White hat SEO strategy: ranking with the rules in mind

Toby Armiger
4 minute read | Posted 31st May 2023
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s the Wild, Wild West out there on the search engine ranking pages. When it comes to white hat and black hat SEO, there ain’t enough room in this town for the both of ’em.  

White hat SEO is the art of ranking well on SERPs; this is done by following the rules of search engines like Google. While ‘white hat’ happens to be more time-consuming than black hat SEO, its more dubious counterpart, there are many reasons for why the extra effort is worth it. 

In this article, we’re breaking down the basics of white hat SEO, including discussing some key principles to keep in mind, and the benefits of staying on the right side of the online ranking law.  

What is white hat SEO? 

White hat SEO is the practice of optimising your website in order to rank well on search engine pages, and it often involves following ethical guidelines and rules that are laid down by the likes of Google. These guidelines prioritise high-quality content and user experience.  

In other words, it’s all about making your website so good that search engines have no choice but to rank it well. 

Black hat SEO sits on the flip side. 

A game of loopholes, black hat SEO tactics rely on finding hidden, manipulative or otherwise deceptive ways to boost the ranking of a site. This can include implementing strategies such as keyword stuffing, generating a high quantity of irrelevant, low-quality content, and even trying to actively harm a competitor’s search engine rankings.  

With Google laying down the law, engaging in black hat SEO can quickly get you penalised. Instead of being in a good ranking position, becoming blacklisted by Google places your site on shaky ground. For long-term, sustainable growth and profitability, white hat SEO is the way to go. 

Key principles of white hat SEO 

User experience comes first 

Google’s rules for ranking well are in place to prioritise optimisation and user experience. The ones that do this well are those that receive the limelight and top spaces on SERPs. This means that any user can type a query into the search engine and rely on relevant, helpful results to populate the page in front of them. Google calls this a ‘people-first’ approach. 

Therefore, Google – either directly or as a by-product of the rules – rewards websites that make user experience their number one consideration. Site owners can benefit hugely from understanding their target audience and then designing their website to deliver the appropriate, relevant content to that audience.  

So, how do you optimise your user experience? 

  • Quality content: Not only does this mean content that is well written, but it also means content that is relevant to the user. Perhaps one of the most important ways to rank well is to know who you’re talking to, what you’re talking to them about, and which keywords will bring them to you. As they say, content is king!  
  • Site structure: Another huge part of nailing your user experience lies in optimising your site structure. Consider your site to be an unknown land, and a brand-new user to be an unfamiliar traveller stepping through the door. They need a clear idea of where to go and how to use your site, or they’ll quickly turn around and leave, even if you have exactly what they need!  

Optimise for mobile 

Over 50% of web traffic comes from users on mobile devices, meaning that Google strongly recommends that sites ensure that they are mobile-friendly. In other words, if a site isn’t optimised to work well on mobile devices, it can quickly take a nosedive in the rankings!  

Poorly optimised layouts, slow site speeds, and cumulative layout shift (CLS) can make websites difficult to navigate for users. This leads to high bounce rates and – in Google’s eyes – diminished user satisfaction. Thankfully, with tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Tester, site owners can check how their domains measure up, and are able to make any necessary adjustments. 

Build a strong link profile 

In the digital world, linking to another website – whether from an article or one of your landing pages – is declaring to the user that you trust the authority and credibility of that website’s information. In Google’s eyes, that’s as good as a five-star review. 

Backlinks – incoming or inbound links from other websites – are a great way to build your site’s authority, and therefore positively impact your ranking. They make it easier for your site to be discovered and expose your brand to interested parties. 

What you want are high-quality links from other authoritative websites; they can ‘transfer’ some of that high-quality reputation to you. Techniques such as guest blogging, content outreach, and brand partnerships are all white hat-friendly ways to build up this kind of strong link profile. 

What are the benefits of white hat SEO? 

  • Rank without worrying about being penalised. While living like an outlaw can sound like a good time in a Western, trying to build a reputable and profitable website using black hat techniques isn’t cool. White hat techniques guarantee that any rankings you achieve will be solid and sustainable, allowing you to build long-term growth without the potential for penalisation. 
  • Deliver a better experience to your users. Great user experiences benefits everyone! Your users can enjoy the relevant, helpful content and services that they’ve been searching for. 
  • Adapt to algorithmic updates with ease. Using black hat techniques puts you and your site on unstable ground; Google takes these techniques into account when coding the next update, and using black hat will end with your site being penalised. By using white hat SEO techniques in your strategy, you enhance your site’s adaptability and reduce the chance of being left behind in the next update. 

Are you curious about the power of these SEO techniques and other online strategies? If so, check out the rest of our blogs to learn more about digital marketing