SEO isn’t about gaming Google. It’s simply about creating content that people want and that satisfies their search intent.
Looking at SEO from this perspective can make it easier to understand and easier to execute white hat SEO techniques. By putting aside the spammy tactics of yesteryear, you can produce and publish customer-focused content without that scammy vibe.
Now let’s talk about how to know what content topics people want.
White Hat SEO Technique #1: Use Keyword Research to Discover Content Demand
A little keyword research can go a long way in helping you understand what your audience wants.
Not only will you find topics that are frequently searched, you’re also likely to stumble on search language they are using that you might not have anticipated. One reason for this–your knowledge and expertise in your industry is deeper than theirs. The language you use is probably industry jargon that your audience doesn’t use. This is a great opportunity for you to find long tail keywords that your audience can understand, and create content that speaks to them.
Creating content using language your customers use is as white hat as it comes. Forget stuffing your content with a single keyword over and over again. This is about meeting customers on their turf, speaking to them naturally and in terms they understand.
White hat do’s:
Do — choose to target keywords that are fairly popular. The ease of ranking for those keywords will depend on the competitive strength of your site. Be realistic in how high of a competition level you can take on and still get results.
Do — include the target keywords in all the right places–URL, title tag, alt images, body content, etc.
Do — use other keywords that are related to your target keyword within the body of your content.
Example: If you’re writing a post about doing a competitive analysis, you should also include related terms like competitive analysis report or competitive analysis example.
Do — use the target keyword in the anchor text of internal links to the new content.
Black hat don’ts:
Don’t — aim for quantity over quality. With all the searches Google receives every day, you can be certain its algorithms understand synonymous phrases. Instead of repeating the same keyword phrase as often as possible, use like-keywords to reinforce what your content is about.
Now that you know what your audience is searching for, let’s talk about what they want to find.
White Hat SEO Technique #2: Create SEO Content That Answers The Search Intent
You don’t need to be a technical genius to do SEO right. Like most marketing disciplines, a little bit of empathy for the user searching can go a long way to getting results in SEO.
Think from the perspective of the searcher.
- What are they looking for?
- What are the problems they are seeking advice or solutions to?
- Are they looking for advice, or are they looking to buy something?
Search intent tends to fall into one of these categories:
- Learn something
- Find solution to a problem
- Purchase something
When evaluating your list of keyword opportunities, think about whether a person searching that phrase is hoping to learn something, find a solution to a problem, or make a purchase.
The phrase they’ve entered reveals a lot about their intention.
When you create your SEO content be sure to give users what they are looking for. If they are looking for an educational “how to” article, don’t create content that pushes a sale.
White hat do’s
Do — think of your content as a Q & A. The keyword query is the question. Your content is the answer.
Do — be a useful resource by giving the searcher what they want.
Do — be clear in your title tag and meta description about what your content promises.
Black hat don’ts
Don’t — bait and switch the searcher with misleading click-bait titles. Your title should always tie directly to your content. If it doesn’t, the visitor is more likely to bounce, sending Google a signal that your content didn’t serve their search interest. As a result, Google will drop your position in the SERPs like a hot potato.
White Hat SEO Technique #3: Help Google Know What Your Content is About by Getting Votes of Confidence
Google needs to know what your content is about in order to place it in the right SERPs for the right search terms.
One way it does this is through on-page signals–things like the inclusion of keywords in the URL, title, body content, etc.
Another way is through on-site signals–internal links from related pages on your site using anchor text that is descriptive of the content (i.e. it includes the target keyword).
And then there are off-site signals–inbound links from 3rd party trust-worthy sites that have related content linking to your content. A 3rd party citation of your content tells Google that a real, live person who created it thinks your content truly is about “xyz” (aka your keyword).
This is the origin of SEO’s spammy reputation. Bad-actors manipulated off-site signals by fabricating inbound links with things like link farms–clearly not living, breathing humans giving a vote of confidence that the content is indeed about what you claim it to be.
As a result, Google has put great effort into knowing when an inbound link is from a quality, trust-worthy site, versus a fabricated link purely for manipulative gain. The former helps you. The latter hurts you.
So when you hear the term “link building,” forget those old school black hat tactics. The game has changed. When done right, link building can be an extremely powerful way to boost search rankings. As a bonus, it could drive referral traffic too.
The key here is in building relationships and reaching out to bloggers and journalists to let them know about your awesome content. We’ll need to write a whole other post on white hat link building.
But the point is–
If you followed #1, you’ll have content that’s in demand–and the bloggers you reach out to will know their audience enough to know that.
If you followed #2, bloggers will appreciate the resourcefulness of your content and be more likely to cite it when it is relevant and complimentary to the content they are creating.
White hat do’s:
Do — reach out to influencers to let them know about your content, pointing out why it might add value to their content.
Do – personalize your outreach in a genuine, one-on-one way that shows you know the blogger.
Do — be patient. Building mutually beneficial relationships takes time.
Black hat don’ts:
Don’t — send mass emails to influencers with no personalization. It won’t be effective. It won’t get you to the top of Google. And you’ll burn bridges in the process.
Summary of a White Hat SEO Strategy
In sum, you can practice good SEO without feeling like a spammer if you follow white hat SEO strategies. In fact, the more you focus on serving the searcher’s needs, the more you’ll benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
- The searcher gets what they want–an answer to their search
- Google gets what they want–satisfied searchers (aka happy customers)
- You get what you want–top rankings on Google and “free” organic traffic