEO tools (SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.), conduct an audit of the sites of competitors.
For example, use SEMrush and see the keywords by which this site is ranked.
Insert the link to the site into the audit tool.
In the window that opens, find the tab “Keyword Analytics” ⇉ “Overview”.
In this window you can see the keys by which the site is ranked.
The method is quite simple, in general I recommend studying your competitors and not just the keywords they use. For more information on the topic, see SEO Competitive Analysis.
With this tool you can find good keys with a long tail. You can find more details in the article Long Tail Keywords.
Just type the keyword you are interested in into Google search and it will show frequently requested phrases that contain your keyword.
Keywords with a long tail are important because it becomes easier to get to the top of search results. For a new site, entering the top 10 with short and highly competitive keys is an extremely difficult task so you should start with low-competitive ones.
The keys found in this way must be checked through special services. Then you can decide whether to use them or not. Read more about services in the article Top SEO Tools for Businesses in 2020.
This is a standard and completely free tool from Google. Go to your site’s console and click on the “Performance” tab.
Below, on this page, you can see a list of keywords by which you are already ranking.
You can sort keywords by clicks and impressions. I recommend sorting by impressions, because by the top keys, which are sorted by clicks, you are already receiving traffic.
Here you can find the best keywords to use in new content in order to raise your position and receive even more traffic from them.
In thematic communities, people communicate on topics that really interest them. These are quite hidden things, which is why it is worth looking at some thematic communities and find out what people are talking about there.
Let’s suppose you are promoting a store that sells pet products. Quickly looking at threads about cats on Reddit, you might find the following post:
Diabetes in cats is not the most obvious topic, so you need to check the keywords for it.
Now, you can understand that this topic is really interesting to your potential customers. You can create content on this topic and try to get into the top search results.
Only if your store, of course, has cat food for diabetics.
Closely monitor trends and traffic changes for your keywords, as it is important to know what is currently interesting for your target audience.
Never use only one method of searching for keywords; the risk of missing important keywords is too high.
Links are crucial to SEO. In fact, when one site links to another, it is considered by Google as a factor of trust in the resource. Link building is an important part of the overall tactics of white hat SEO.
The PageRank algorithm was created by Larry Page in 2001. He took the academic approach of the importance of scientific publications as a basis for the number of references in the works of other authors.
When a site refers to another resource, it transfers to it some authority or link weight, stating to Google that this resource can be trusted.
In this part of the article I will talk about several methods of white link building. You should be especially careful with this, since link building is associated with a lot of gray and black hat SEO methods. How do you build white hat backlinks?
The strategy is based on creating content on third-party sites and placing links to your resource in this content.
These should be sites similar to yours in terms of theme and focus. They should also have useful and valuable content as a third-party resource with a link to your site.
Google has pretty strict rules related to links, so don’t try to post guest posts on sites that aren’t in your niche and are not related to topics. For this, Google may impose sanctions on your site. For more information on sanctions, see Google Algorithms That Affect SEO. You can also be punished for buying links, exchanging links on products, or exchanging links. To post guest posts and not be subject to Google’s sanctions, read the Blogger Outreach article.
The method was invented by Brian Dean in 2015. Its essence is quite simple:
- Find relevant articles to your site in popular content
- Create better content
- Ask people who link to the original content to link to yours now, because it’s better.
We need to create content that more widely reveals the topic and contains more information. If the top piece for diets contains the article “top 10 diets,” you can create your own material– “Top 100 diets.”
Of course, adding 90 mediocre diets to 10 really great ones will not bring much result, so focus primarily on quality. Check the relevance of the content and make it fresher if possible. To find sites that link to the original content, you can use special tools. Semrush has a tool for analyzing page backlinks.
Here you can see who linked to the content and contact them. Avoid irrelevant sites and resources that host a large number of low-quality links.
For this, you need to find a resource relevant to your site from which you would like to get a link. Search for broken links on the site using tools (for example, this plugin).
If you managed to find a link that the site owner could replace with a relevant one for your site, let them know about it and offer to replace the broken link.
This method requires a lot of work but brings good results. Such actions are not related to black hat SEO. The site is in your niche, the link is relevant, and you do not have to offer money, goods, or services in return for this link. Read more about broken links in What Are Bad Links?.
The publication of high-quality and relevant content is the right way to the top of the Google search results. This method will work effectively if your content meets several requirements:
1. Content fully meets user request
This means that the person who clicked on your link should find all of the information he or she is interested in regarding the request.
If the page does not contain comprehensive answers to the user’s question, they will continue to search, which will negatively affect the promotion of the page.
For a search engine, it is important that users find the answers they need as quickly as possible. Having a high percentage of people who returned to search results from your page is a bad sign for Google.
Rank Brain technology determines whether users are satisfied with the search results. Therefore, before creating content, you should ask yourself this question: “What kind of information does the user who googles this want to see?”
2. The content is easy to read and it looks good
Poor page design discourages users even from pages with useful and interesting content. Take a look at top blogs and articles. Pay attention to their appearance and make sure that the content is easy to read, namely:
- Font 15+ pixels;
- Convenient structure with a large number of subheadings, so that the user can quickly find the piece of information that interests them; and
- Short paragraphs (2 sentences maximum).
Due to the abundance of special tools and services for SEO, you do not need to be a programmer to cope with the technical side of search engine optimization.
This is an extremely important part of optimization, because errors in code can break all your efforts to find keywords, create content, and build link mass. For more information, see What is the Technical SEO Audit?
Next, let’s talk about important tips for technical SEO.
Google Search Console
Check reports in the console for errors. This can be done in the tab “Index” → “Coverage.”
I recommend checking these reports regularly and quickly correcting the errors that they show.
One of the few ranking factors that Google does not hide is the speed of the site loading.
In 2018, Google officially announced on its blog that site loading speed is a ranking factor.
In the same post, it was recommended to check your site speed using PageSpeed Insights.
The service provides detailed information on:
- Download time of the first content;
- Download speed index;
- Drawing large content;
- Download time for interaction; and
- Total blocking time.
It also gives recommendations on speeding up your page loading. Checking speed with Webpagetest will provide even more information about the speed of loading content, details on the page, etc.
This is the structure of the pages and the software part of the site. It includes navigation, a network of links, breadcrumbs, category pages, sitemap, etc.
On a site with good architecture, from the main page you can go to any other page in 4 clicks at most.
The way the pages on your site are arranged and organized is especially important for large resources. This affects both convenience for users and ranking in search engines.
Some tips for creating a good site architecture are:
- Nesting Level– This is the number of clicks you need to make to get to each page. The indicator is difficult to calculate manually, especially if you have many pages, so I recommend using tools from Semrush, Screaming frog, Ryte, and others. Most services consider nesting from the main page, so for convenience you can use tools, which visualize the architecture (WebSite Auditor and Sitebulb).
- Hub Pages– These are pages with a common topic or category that combine similar topics and subcategories into one. Category pages are often also hub pages because they contain many natural links. I recommend posting additional information on such pages, in addition to products, articles, or a list of subcategories. You can leave links to relevant pages that may be useful to the user.
- Create Links from Well-visited Pages to Important Ones– The idea is to correctly distribute the link weight on the site. If you have pages that are visited by many users, it is a good idea to leave a link to some that aren’t there.
To understand which pages to add links to, you can use the services of Semrush, Link Explorer, and Ahrefs. They will show the metrics of each URL on the site.
Google Analytics provides traffic information on each page. It also lets you know which pages are best converted.
Adapting for Mobile Devices
Check whether or not Google considers your site convenient for smartphones here. Back in 2018, Google made a post saying that they are introducing indexing on mobile phones.
Over the past few years, traffic from mobile devices has been growing, and for Google it is important that your site is convenient for all users. It matters for more than search engine optimization. In a post about being mobile friendly, Google says that 94% of people search for local information using a smartphone, even in places where they have a desktop computer.
Without a responsive design, you could lose a huge number of users. The behavioral factors on your site will also get worse and your position will fall.
Let’s talk about what you can do to optimize each of your pages and improve your position.
Use keywords carefully to prevent spam. A good solution would be to register your main key:
- Once per title
- At the beginning of the text content
- In the H1 or H2 tag (H1 affects ranking more, but don’t write it if it looks inorganic)
Let me remind you that the meta tag “keywords” no longer affect search results, so you can do without them. Google stopped taking them into account due to the fact that optimizers did not use this meta tag honestly.
In general, your keywords should look organic in your text, otherwise Google may flag you for trying to trick algorithms.
URL Must Be Descriptive
In these instructions, Google reports that it uses URLs to understand the content of a page. Therefore, your url should be short, descriptive, and contain a relevant keyword.
This tag is the title that appears in search results.
Your title should be unique, contain important keywords, and provide clear information for the user and the search robot about what kind of page it is.
Keywords written in the title have the most weight. It’s better to place important keys closer to the beginning of the text.
The tag length is 70-80 characters, Google will not display the longer ones in the search results. If you write less however, you may lose important words that could have come in handy.
A brief description of the content of the page does not directly affect the ranking but it can increase conversion, since Google often uses it as a snippet.
Do not neglect the optimization of description, as it can tremendously affect the user’s decision to click on a link. Increasing the CTR (Click Through Rate) rating will help you to rise in positions.
The length of the description should be 150-160 characters. It should contain a call to action and describe the content of the page well. For more information on the topic, see How to Build a Nice Meta Description.
H1 is the main title on the page. Usually this is the largest element of content and it should describe the theme of the page well, as the search robot uses it to determine the topic.
Below are some important tips for using H1:
- It must be used only once;
- It is advisable to use important keywords, though it should look organic; and
- Keywords should be placed closer to the beginning.
It is important that H1 does not exceed 50 characters. Look for more information in the article H1 Tag.
Alt Image Tags
This tag is designed to inform Google about the content of the image. Correctly registered alt tags will help you to be ranked in the search results for pictures.
Users will be able to see alt tags if they do not load the graphic elements of the site or if they include downloading images.
Adding a keyword to the alt tag is a good idea only if it looks organic and matches the content of the image.
Its length should not exceed 250 characters with spaces. Try to stay around 5-7 words. Read more about image optimization in the SEO Images article. Read more about meta tags and how to configure them in the Meta Tags for SEO article.
White Hat SEO Services
In almost every chapter of this article, I mentioned services and tools for SEO. They greatly simplify optimization and save you time. In this part of the article I will talk about several required and additional services.
Google Search Console
This is the official tool that Google suggests using for searching and troubleshooting site search related issues.
Google says the following about this tool: “The Google Search Console helps you to understand and improve how Google sees your site.”
Useful reports and tools in the console:
- Make sure that Google can find and crawl the site;
- Reporting indexing issues and the ability to request re-indexing;
- Allow you to see which sites link to you;
- Track issues related to AMP, mobility, etc.; and
- Traffic data.
Google Analytics is an analytic platform for tracking site performance. Google collects all of the data on your resource and provides it in the form of reports such as the following.
- How many people visited your pages?
- What did they do on the pages?
- Where did they come to your site from?
- How much time was spent?
- At what stage did they leave the site?
- How did they interact with elements on the pages?
- For which keywords did you get in search results for and which did you get traffic from?
There are comprehensive tools for search engine optimization. Here is a little more about its functionality:
- Site audit;
- One page SEO checker;
- Analysis of competitors; and
- Keyword analysis.
The service provides limited functionality for free and there is a trial period.
It is worth mentioning right away that this is software that will have to be installed. It currently runs on Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu.
Screaming Frog is a tool for site audit. As a result of this audit, you get all available information about links, tags, page content, and more.
Limited functionality is available for free and a one-year subscription costs £149.00.
Search engine optimization should be approached comprehensively and scrupulously. Though there were many details and tips given, there are two general principles that must be followed.
- Respond to a user request. I spoke about this for most of the article. If your content is really interesting and useful for users, Google may forgive small errors in optimization.
- Do not try to trick algorithms. The short-term effect of black hat methods is not worth the risk of getting fines from Google.
Be sure to follow the news and updates of Google, as the algorithms are ever-changing. If you want to always be ahead of your competitors, stay tuned for the releases of new information.