Ever wanted to get ahead in SEO and fast? It can be tempting to try to find sneaky tactics or loopholes to climb those SERPs quicker. However if you want long-term success with consistent, high quality traffic, you need to look into white hat SEO.
So what is white hat SEO, and why is it so important to strategy?
What is white hat SEO?
Let’s start with a quick definition. White hat SEO involves using techniques that fall within the rules and guidelines set by Google and other search engines. The focus is on creating useful content and making site optimizations that will appeal to both users and search engines. This allows pages to climb search rankings in an organic way.
What is the difference between white hat and black hat SEO?
The other side of the coin is black hat SEO. This is the process of using tactics and strategies that don’t fall in line with search engine guidelines. More than that, it’s about essentially trying to trick search engine algorithms to artificially improve ranking. Some techniques that are commonly used are keyword stuffing, cloaking, and automatically generated content. If it’s found that a site is using black hat techniques, it can be penalized by search engines and this will seriously harm ranking.
Note on automatically generated content and AI content
It’s worth noting that with the growth in artificial intelligence, there’s continued debate around how to use it responsibly with regards to content and SEO. Automatically generated content has long been a black hat technique, as it usually results in spam content that’s fairly empty and only used to artificially climb search results. AI generated content on the other hand can be used to create content which is useful, with the helping hand of a human.
Why is it important to always use white hat SEO techniques?
As we’ve just mentioned, black hat SEO risks having your site penalized by search engines. This will cause you to lose ranking, and possibly prevent pages from ranking at all. The negative impact doesn’t stop there, however. Even if Google doesn’t pick up on the use of black hat tactics, users will know something isn’t right when they visit your site. Keyword stuffing, for example, can make written content come off as clunky, stunted, or disingenuous. Automatically generated content will often provide little useful information, which will be off-putting to potential customers. Using these tactics then has a direct impact on user trust and by proxy, conversions.
Sticking to white hat tactics means your content will always be customer focused, and this will ultimately lead to better results with SEO. Google and other search engines prioritize content that’s useful, helpful, and interesting to their users. By providing this kind of content in SERPs, those users are more likely to continue using Google in the future. That means if your content fits that criteria, Google will be more likely to rank it higher as it’s the kind of content that will keep users coming back.
The optimizations you make and content you add will mean your site is running efficiently, ready to appear in SERPs, and great for customer experience. And the more true this is, the more likely you’ll be to improve quality traffic to your store and conversions.
4 white hat SEO techniques you can implement now
#1 - Create valuable, useful content
One of the best ways to climb search results is by creating content that will actually be valuable to real people. The phrase “write for people, not for robots” is often repeated in SEO advice, and it’s because it has always held true. If the content on your site can satisfy user search queries, it’s more likely that Google will want to rank it highly.
Useful content means different things to different niches. In ecommerce, it’s about looking at what will be useful to your specific audience. Usually this will start with your key pages - homepage, product pages, and FAQ. Ensuring that these have the detail customers look for whether they’re new to your brand or a product expert is essential.
You can also go one step further by creating additional content which will also boost SEO. This could be resources like how-to guides, landing pages for different holidays, blogs, and more. These also give you additional keyword and optimization opportunities.
#2 - Get on top of technical SEO optimizations
User experience is a big deal for search engines. Many of Google’s user experience focussed ranking factors look at technical optimizations you can make for your site. Improving these factors is a white hat technique that will make a difference not just to SEO, but also to your customer experience.
Here are a few suggestions for improving your technical SEO:
Site speed - Slow load times are a killer for SEO. You can improve this by optimizing images, minifying code, and making use of browser caching.
Accessibility - The more people who can use your site, the better! Accessibility is very important for user experience, and therefore it’s important for SEO. This can be achieved through adding image alt text, proper use of header tags, and using sitemaps.
Security - With growing concern over online privacy, the sites that rank highest are those which provide security to users. If you’re using Shopify, they automatically generate an SSL certificate generated during domain registration for every store.
Mobile friendliness - We’ll come back to this later, but mobile is important for SEO. The amount of internet traffic from mobile devices continues to grow, so having a site that’s set up for mobile visitors is essential.
- Find and fix 404s - Over time, users hitting a missing page can start to impact your SEO. Being able to find and fix these quickly is an extra bonus to your technical SEO, and can be easily achieved using tools like SEO Manager.
#3 - Optimize meta data and add structured data to your pages
Want to stand out and stay within the rules? Time to implement structured data. This is code added to your pages that gives search engines additional information about that page. In ecommerce, it’s things like price, availability, and reviews. These have the potential to appear in SERPs as a snippet, that looks like this:
This of course stands out more than your usual blue link, and gives customers interesting information they can use right away.
This information is valuable for a couple of reasons. The first is that it may make a customer more likely to click on your link above others - they’ll see immediately if certain qualities about the product suit their needs. The second is that it’ll equally make a customer less likely to click on a link if it doesn’t suit their needs - this means only interested users will follow the link and you’ll see higher quality traffic. The more high quality traffic, the better for your SEO.
#4 - Improve your mobile experience
Ecommerce is increasingly moving to mobile. We build and manage stores on desktop, but around 53% of traffic on average in 2023 came from mobile devices and Google is a mobile-first index. That means your mobile site is the priority for being crawled and indexed. So, you need to have just as amazing a mobile experience as you do a desktop one.
There are plenty of ways to improve your mobile site.
Simplified navigation - If you have lots of menu options, condense these down for your mobile site. Try testing out some navigation options using split testing to see which works best for your customers.
Page layout - Product pages especially can require a lot of information. This is fine on desktop, but on mobile consider looking at ways for content to take up less space. For example,
Removing unnecessary elements - When navigating a mobile site, speed and ease-of-use is everything. Elements like animations and videos might look great, but they can often get in the way of usability and can cause the page to slow down also.
Shortened forms - In ecommerce, there are always fields to fill out as you go through the checkout process. For mobile, you could reduce the number of required fields, so that customers can get through checkout faster.
- Auto-fill and speedy checkout options - Enabling auto-fill and offering fast checkout options are an easy way to improve user experience on mobile for ecommerce.
Essentially, think about what will make it easy for someone to use your site on a mobile device. That easy experience makes for much better mobile SEO.
Black hat tactics may look tempting - after all, the amount of time and effort that has to go into SEO can be exhausting. However white hat techniques are not only better for SEO, they also lead to practices that are great for your customers too. White hat SEO leads to higher quality content, better functioning websites, and a better user experience. This will ultimately help your store rank higher faster than finding loopholes.