What is White Hat SEO?

SEO companies will go out of their way to prove that they offer only the purest, 100% white hat SEO services out there. And for good reason. Recent months have seen big name company after company get busted for using not-so-pearly white hat SEO techniques. We’re talking major profit losses and national shame here–not just some insignificant Google slap.

Heck, it’s gotten so crazy that Forbes publishes an article surrounding the whole JCPenney hoopla, while just a few weeks earlier Forbes themselves admitted to getting the Google red flag. Yeah, it’s that crazy.

What is white hat SEO (sometimes called ethical SEO) anyway? It’s not an easy concept to explain, but it’s important to understand what it means if you’re looking to create a stable, uninterrupted online business.

Pure White Hat SEO Isn’t Really SEO

Let me first say that there is absolutely no such thing as pure white hat SEO services. And if there is such a thing, it can’t be very effective.

Let’s think this through for a second. Search engines aim to display the the most relevant and authoritative results to searchers. But SEOs seek to optimize sites for search engines, not for users. SEO, by definition, involves some form of manipulation because SEO doesn’t actually make your site more valuable, it just makes your site more rankable. So even the most perfect form of white hat search engine optimization is still manipulation.

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. [...] [A] useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

-Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines

Having that said, we can now discuss the nature of what is commonly known as “white hat SEO,” and why it’s of the utmost importance that your SEO company follows these guidelines.

What is White Hat SEO?

In Accordance with the Google TOS and Webmaster Guidelines

First and foremost, if your SEO services are in violation of Google’s Terms of Service and/or Webmaster Quality Guidelines, then you’re already in trouble. Violations include:

  • Link schemes (linking in or linking out)
  • Hidden links
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Plagiarized content
  • Keyword stuffing

If you notice any of this sneaky stuff going on, it’s your responsibility to fire your SEO company immediately. There’s just no excuse for these kinds of practices. Not in 2011.

Creative Linking Opportunities

A common white hat SEO tactic involves seeking out other companies (inside and outside your industry) to gain links from, and there are plenty of ways to do it. Here are a few SEO tips that might get you started:

Idea #1: Hire a developer to create an embeddable widget that links back to your site.

BMI CalculatorIf your site offers product reviews, you can create a widget with star ratings from 0-5 that webmasters can proudly embed onto their sites.

If your site includes a calculator of any kind, you can create an embeddable, widgetized calculator, like the BMI Calculator to your right (did you spot the link?).

If your site offers online tools, these are easily widgetizable. (StatCounter is a perfect example of this. They’re up to 36 million links and counting…no pun intended.)

Here’s the basic idea: if your site offers a service (and we know it does), think of a way to condense it into a tiny little widget, hire a developer to bring it to life, and then market the heck out of it. If you do it right, it will earn you a boatload of free links, and all completely white-hat.

Creating useful little widgets like this would be classified under a popular white hat search engine optimization category called “linkbait.” And speaking of linkbait, here’s another fun idea:

Idea #2: Introduce yourself to related, highly-ranked bloggers and offer to write a guest post on their website.

Guest posting is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and it’s one of the most common white hat SEO methods today. It’s a simple yet powerful concept: the guest poster gets a free link and the host webmaster gets a free article. Win-win.

Glen Allsopp over at ViperChill is one of the web’s foremost authorities on guest blogging, so if this sounds like a strategy you’re interested in trying, look no further than this killer article.

Idea #3: Sign up for a service like PRWeb.com and write a killer press release.

Although this is completely white-hat SEO, it’s not always free of cost. Still, mass submission of an important press release will gets tons of eyeballs and, importantly, links from a diverse array of sites across the web. These links tend to be highly targeted, so you’ll probably get a good deal of direct traffic, too.

PRWeb LogoDon’t think just anyone can write a press release, though. Actually, if you’re going to go through the trouble of paying for good press release distribution services, it also makes sense to pay a writer to write it for you. The difference between an engaging press release and a dull one can mean the difference between money well spent and money down the drain. A writer will help make your investment worth it, and a well-written press release will speak wonders about your organization.

And if you really don’t trust anyone else with your press release, here’s a good place to start.

These three ideas should give you a good idea of what white hat SEO is. Not all white hat SEO services are that cut and dry, however. There is a gray area in between white hat SEO and black hat SEO, conveniently called “Gray Hat SEO.” Some classify these techniques as white, others classify them as gray, so let’s look at some examples.

Potential White Hat SEO Techniques

Article Marketing

Article Marketing has gotten kind of a bad rap over the years, and it’s a sad thing because it has tremendous potential for good. (I mean, isn’t Wikipedia just a collection of articles?) It’s become associated more with search engine optimization than with free valuable information. In any case, Google (or at least Matt Cutts) isn’t a big fan:

The reason why article marketing doesn’t quite classify as pure white hat SEO is because you’re basically casting a vote for yourself when you include a link at the bottom of your article. Google says they don’t classify article links as “editorial” links where someone else makes a choice to link to your site. Not only that, but you might run into duplicate content issues if your same article is reprinted everywhere across the web.

Ezinearticles LogoHaving all that said, article marketing still does work and it works well, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to write your own article and submit it to popular article directories across the web.

A site like Ezinearticles.com gets tons of traffic. Why wouldn’t you want to put your business in front of everyone who uses their search feature to find content? It certainly won’t hurt your site, and it will probably help you get direct traffic.

Forum and blog comment links

No, I’m not talking about the typical forum and blog comment spam. I’m talking about real posts on real forums that happen to include your link on them. I’m talking about commenting on relevant blogs and having your name link to your website. Can we really call this white-hat SEO?

Well, for the same reason as article marketing, not really. You’re still voting for yourself, after all, and even if you’re writing Pulitzer-winning stuff while you’re doing it, it’s still an auto-vote.

The good news is that Google has no way of distinguishing between an editorial link and a self-created link, so there is still plenty of value in this SEO method. It won’t get you to a #1 ranking all by itself, but it’s a nice complement to real white hat SEO services.

White Hat SEO Services

Like many other companies, Emineer is proud to offer only the best white hat SEO services to rank sites in Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It’s just not worth the risk to do otherwise–neither to us as a company nor you as a client. There are an infinite number of ways to rank a site without having to resort to black hat SEO, so the need just isn’t there. White hat SEO may take more time, but the results are much more stable in the long run.

Check out our SEO blog next time when we’ll go over black hat SEO, as well.

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