First there was content farms and white hats. Then there were grey hat farmers - now Google has stamped down on this SEO phenomenon. Wearing a white hat is cool. If you don't really get what this means and don't care - then find yourself a good SEO! White SEO is great for small companies - it can be affordable and can support online brand building. The perception is that creative, white hat SEO is rock hard. Admittedly, if your current SEO service provider thinks that they can just throw some money as poor quality article site links or something equally lazy - then yes, white hat is the more challenging route. I liked Rand's recent blog on SEOMOZ about white hat SEO really working. It is both inspirational and directional long term taking into account the powerful evolution of digital. So Black / grey hatters - don't be scared...hunting for links organically is fun.
One pre-cursor to implementing white hat SEO is that it could take a while to kick in. Tactics like linkbait are absolute winners but with any lasting brand led SEO you aren't going to ping up 20 pages on an exact term in 2-3 weeks...so you and/or your client will need to be patient.
In this post I have broken down the tasks within some of my favourite white hat techniques to make the exercise less daunting. There are many more great white hat techniques but my intention here is to demonstrate how easy great link building can be by putting some basic project management in place. This helps me give a process to my working day - but even better - it enables me to give a better visibility of what work I am doing/have done as an SEO service provider.
1) Connect with bloggers using incentives. This could be either a judge based competition or a simple sweepstake. I favour the sweepstake route at the moment - the blogger enters by posting about a particular element of your business To confirm entry to your comp, the blogger could then contact you direct via email - or you can leverage social media to build some more online awareness. Twitter is great for this - fueling both relevant social media activity and references back to your website in question, which adds SEO benefit. So here is my blogger competition project task breakdown:
- Pick a competition theme and prize
- Set up a competition page for the blogger to link to
- Generate a target list of quality bloggers
- Email details - subject title, sender & main body
- Entry confirmation method - email, twitter, facebook
- Monitor responses, blogs and inbound links to the page
2) a. Targeted pyramid linking. Widely used in SEO, each party gets a one way link - no money involved - everyone's a winner. However, this technique is abused a bit where an SEO offers a link from a website that is irrelevant to yours and then asks for your relevant site to their core website that they are link building to. I would quantify that type of activity as grey hat - depending on the quality of the site that gives you the link. If you do some pyramid offerings like this, then offer something that is relevant to them. It could well be that you/your client runs a blog on a free software provider such as Word Press or Blogger.
2) b. Reciprocal linking. Google's Florida update was as major as the recent Panda update and pulverised many blue chips for building up huge offsite profiles with mass link exchanges. Then began the bizarre SEO economy - the world of paid links was born due to the craving to get one-way links without doing the hard work. The temptation here is to be too critical of this as a strategy, however if your website is something that doesn't naturally generate high volumes of 'votes' (I really like Matt Cutt's recent example of porn), what do you do? Look now at how sites in niches rank. Some sites have virtually no link footprint. That isn't to say that links are unimportant, far from it. However with a handful of well targeted reciprocal links with suppliers, partners or related services and you will get an improvement in search engine rankings. Furthermore, you will get a trickle of high quality traffic - a great bonus of white hat SEO offsite work.
3) Referrer programme. The 'new school' of a 'link to us' page. By having a 'Partnerships' page you can incentivise website users to talk about you on social media or link to you. I like the advanced web ranking program where you can receive their product for free by writing a long blog article with a link back - effectively they are willing to get SEOs to write sponsored posts for them...nicely targeted SEO. Quidco.com also have some nice referrer techniques that are well worth checking out. The key here is to make the act of linking to you interesting, moving away from the 'dump this script in your footer' approach. Widgets, inforgraphics and referral programmes are all great examples but adding some type of incentive will always win in terms of final results.
4) Blog Comments. Blog commenting is a common method of SEO, particularly in black hat circles. However, why shouldn't you comment regularly on blogs that is related to you/your client's website irrespective of the blog rules? Some blogs are dofollow/nofollow, some allow embedding of links - some don't...but the point is that a natural link footprint of an authority site would have a diverse range of links, one example could well be a link on a blog comment with the anchor text 'John Smith'. If there are a fair few 'John Smiths', then this shows an abundant amount of relevant commenting that is giving users exposure to your site/brand - has to be viewed by Google as good. So don't shoehorn in anything spammy and don't worry about whether the link will be nofollow or not...contribute to the page's article and demonstrate authority on the topic in question.
White hat SEO could be viewed in layman's terms as best practice online marketing. I have purposely referred to well known white hat techniques and explained the steps that I would take to try and contribute to the community that is the web!