SEO and search engine marketing have existed in some fashion since the first website was published in the early 1990s. In its current form, SEO is a product of Google and how both it and smart phones have become ubiquitous in daily life. And, whether you know a lot or a little about SEO, you’ve probably heard the term “black hat” mentioned. But what is white hat SEO, and why should you care about it?
What is White Hat SEO?
There was a time when white hat, black hat, and even gray hat were tossed around in SEO circles to explain specific tactics, practices, and approaches to optimization and marketing. It was a means of denoting “good guys” vs. “bad guys.”
White hat SEO, specifically, was about acting within the search engines’ constraints, working with the systems in place, and following guidelines for best practices. Depending on the tide and the times, what was considered best practices and the “correct” way of doing things could be very different.
These best practices often changed at the whim of the Google algorithm as they made updates to combat people abusing and misusing the system. White hat SEO was about staying on top of these changes and then using the system as intended to improve your visibility and traffic.
One notable example is the meta keywords tag. There was a time when including choice search terms in this simple tag was viewed to improve the algorithm’s understanding of a page so that it could be indexed and presented in searches correctly. This led to some people stuffing every site page with tens or hundreds of terms to misuse the system for their gain. As early as 2009, the major search engines devalued this signal, and it no longer held any weight as a ranking factor.
But Why “HATS”?
Any conversation about white hat and black hat requires a nod to its cinematic origins. It should come as no surprise that professionals who spend their days on the internet, following trends, crafting social media posts, and writing content… are kind of geeky. And we generally wear that badge with honor.
The concept of black hat being underhanded or villainous is exemplified, for many, by Yul Brynner’s iconic role in The Magnificent Seven. This idea of black hats against white hats was born out of the stereotypes and tropes found in the American Western genre. While Yul Brynner wasn’t the first to wear a black hat as a villain, the term used in marketing, SEO, and even hacking is cited as an homage to this.
Why is White Hat SEO Important?
The term “white hat” is not as common as it once was in internet marketing, but the practice continues. You might more often hear the terms ethical or holistic practices in its place. White hat SEO is about crafting your website, content, and marketing plans to conform with a positive intent towards potential customers. In many ways, it’s also about future-proofing your site and content.
Google and Bing regularly update their search engine algorithms to provide a better experience for users and help serve them the most relevant content. By some accounts, Google makes 3200 changes in a year. Some of these are minor tweaks, while others are core updates that can shake up industry verticals and cause a lot of headaches.
Following white hat tactics or best practices means that we are taking those natural and holistic approaches to content and optimization to mitigate any ongoing pain from these updates. It’s about:
- Using natural language in content,
- Researching and answering the queries that your potential clients and customers are searching for,
- Following guidelines for ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance to ensure your site is accessible,
- Improving visibility with schema markup, and
- A variety of other processes.
And the reason all of this is important? Longevity. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, landscaper, or a Mom & Pop convenience store… you want to be around for years or even decades, not just a flash in the pan. Applying best practices to a website when making changes, writing content, creating Google My Business posts, and more involves treating your site, business, and potential customers with respect.
Your Site is in Good Hands with Efferent Media
At Efferent Media, we follow best practices when working on our client accounts. Our goal is to improve your SERP visibility, quality of traffic, conversions, and more through genuine and transparent tactics. Whether you need design and development for a new website or improve your existing one, the experts at Efferent Media can help. To find out more, contact our expert SEO team today.