“What is white hat SEO?” This is one of the first questions people come up with when researching how to rank websites highly in search engines. The phrase SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is one of the very first phrases you’ll see.

Most people will quickly be able to understand what SEO means, but as you continue down the rabbit hole, more questions will come up. For example, you’ve probably seen that there are two types of SEO.

  • White Hat SEO
  • Black Hat SEO

What the heck? SEO has hats now?

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as you think.


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In another article, I answered the question, what is black hat SEO? If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to either read that article now or after you read this one.

In this article, I’ll answer the question, what is white hat SEO?

Are you new to SEO? Don’t even know what SEO stands for? No problem! This site was designed with the newbie in mind. Head on over to this article and learn more about what exactly SEO is. Once you have a basic understanding of SEO, you can come back here to learn more about what white hat SEO specifically.

VIDEO: What Is White Hat SEO

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Definition Of White Hat SEO

Let’s start off with the most basic info. What is the definition of SEO?

White Hat SEO Definition: White hat SEO is a search engine marketing technique to deliberately rank a website in the first 10 results on a search engine results page (SERP) while abiding by all of the terms, conditions, and rules of those search engines.

Ok, but in layman’s terms, what does this really mean?!

In short, what makes SEO “white hat” is the fact you’re using techniques that are approved by search engines and abide by their terms of service.

Check out this page to see the techniques Google approves and disapproves of.

Most search engines use certain “signals” to find out what a particular website, or a particular page on a website, is about. The most successful internet marketers learn what those signals are, and give search engines as many of those signals as possible.

For example, if I want to rank a page on my website for “classical poetry” there are certain things I should do to help search engines like Google know that my page is about exactly that – classical poetry. In order to do that, I should include that exact phrase, also known as a keyword, in several key areas of my webpage. This is known as “internal white hat SEO”.

What Is Internal White Hat SEO?

The more you learn, the more questions you have, right?! Don’t worry, I got your back. Let’s go over what internal SEO is.

Going back to my web page about “classical poetry”, I’d want to include that phrase in the following areas (among others, but let’s keep things simple for now):

  • The title of the article
  • Several times in the content of the article itself
  • The filename of an image on the page
  • Other pages on your own site linking to that page with the term “classical poetry” in the link
  • Creating very high-quality content that people love, resulting in them staying on your site longer, browsing additional pages, and sending other signals that your information is helpful to site visitors (search engines like Google can track user behavior and uses those signals as well)
  • In the “meta title” and “meta description” (if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, it’s not complicated but it’s also not important for now).

You can also do things like embed a video from YouTube that has to do with classical poetry or link to other websites that also have info on classical poetry.

These are all examples of “internal SEO” – or things you can do on your own website/webpage to help Google and other search engines understand what a web page is about. All of the things listed here are considered “white hat”, meaning search engines like when you do these things as it helps their search algorithms figure out what the topic on your page is.

What Is External White Hat SEO?

In addition to formatting your webpages with internal white hate SEO techniques, you can also use external white hat SEO techniques. Just like search engines look for signals on your page to determine what it is about, search engines also look at external factors.

Here are some examples of external white hat SEO…

  • Posting your article about “classical poetry” to your website’s social media accounts
  • Other websites about classical poetry naturally linking to your page about classical poetry due to the good information you’re proving
  • Being mentioned in a trusted site like Wikipedia as a legitimate source of information
  • YouTube videos mentioning the page and linking in the description
  • Submit a sitemap to Google and other search engines

Basically, any mention or link on other websites to your page on classical poetry is a huge signal to search engines that your page is not only about classical poetry, but since it is being shared and linked to, it must be a high-quality page. All of these factors will help you rank highly when people type “classical poetry” into search engines. You should be one of the very first results.

When SEO Techniques Are No Longer White Hat

All of the above techniques are fully accepted and even encouraged by all the major search engines. If you want to rank a page on your website highly in search results, you really need to use and perfect white hat SEO techniques.

However, many web marketers attempt to exploit search engines by doing things that are “unnatural”. This is known as black hat SEO. Here are some examples of black hat SEO:

  • Changing text size and font color to be invisible on your page, then using the keyword you want to rank for over and over again
  • Copying or duplicating content from other websites
  • Using your keyword an unnatural amount of times on a page (known as “keyword stuffing”)
  • Creating new pages on your site by repeating similar content over and over again and only changing the keyword (ex. classical poetry, historic poetry, ancient poetry, old poetry, etc.).
  • Having other websites link to your site for money or other solicited incentives.
  • Creating low-quality blogs or websites for the sole purpose of linking back to your own site
  • Using comment spam or social media spam to link to your site

Google and other search engines want you to use “natural” techniques when it comes to SEO. While some deliberate techniques can be used, search engines don’t want to be “tricked” into ranking a page on your site. They want keywords to be natural, other sites to naturally link to you because it’s a good quality page, social media sharing your page because people like it and think others would, too. When you send those signals by using unnatural techniques, like paying money to have people share your link or spamming comment sections on websites, search engines may penalize your site or “blacklist” your site for attempting to fool their algorithm.

Why Would Anyone Use Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO?

I have a more in-depth article discussing white hat SEO vs black hat SEO, but in short, if someone is able to use black hat SEO techniques that work well…. it works REALLY well.

Many people still exclusively use sophisticated black hat SEO techniques and by using those techniques, they can rank websites very quickly, even if the quality isn’t that great.

Even if those sites get caught and penalized, it’s usually after the site owner already made quite a bit of money. They just start a new site and repeat the process.

In fact, until about 2010, black hat SEO was the norm. It was almost impossible to rank a website highly in search engines without using black hat SEO.

However, over time, search engines are getting smarter and smarter. They are able to figure out even sophisticated black hat SEO techniques. Think about it – Google has AI that is learning how to drive cars on public roadways. They will get better and better at detecting black hat SEO, so it’s probably best to focus on the longer-term strategy of white hat SEO.

How Do Search Engines Rank Websites & Webpages That Use White Hat SEO?

This is a loaded question. There are so many specifics on how search engines rank websites, and I probably couldn’t write an article or guide without giving you information overload.

BUT, it’s an important question, and one that deserves a good answer. I think the answer is best said by Google themselves in this 8 minute video…

An Analogy For How Google Views Your White Hat SEO Website

Imagine for a moment that Google is the information kiosk at a giant mall with just about every store imaginable. If you go to the information kiosk and ask what the best store is for buying cell phones, who do you think Google would recommend?

Sure, they could recommend the new cell phone store that just opened yesterday, or, they could recommend you go to an established store that has existed for many years and has a ton of positive customer feedback. Who would YOU most likely recommend?

Google as a search engine works in a very similar way. When your website is new, Google might only send a small percentage of people to your site while they send the majority of people to the well established and trusted websites. Over time, Google can start getting “customer feedback” and learn more about your “store.” As you naturally gain trust with both customers and Google, you’ll get rewarded with more “customers.” After about 3 to 6 months, you can realistically start competing with the well established websites in your niche. Although the exact timing will depend on how much competition there is within your specific niche topic.

You have a choice here. You can either do things legitimately and EARN your trust (white hat) or you can manipulate things by say, paying people to go to the information kiosk and say great things about you (black hat). How do you think this would make Google feel? Would you expect them to ever trust you again?

Yes, white hat SEO takes longer, but when you form real trust with Google and other search engines, you will benefit for years to come. Keep it white hat.

White Hat SEO Is What Search Engines Love

While black hat SEO focuses on manipulating search engines (things search engines don’t like), white hat SEO is all about doing the things the search engines love.

When you work with the search engines, you are setting yourself up for a long-term partnership with Google (and the others, but let’s face it, Google is the king of search). When you work against them, you are in for some unfortunate surprises.

The Negatives Of White Hat SEO

Personally, I ONLY use white hat SEO methods. The problem with white hat SEO, however, is that it takes a long time to get a website to rank well, and it also takes much more work.

If you start a website today and you use black hat SEO methods, you could be ranking highly in search engines and making money by next month.

If you only use white hat SEO methods, chances are it will be months before your site ranks highly. That’s why black hat SEO is the method of choice for spammers.

In order for SEO to happen naturally, like search engines want, you’ll need to put in time and effort. You can’t create high quality keyword focused content without taking the time to write those pages. That takes time. You won’t get links from other websites or shares on social media until that content gets seen, which is a slow and ongoing process. That takes time.

There’s just no way around it. White hat SEO takes a significantly more amount of time and effort.

Other than the time it takes, I don’t really see too many negatives when it comes to using white hat SEO if you wish to build a sustainable income online.

Many black hat SEO sites never get ranked because search engines figure them out very quickly. Others rank well, but are suddenly crushed during any number of the 100+ updates Google makes each year. Not to mention sustainable black hat SEO techniques are becoming so difficult now that you might as well use that effort into white hat SEO methods.

Sites that don’t implement any SEO techniques at all typically never get noticed, or it takes an even longer amount of time to rank well.

Popular White Hat SEO Methods

First of all, the search engines really only care about one thing. They want their users to find high-quality information they were searching for on websites that provides a great user experience. If the search engines can perform that task well, people will keep using their search engine which means they can keep charging advertisers to display ads in their search results. This is how Google earns its billions of dollars per year.

However, in addition to providing a great user experience, there are a few white hat SEO methods you can use to increase your visibility in search engines. This expands a bit on the information posted above…

  • Using Proper Keywords – A “keyword” is a word or phrase that people type into search engines. If you know what people are typing into the search engines, you can use that exact wording in your page title, description, and embedded within’ the content of the page. As long as you don’t overdo it (called “keyword stuffing”), this can actually help Google and other search engines figure out what your site is about and also rank you higher for those exact search phrases. I get into more detail about this in my affiliate marketing e-course.
  • Good Site Structure – Here is another white hat SEO technique that I explain in more detail in my free affiliate marketing e-course. If your website is difficult to navigate, this not only provides a poor user experience, but search engine robots (also called spiders) may have difficulty figuring out what your site is about. Always make sure your site is very easy to navigate for both humans and search engine spiders.
  • Fresh Content – Search engines LOVE fresh content. If a website hasn’t been updated in several months, it might be considered “abandoned” by search engines. That doesn’t mean search traffic will disappear, but your site won’t rank as high as would otherwise be possible if you had fresh content. Always try to add at least 1 or 2 articles per week to your site, even when it already has hundreds of pages.
  • Social Media – Being active on social media helps to show the search engines that you are interacting with your sites visitors. This can be a huge signal to search engines that your not just isolated in your own corner of the internet, but that you get involved and interact. This white hat SEO method has become more important over time and no doubt, it will continue to change as social media continues to evolve.
  • Proper Linking – Not only should you interlink pages on your site, but you should always make sure your incoming and outgoing links are high quality. If you are linking out to low-quality websites that provide a poor user experience, Google and other search engines might think twice about ranking you highly. This goes for incoming links as well. It’s true that incoming links is a major factor in boosting your search rankings, but it isn’t the number of links pointing into your site, rather the quality. One link from a high-quality source is much more beneficial than a bunch of low-quality links from spammy websites.

Those are just a few white hat SEO techniques you can employ.

The Best Way To REALLY Learn White Hat SEO

A lot of you might just be doing some light research about white hat SEO. If that’s the case, I hope this guide was helpful to you.

However, some of you might also be serious about ranking a website highly in Google and other search engines. If that’s you, here’s my advice…

Finding free info on the internet, like this article or the many videos on YouTube about SEO, is all find and good. But the problem is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and thus don’t know what. to search for or learn.

I recommend signing up for a training program that can teach you what you need to know, in the order you need to know it. Yeah, it’s going to cost money, but it’ll flatten the learning curve in a very big way.

So, who do I recommend? Well, full disclosure, if you sign up for these guys I do get a commission, but I put my support behind Wealthy Affiliate. I still use Wealthy Affiliate myself as they provide great ongoing video training in addition to their courses designed for beginners.

It’s free to sign up and they don’t ask for any credit card info for the free membership, so check them out and see what you think!