What are the different SEO techniques?
When it comes to SEO, there are different techniques that you can adopt for your SEO strategy. Some approaches will give you long-term returns with low risks, and some techniques yield short-term results with high risks.
In this post, I will talk about the 3 different SEO techniques and the definition of each approach.
It is important to know the different techniques that SEOs use and choose one that you deem best. First, let’s establish what are the 3 different SEO techniques:
- White Hat SEO
- Black Hat SEO
- Grey Hat SEO
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO is the most recommended technique for beginners and experts alike to choose from as there are low risks involved, and the results you see will bring in much higher returns than other SEO techniques.
White hat SEO is a technique that is in line with the guidelines of major search engines such as Google. In its simplest form, the definition of white hat SEO can simply be techniques that are approved by Google.
White Hat SEO Examples
Some examples of white hat SEO are listed below:
- Quality Content Marketing
- Keyword Research
- Good Backlinks for SEO
- User experience
Quality Content Marketing
Hubspot reported that 77% of businesses put content marketing as their top focus, followed by search engine optimisation. This means that if you are the few to not put content marketing as your priority, you will lose out to many of your competitors in the industry.
It can also be safely said that content marketing and search engine optimisation go hand-in-hand and should not be forgone by any business’ digital marketing strategy.
Churning out quality content by the dozens is the way to excel in content marketing. This is because the Google Panda algorithm update knocked out sites with poor quality or duplicate content in 2011.
If you’ve read my previous post on the different SEO elements, you would have realised that I talked about writing good and relevant content. Talk to most SEOs and they will tell you that quality and unique content is one aspect that any beginner or small business should not forgo.
In my previous post, I also talked about the importance of keyword research in SEO. If you’re just starting with SEO for a small business or you’re just freelancing, keep in mind to include and conduct proper keyword research in your strategy.
Google uses Latent Semantic Index (LSI), which means that they factor in related keywords to the search query based on the context and intent of the search.
As semantic search gets adopted by most major search engines, keyword stuffing is no longer an effective way to get your articles ranked on Google.
Therefore, as part of your keyword research analysis, you will need to look for other keywords that Google or other major search engines consider having a similar meaning to the main keywords that you are trying to get indexed for.
Good backlinks for SEO
Yes, there are good and bad backlinks for SEO. Good backlinks are those that are created naturally or are high-quality backlinks that you manually create.
Natural backlinks only happen if your content is considered of good quality and those linking to you regard you as an authoritative source. Think of citations, that’s a natural backlink!
Manual backlinks, on the other hand, are those that you create by yourself through outreach with various people in the industry. Here are some examples of good manual backlinks:
- Guest blogging
- Roundup posts
Guest blogging is one of the most common ways to manually create backlinks. As the name suggests, you write a blog post as a guest for another website, and if the other party agrees, you can post it on their website that includes a link back to you.
If you are able to interview someone known in the industry, do it. This is a great way to improve your authority and increase your presence in the industry.
People are usually willing to be interviewed because the conversation gravitates around them. I mean, who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
This helps you get a good backlink as they will be more willing to share the interview on their social media or even their own websites!
Roundup posts are basically gathering opinions from various experts in the industries for a certain question, and then compiling them into one article.
This helps you with your authoritativeness as you have gathered feedback from well-known figures in your industry, and they are likely to share it around as well.
Google has been prioritising user experience lately and it makes sense for them to do that as they want people to continue using their platform. By focusing on user experiences such as having a nicely designed website, fast loading times, mobile responsive website, and even easy navigation for users, you are actually practising white hat SEO.
Google tracks what their users do on your website, and if they immediately leave your website after clicking on it, it tells Google that your website has a poor user experience and they should give the top position to your competitors.
Don’t risk losing potential traffic to your competition when these are simple things that you can do to retain your rankings!
If you want to know more about improving user experience, I cover it here under the technical SEO aspect of this post.
Though this is not a conclusive list, I consider it the foundation of SEO and recommend you work on this first.
Advantages of White Hat SEO
As you can tell, white hat SEO requires a lot of work on your part to create high-quality content and backlinks. That is the reason why this technique falls under all the major search engine guidelines and are well-liked by them.
Because these methods are recommended by them, you will find yourself avoiding penalties that will negatively affect your search rankings. Other benefits you may find are:
1. Healthy sustainable website rankings
Your website will not only increase in rankings, but if you adopt white hat SEO, chances are you will be on Google’s good side. This helps you secure top positions in the search engine results page (SERPs) which is a much logical long-term strategy.
2. Protects your reputation
Imagine if your loyal customers frequently look you up through Google, only to find that one day they can’t find you.
If they were to decide to find out why you were gone missing or the information that you were using unethical practices to rank on Google, what would that speak about your business?
If you could do this just to get high rankings on Google, your customers would also think that you might be doing shady things in your core business.
3. Lower costs, better ROI
If you were to continuously put out amazing content, you will realise that Google will slowly push your pages up to the first page. Without getting penalised and risk putting in all the effort again just to recover from an algorithm update, white hat SEO puts you into an ease of mind, allowing your efforts to get better returns from your costs.
Disadvantages of White Hat SEO
Not an immediate ROI
Honestly, I don’t think that there are many disadvantages of white hat SEO. It is a long-term strategy that will help you bring in consistent traffic to your website. The only drawback of white hat SEO that small businesses consider is that it does not bring you an immediate return on investments.
Most small businesses want or need an immediate return just to survive, that’s why they think that white hat SEO is not for them.
In fact, this is exactly what they need to build up their reputation in the industry and for a continuous supply of leads and sales in the long term.
If small business owners are able to spare an hour a day to write quality content and post it on their website once a week, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term disadvantages.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is another method that you can choose to adopt for your search engine optimisation strategy.
This strategy involves the manipulation of Google’s guidelines seeking to game search engine algorithms. Through the use of questionable techniques such as unnaturally building backlinks, keyword stuffing, and article spinning, this method has been proven to quickly push your website up the SERPs.
However, many black hat SEOs have managed to properly construct a system where it is difficult to detect the use of these methods (at least not yet).
Some even say that black hat SEOs are actually more knowledgeable than white hat practitioners because they know how to game the system.
With a proper understanding of how search engines work, there is a possibility that you might be able to create an ecosystem that will avoid being detected by major search engines.
Just hope a new algorithm update doesn’t figure it out and hit you with it!
Here are some Black Hat SEO Examples
The list below shows the most common methods of black hat SEO, but is not meant to be exhaustive.
- Private Blog Networks (PBN)
- Keyword Stuffing
- Article Spinning
- Blog Comments Spam
- Hidden Text and Links
- Copied and Thin Content
Private Blog Networks (PBN)
PBN is a network of high authority websites that someone or a group of people have control over. These websites are usually used to link back to their money-making websites to boost their website authority, and also climb in the page ranks.
PBNs are a great way to boost your backlink profile and have been proven to work. However, as of all black hat SEO techniques, has a high risk of getting your website penalised by Google.
These blog networks are usually interlinked with each other to boost their own authority, and then used to link back to the money-making site to increase it even further.
This method is definitely easier to do when compared to naturally building backlinks, as you have full control over the network, but the setup costs can be high due to the need of purchasing domains, hosting, and other stuff just to set up not one, but multiple sites!
Google defines keyword stuffing as
“Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose).”
This used to be common practice back then as it tells the Google crawlers what your page about, but it has been abused in a way that some webmasters use it to trick Google to rank your page for that keyword.
That’s why Google updated its algorithm to search for LSI keywords instead and penalise or devalue websites whose content contain keyword stuffing.
Article spinning is an interesting concept to me as what it does is uses artificial intelligence to rewrite your article to make it an “original” piece of content. This is done by replacing certain words in your article with synonyms and restructuring it to prevent duplicate content.
This may seem like a great idea, but the caveat is that most of the available tools to spin your articles are not that intelligent after all. It lacks proper sentence structure, grammar, and the personal touch to make it readable. Sometimes it may not even make sense!
This is meant to trick the Google crawlers to show them that you have long-form content and are posting regularly.
However, when visitors visit your website and find it unreadable, they would definitely click away and visit other websites! Now won’t that tell Google something about the poor user experience you’re giving off?
Blog Comments Spam
If you see at the end of blog posts, there is a comment section for where someone can link their site to. These are considered user-generated content (UGC) and are one of the lowest forms of links there is.
SEOs use the comments section to gain backlink in the masses that add no value to the original post or are merely commenting unnecessarily to get backlinks to their site.
This is not only bad for those who are receiving the links, but also bad for the website owners due to the spammy nature of these comments.
That’s why you should always remember to mark your UGC links with a nofollow tag, and moderate them carefully.
Hidden Texts and Links
Hidden texts and links are also frowned upon by Google and are a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. There are many ways to hide texts and links from users.
Such methods are using a font colour that is the same as the background, changing your font size to 0, or hiding the text behind an image.
These are meant for only search engine crawlers to find to rank higher on search engines and not for the users of your site, which is not what a user-centric business like Google wants.
Copied and Thin Content
Copied content could either mean content that has been copied wholesale from another website, or content that has been copied and tweaked a little without adding extra value for users.
Thin content, on the other hand, is content that has little to no value to the user. Pages on your website that have little to no content could be considered as thin content, and risk devaluing your whole site!
Both of these signals to Google that your content is plagiarised and of low quality.
Therefore, it is always important to take time and write an article that is not only original, but also helpful to your website visitors.
Just churning out low-quality content for the sake of ranking on the SERPs just pollutes the search engines and risks yourself getting penalised.
Advantages of Black Hat SEO
One undeniable fact about black hat SEO is that will definitely rank your pages for the keywords that you want FAST.
If Christmas is coming and you need to leverage on the holiday sales, no white hat SEO practitioner would take you as their client simply because it will take much longer to rank for those keywords.
But a black hat practitioner would definitely be able to get it done by Christmas! With all the techniques stated above, black hat SEOs can easily get you ranked there fast.
Well, the term easy should come with a pinch of salt. If you decide to outsource your SEO to agencies or freelancers using this tactic, it is fairly easy as they will do all the work for you.
These agencies usually have multiple networks of PBNs they can use to manipulate your rankings quickly.
However, if you are doing everything from scratch, you have to learn the ins and outs of how search engines work to properly understand how to manipulate them.
From purchasing high-ranking expired domains, setting up your websites, and increasing the authority of it can be a daunting task if you have no idea how to.
Disadvantages of Black Hat SEO
Not for long term strategies
Black Hat SEO is disadvantageous as it hurts your traffic in the long run.
It is meant to manipulate search engines and is continually at risk of the search engine’s algorithm updates. Moz reported that in 2018 itself, there are over 3000 updates from Google itself.
This technique though could be profitable, puts you in a constant state of worry that at any point of time, your website might get hit by a penalty that will put your business to a standstill for a long long time.
Undermines your credibility
If you are ever caught utilising these tactics, you risk your credibility being undermined by your customers. Once news leak that you are utilising unethical ways to get ranked on Google, imagine what your customers will think of your own core business?
What is Grey Hat SEO?
Grey hat SEO as you could probably tell are techniques that involve a mixture of both white and black hat SEO. This method is slightly riskier but also ranks your page faster than purely through white hat techniques.
Sometimes, it’s not only just using a mixture of both strategies. Incorporating black hat tactics into white hat tactics are also a common practice amongst SEOs these days.
As long as it does not follow Google’s guidelines entirely, and it does not enter the black hat zone, you might be able to get on the first page of Google quickly – all until Google decides to change its algorithm.
Now, I know that this probably sounds a little bit confusing as some of you might be interested in purely white hat SEO and don’t want to risk getting blacklisted, so I will explain with examples below.
Grey Hat SEO Examples
WHAT? Didn’t you say article spinning was a black hat technique?
Yes I did, but only if you do it wholesale. Some premium article spinning tools out there actually produces legible spun articles.
If you take these articles and make it more readable, provide more value, add some personal touch to it, you might just pass off a new original piece of content!
It will definitely be hard to identify the usage of spun articles this way but not entirely impossible. It really depends on how smart Google gets.
Disclaimer: I don’t use black hat techniques and have never spun any of my articles before, so don’t take my word for it 100%.
Yup, there are good backlinks, there are bad backlinks, and there are questionable backlinks that tread in-between these 2.
Google wants backlinks to be built naturally, and some backlink building methods fall in the grey zone. Putting your website on online directories though not against the guidelines, but falls under the questionable zone.
PBNs can also be considered grey hat SEO if the websites you own are related to the actual site and each site is adopting white hat SEO techniques.
A collaboration between a group of bloggers in the industry could also fall under this group as all the backlinks generated are not manual.
Grey Hat SEO Advantages
I think it’s pretty obvious enough here, it definitely much faster to get ranked on Google using grey hat SEO techniques. You get ahead of your competition using these tactics but also without risking too much yourself!
The increase in traffic from industry bloggers can help boost your SEO and raises brand awareness for yourself, increasing the number of leads you might have. The sites you own also provides more channels for you to monetise from.
Grey Hat SEO Disadvantages
Similar to black hat SEO, you are constantly at risk of being affected by an algorithm update, albeit at a much lower rate.
This will cause you to have constant worries and it puts your business at the mercy of Google.
Another disadvantage is that it will cost you a lot of time and money. Running multiple sites at once, creating unique content for each, and building backlinks for each site can be an uphill job.
If you’re focused entirely on one site, you can create better quality content and backlinks for the site itself.
Difference between Black Hat SEO, White Hat SEO, and Grey Hat SEO
The difference between these 3 techniques is definitely the amount of work needed to put in, the amount of risk, and the costs involved.
White hat SEO follows Google’s webmaster guidelines entirely, grey hat SEO treads between the dos and don’ts, while black hat SEO seeks to manipulate the guidelines to your advantage.
Firstly, I would like to say that none of these tactics are actually good or bad, it’s merely the differences in techniques that you choose to approach your SEO with.
Depending on the level of risks that you are willing to take, there is a technique that will suit you most.
You’ll need to know what your business model is. If your business is only for the short term for you to monetise a fad, then black hat SEO could be a great choice for you.
If you are in it for the long term, white hat or grey hat SEO could be a technique that you would like to consider. Of course, if you decide to choose the latter, at least you now know what are the risks that you are putting your business under.
When looking for SEO services in Singapore, be it a consultant or an agency, do make sure to ask them for the techniques they’re using. This way, you’ll always make an informed choice.
What method are you planning to use?