Let’s start with some honesty about SEO strategies before we jump into what works. Search engine optimization (SEO) experts can take two paths when the optimize a website, much a Jedi can choose between two versions of “The Force” in Star Wars. One the light side of SEO are white hat tactics. These are strategies that are endorsed by Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines as being legitimate. On the dark side are black hat techniques, those that search engines deem to be illegitimate. By addressing the difference between black hat and white hat SEO, it will become clear why the recommendation for “best SEO strategy” provided by this article is the right one. It’s true that you can’t rely on a single strategy for SEO, but some strategies have more impact than others. Read on to find out what SEO strategy is the most important.
What Makes a Technique “White Hat?”
Search engines are in the business of serving up results to clients interested in a particular topic. Their entire business is based on speed and, most important, accuracy. If search engines can’t provide accurate information to people browsing the Internet, then people will stop using them.
Now, the beauty of search engines is that if a website shows up at the top of the first page of links, it is going to get loads of traffic and thus earn money (from ads, sales, etc.). Everyone, naturally, wants their webpage to be at the top of the list and this is where the trouble starts. Some people are willing to do anything to get to the top of the search rankings and that includes deception. Examples of deception include keyword stuffing, meta-tag stuffing, hidden text, cloaking, and more. Let’s look at an example.
Keyword stuffing is the easiest to understand. It basically involves putting keywords into the content of your site that you know are heavily searched for even if they don’t relate to the content on your site. An example would be putting the names of popular celebrities into a site that deals with hardwood flooring. The two aren’t related, but because people search for celebrities all of the time, having the words in your site will help it rank higher in search results. The problem, of course, is that people searching for celebrities don’t want to read about hardwood floors. If too many sites follow tactics like keyword stuffing, then search results quickly become meaningless. When you search for the latest movie that your favorite celebrity starred in, you’ll instead get a list of construction products, personal care items, and probably pornography.
The bottom line is this. Black hat SEO damages the value of the web, harms other marketers and online business, and degrades the web experience for all users. Search engines have a vested interest in ensuring that their product remains relevant, so they create guidelines to ensure that websites don’t mislead web users. Following these guidelines while creating a website is called “white hat” SEO. Not following the guidelines is termed “black hat” SEO. Black hat SEO will eventually lead to search engines de-indexing a site.
The #1 White Hat SEO Technique
Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one technique that would put a website at the top of the rankings? Of course it would be great, but it is just a fantasy. In truth, SEO is difficult because there is a huge number of factors that have to be considered. For example, good SEO has to take into account written content, videos, meta-tags, the way the site is coded, alternative search listings, links, reputation tracking, and much more. In other words, relying on a single SEO technique to achieve great rankings is a recipe for disaster.
Now, having said that no single technique will propel your site to the forefront of search rankings, it is also true that some techniques are more important than others. Perhaps the most important method for building a site’s reputation is backlinks. Links are connections that direct traffic from your website to another. Backlinks are connections that direct traffic from another site to your site. Backlinks are vital because search engines see them as evidence that your site is important in your industry. If popular websites with good search rankings link to your site, then Google and other companies assume that it is for good reason.
The beauty of backlinks is that the keywords and meta-tags associated with the websites that are linking to your site suddenly become associated with your site. In other words, you get a whole lot of bang for the effort you put in. Generating backlinks can be difficult though, so you need a strategy.
The best way to do generate backlinks is to produce compelling content. Content that is interesting will prompt people to link to it. In particular, sites that host similar content are likely to link to it. For instance, if you write a great article about bath products, then you are likely to have bloggers, corporate websites, and enthusiasts who deal with bath products linking to your article. The question now becomes, what makes great content?
Great content needs to be original. Derivative writing, which is to say writing that is too similar to what is already on the web, won’t be interesting. Even worse, Google’s algorithm will lower your ranking if your content isn’t original no matter how many other sites link to it. Whatever you write or create, make sure that it is different from what is already on the web.
There are two other factors, other than uniqueness, that make content great. First, content should answer a specific question. Second, content should be authoritative. When you produce content, you want to produce it with the goal of answering a very specific question. When you generate that answer, make sure that it is well sourced and based on reliable information, statistics, and evidence. When people see how much time and work went into your content to make it reliable, they’ll want to be a part of it.
Once you have unique content that answers a question in an authoritative way, you need to focus on headlines. The better your headlines are, the more likely it is that people will come to your site and stay. If you want people to link to your content, then you need to get them to stay and be engaged with what you have created to the end. Capture them with the headline and then keep them hooked until the end. When they are finished, they should want to immediately write a review about your article and link to it from their own site.
As a final note, remember to keep content short and to the point. As more and more people access the web from mobile devices, they are less and less interested in long, drawn out answers to their questions. They want easy-to-read content structured in a way such that they don’t have to keep clicking through page after page just to finish it.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this. You need to follow white hat SEO not just because it will prevent you from getting de-indexed by search engines, but because it is the right thing to do for the web. The Internet is a community and you are a part of it. Make your contribution a positive one. If you generate unique, compelling content that answers questions in an authoritative manner, then you’ll be doing your part to make the Internet an awesome place while boosting your search engine rankings at the same time.