White Hat SEO: How to Rank Without Breaking the Rules

Staff Writer
Last Updated
February 9, 2024
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While brands and businesses used to focus on expanding their reach by launching official websites and blogs, the concern has now shifted to how they can stand out and differentiate themselves from the competition, which is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into the picture.

SEO comprises a series of strategies and practices that optimize a website’s content and structure to rank more favorably on search engine results pages, which could lead to better reach and visibility and increased traffic and engagement. However, many people aren’t actually aware that there are two directions when it comes to SEO. There’s the more questionable and dubious path of black hat SEO and white hat SEO.

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO refers to a series of techniques that help boost and improve a website’s ranking on search engine results pages, all the while complying with search engine guidelines and regulations.

And despite not yielding immediate results, white hat SEO company provides businesses with long-term and sustainable progress that slowly increases and improves their position on search engine results pages, which allows their websites to tap into a wider audience and earn more organic traffic and engagement.

What’s the Difference Between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO?

While white hat SEO looks for long-term progress with above-board techniques that comply with the search engine guidelines, black hat SEO goes in the completely opposite direction and aims for immediate results with the help of some shady and dubious practices that go against rules and regulations.

To help you better understand, here are some more differences between the two!

White Hat SEO Black Hat SEO
Longevity of Results
  • More sustainable results
  • Aims to deliver a positive user experience with different strategies (e.g. quick loading speed, smooth interface, high-quality content, etc.)
  • Potentially attracts customers and readers
  • Short-term and instant results
  • Tricks users into clicking on their website with different strategies and doesn’t care about user experience (e.g. when content isn’t as good as the page’s ranking would have users believe)
  • User Experience
  • Gives positive user experience in different ways (e.g. answers user intent, delivers well-written and original content, website is properly optimized, gives users the information they’re looking for, etc.)
  • Gives negative user experience in different ways (e.g. doesn’t deliver content that is advertised on search engine results, users may be redirected to a completely irrelevant webpage instead, etc.)
  • Increases website’s bounce rate—the number of users that exit your website after only a short time
  • Risks of Consequences
  • No risks as all strategies follow search engine guidelines
  • Violates search engine results and can earn different penalties (e.g. penalties from search engines, severe drop in rankings, may be removed from search engine results pages altogether, etc.)
  • Quality or Quantity
  • Websites are optimized to deliver high-quality results (e.g. original and informative content, positive user experience, mobile optimized websites, smooth navigation on website, etc.)
  • Focuses on quantity over quality; only concerned with getting a good ranking on results pages by any means necessary.
  • Uses different dubious strategies to trick users into clicking on the website (e.g. overstuffing content with keywords, placing hidden texts or links throughout the page, tricking search engines, etc.)
  • How to Improve Website Ranking with White Hat SEO?

    There’s a possibility that most of the SEO practices that you’re familiar with fall under white hat SEO, but here are a few ways that will help your website rank well without breaking the rules!

    Keyword Research and Search Intent

    The first step in improving your website’s ranking with white hat SEO is to conduct thorough keyword research, which will allow you to find the most popular and competitive keywords related to your field or topic. Identifying these will help you figure out what your target audience is actually looking for regarding the subject on search engines. 

    On a similar note, it’s also important to figure out the reason behind users’ search queries—something called their search intent—as this will help you find the best format to structure your content, whether it’s a how-to guide, a listicle, a comparison review or something else. 

    You can do this by searching your article topic or title on a search engine and reviewing the format of the topmost results—the ones that the search engine algorithm has decided were the most popular, useful, and relevant to the search query.

    And while black hat SEO practitioners also undergo this research process, they often do this with exploitative intentions in mind, such as learning what keywords need to be included on their websites to trick search engine algorithms.

    High-Quality Content

    All your website’s optimizations help users click on your website, but it’s the quality of the content that determines whether they stick around. The content of your website needs to be original, informative, helpful, easy to read, and aligned with what the user is looking for. 

    It doesn’t matter how well you’ve optimized your website because foregoing the quality of your content will only be detrimental to your search engine ranking by skyrocketing your bounce rates—the number of users that leave your site after only a short period of time, which search engines take into consideration when ranking your page.

    On the other hand, black hat SEO has no regard for the quality of the content that they deliver to users. This can be seen in one of their strategies called keyword stuffing, which involves the overinclusion of keywords throughout the content, regardless of how incomprehensible the article becomes. There are also practitioners that simply steal content from other sources, or create multiple pages that more or less have the same information.

    On-Page SEO

    On-page SEO focuses on optimizing a website for search engine results, specifically targeting the content and composition of the page. This includes strategically adding target keywords and queries into major elements in your website like the page title, headers, and the link, while still maintaining a natural and conversational tone.

    By adding popular and competitive keywords into these elements, search engine algorithms will be able to better understand what your content is all about and rank your page accordingly based on its relevance to the user’s search query. It also helps to use headers and subheaders to break apart your content and make it much easier to digest, especially since search engines also consider the content of these headers.

    Black hat SEO practitioners also perform their own version of on-page SEO. Aside from keyword stuffing other elements of the webpage—titles, meta descriptions, headers, and more—some individuals also include hidden texts or links that can only be viewed by search engine algorithms and are assessed positively by the search engine. 

    Another tactic called cloaking involves showing one thing to search engines while presenting an entirely different version to actual visitors. Furthermore, black hat also involves doorway pages—low-quality pages that are made and optimized for certain keywords with the sole purpose of luring users in before redirecting them to a different page.

    Technical SEO

    Technical SEO is made up of different optimizations that not only make it easier for search engine algorithms to crawl and index the page’s contents, but also improve user experience. 

    This means ensuring that your page loads almost immediately without any delays, optimizing your website for both mobile and desktop devices, as well as making the entire website easy to navigate. Not only will this help search engines more easily navigate and access your page’s contents, but it also delivers the best possible experience for your readers.

    Black hat SEO also has its own version of technical SEO. It’s pretty much similar to the idea of cloaking as discussed in the previous section, but this time, it’s all about showing different URLs to search engines from what users will actually see. The bottom line of cloaking is presenting something that is specifically designed to appeal to search engines but may not be relevant or useful to actual users who click on it.

    Link Building

    Another way that search engines rank your website on result pages is by gauging how credible and trustworthy it actually is, and you can improve this with link building. Link building is the process of getting hyperlinks from other websites that link back to your page’s content. 

    This improves your search engine ranking by communicating to search engine algorithms that your website is a reliable source of information, with each high-quality link equating to a vote of confidence.

    Black hat SEO takes this concept and twists it, resulting in something called link farming. With link farming, websites exchange links with each other purely to boost each other’s rankings on search engines. Compared to link building, this is a much more extreme and manufactured version that looks to acquire as many links as possible regardless of their quality.

    The Takeaway

    White hat SEO is all about implementing different strategies and practices to progressively improve your website’s ranking on search engines over time. 

    Compared to black hat SEO which deceives users with manipulative tactics, white hat SEO helps promote long-term results—increased reach and visibility, as well as organic engagement and performance—without violating any of the search engine guidelines, which could warrant severe penalties that could negatively impact your website and brand.

    Cardinal Digital: Your go-to SEO company in Singapore! Elevate your online presence, attract targeted traffic, and outshine your competition. Ready to lead your industry? Contact us for a consultation and conquer the digital landscape with Cardinal Digital today!

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