There were two kinds of gunslingers in Western cinema.

Your black hats were typically the villains: unscrupulous, self-interested to an illegal and immoral extreme, usually played by someone like Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, or Lee J. Cobb (if 20th century America has taught us anything, it’s that you should never trust a Lee).

Your white hats were typically the good guys: they shone brightly, they set a good example, and they were usually played by John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart.

In the modern-day great plains of the Google search rankings, these archetypes have re-emerged. If we all lived in a perfect world, we wouldn’t call it “white hat SEO”. We’d just call it “SEO”. Alas, this is not a perfect world. There is the good way to do SEO, and there is the bad way.

A fistful of keywords

In order to establish how to do white hat SEO, we must first define it in opposition to black hat techniques – used by the foulest and most depraved outlaws across the entire search landscape.

The purpose of a search engine is to make relevant content easier for users to find. It’s Google’s mission, and it was the mission of AskJeeves and AltaVista before it. Black hat SEOs artificially inflate their clients’ sites and pages using forbidden (or highly frowned-upon) SEO techniques. They’ll pay for links (absolutely forbidden by Google). They’ll insert keywords in irrelevant places and way too many times (also clearly specified as bad practice by Google’s own search team). They’ll wait for a page to get indexed, and then swap it out for a totally different page.

Black hat SEO techniques sometimes get short-term results, but Google – a particularly vigilant sheriff – always wises up to it, and updates its algorithm to actively punish these methods. If you want to improve your long-term rankings, it’s time to don the white hat.

For a few keywords more

If you want to know how to do white hat SEO, it’s simple: create great content for a human audience. Accumulate followed links by providing comments or writing articles for other sites. Produce great content, promote it to the right audience and it’ll naturally attract links. These techniques sound straightforward but to do well takes creativity, excellent copywriting and design skills and an astute, well-connected, media relations team. A good B2B SEO agency should be able to help you with all these things.

A good rule of thumb is this: if it feels like you’re getting away with something, it’s not white hat SEO. Don’t try to be clever, even if you are: Google sees all, knows all, and punishes without mercy or remorse: if, by some miracle, you do get past it, it won’t be for long.

Because just like in those old Western movies, the white hats tend to ride off into the sunset – while the black hats usually get shot and left for dead.

Want to discuss how to do white hat SEO further? Contact our director, Luke.