White hat SEO is the most ethical form of search optimization. Any practitioner who follows the principles
of white hat SEO will engage only in the ethical, long-term optimization of both their own sites and those
of their clients.
When you adopt a white hat SEO philosophy, the methods you’ll employ will follow the guidelines set out
by the search engines. The fundamentals of white hat SEO involve:
■ conducting thorough keyword research and targeting
■ creating high-quality, unique content
■ improving internal linking and site structure
■ building links from relevant, quality sites
“Well,” you might be thinking, “that sounds easy enough!” Sadly, it isn’t. Each element of a white hat
campaign is a time-consuming, grueling test of endurance played out over months or even years.
Time is measured a little differently in the world of SEO than it is in the email marketing or PPC universes,
both of which allow you to quickly test, enhance, and deliver campaign results. These tools are like Formula
One cars—quick off the starting blocks, expensive to run, and highly tuned.
Ethical SEO campaigns require months of effort, quite often producing little results. Think of white hat
SEO as being like an oil tanker: it takes a lot of energy to get moving, but once it’s moving, it’s highly efficient
and carries a lot of momentum.
What you need to learn to do from the outset of your SEO career is to think long term. You need to understand that the return on investment (or ROI) of an SEO campaign will almost always be negative for the first few months. There’s no shortcut to profitability. Without a long-term view of any project—and without setting a client’s expectations accordingly—you’ll be doomed to failure.
Now that you understand these challenges, it is time to discuss the big advantages of adopting the white
hat SEO approach.
The long-term benefits start with peace of mind: you’ll know that now, and in the future, you and your
clients will avoid the penalties that are applied to sites that breach ethical guidelines. These penalties can
be severe—in some cases, all evidence of a site is removed from the search results! At the very least, the
relevance of the site is reduced, so it loses ranking position and, ultimately, traffic.
Discriminating between ethical and unethical techniques is relatively simple. Just ask yourself, “Does this
optimization improve users’ experience or understanding of my website, or am I simply doing it for an SEO
benefit?” Let common sense—and the user experience—prevail in every SEO decision you make, and
chances are you’ll stay within the realm of white hat SEO.