White Hat SEO: Link Building Basics
In this day and age SEO is a must-have for anyone looking for internet exposure. For whatever reason, be it for business, a personal website or a fledgling start-up, search engine rankings can spell the difference between web traffic and obscurity.
Because of this, and because of the secrecy of search engine algorithms, it’s no wonder that search engine optimization, or SEO for short, has become such an important part of any website.
What is SEO?
Let’s say you have a website to promote your sailboat business. What you want is to draw in new customers looking for information on sailboats and/or where to buy them. These customers are people who type ‘sailboats buy’ into search engines and look through the results.
As someone who has the product that these customers are after, you want to have your website prominently displayed in the first few pages of results. After all, there’s no use in a website if there’s no way for new customers to find out about it.
A web browser looking to buy a sailboat doesn’t want to be looking at search results that offer water-skis for sail, sailboat racing. If they scroll through a bunch of results without getting what they want, they’ll get frustrated. Now, this can either be the search engine’s fault (for not indexing sites correctly) or it can be the site itself not presenting itself in the right way to search engines.
That’s where SEO comes in. If your website fits the right criteria in the search engine’s algorithms, the website is displayed prominently, meaning more people will see the site if they search for related terms. SEO is all about ensuring that your website is displayed to the people that search for it or things like it.
Why is it such a big deal?
In the real world, businesses can fail due to poor signage or a store that nobody knows about. It’s like that with internet as well, except that signage and location is page rank and search engine optimization.
SEO is so important that websites are often created, modified and tailored specifically for high search engine positioning. To this end, web content writers, site designers and other internet developers are often asked to ensure their creations are SEO.
People and businesses jostle for ranking and prominent display on search engines, so it’s no wonder that many don’t want to play by the rules, or don’t think that it matters. The thing about SEO is that there are still many rules that apply to the internet that apply to real life. It’s easy for someone relatively unexperienced about the internet to believe that, given the sheer size and scope of it, people won’t notice or remember if they do less than scrupulous things to get their brand out there. In fact, the internet hasn’t got the same capacity for forgiveness as humans do: it doesn’t forget. When you look into the internet, the internet also looks into you.
Where the white hats come into it
It may surprise to know that there are some people on the internet with ulterior motives and a lack of scruples: yes, this shocked me at first as well. White hat refers to the type of advanced web user who uses their knowledge of computer security for good – basically it’s slang for a good-guy hacker.
The white hat’s counterparts are the grey hat and the black hat. Without going into too much detail, a grey hat is a hacker who does good things (if you don’t ask too many questions as to how they got the information) and a black hat is someone who uses immoral and illegal techniques for their own purposes.
So what does this mean with SEO? Basically SEO can be increased in a number of ways. As there is a great deal of competition for search engine rankings, and as paid advertising can be quite expensive, some people prefer to use other tactics instead.
White hat search engine optimization means that a website has been constructed and adjusted for SEO ‘naturally.’ While white hat SEO takes a great deal more effort and time to put construct and to become effective than grey or black tactics do, they’re better for visitors and search engines. In short, it’s ethical SEO (source) (Source #2)
There is no magic pill or secret technique to effective SEO. Sustainable, quality page rankings and search relevance involves good links with relevant online communities, such as similar sites or other interested parties, a good customer relationship, a well-designed page and regularly updated content.
As these are all things that take time, effort and money, people often seek to hack the process for a quick jump to the lead. This approach won’t work for a number of reasons. The first is that search engines live or die by the relevance of their search capabilities: if customers aren’t happy with the search results, they’ll go elsewhere, and the search engine will lose revenue. With this in mind, it’s within the search engine’s best interest to continually weed out the good from the bad. If they come across a site with grey or black hat SEO, they can penalize the site or ban it entirely.
Search engines in this case are the referees that make the internet (in some ways) a better place to do business. They are insisting on a form and process to be adhered to if websites want to have a good position in search results.
The second is that this approach isn’t sustainable. It also sets the wrong tone for the business or site, by saying that the website cares more about the people coming into the site rather than creating a good relationship with a customer or audience: in other words, the viewer doesn’t feel valued. At best, it’ll mean people will avoid the site, and at worst, they’ll be reported for grey and black hat tactics.
In short, the things that a small-business owner looking to go online, or even someone running a blog for their interests, there’s no substitute for building a quality website and using original and updated content.