The Blatantly Obvious Guide to White Hat SEO Tactics

Something Something White Hat Tactics

I was originally going to call this article How to do White Hat SEO in 3 Easy Steps or 3 Powerful White Hat SEO Tactics some similar lame click-baity thing, and while this is going to be a list of “white hat” things you can do right now, I hope to make it blatantly obvious that I believe the term “white hat SEO” is actually slick marketing speak for something much, much simpler.

Thus, we have the Blatantly Obvious Guide to White Hat SEO Tactics.

First, though, a little primer on the terminology, which will also sort of serve as a fast-and-loose thesis for this article.

How do you do white hat SEO? And why do you need a hat?

I’m going to jump right out and say it. “White hat SEO” isn’t some magic power, it’s good marketing. Two critical components of good marketing are research and targeting. We’re going to be doing that online. Lucky for us, Google makes the research part really simple. I’m going to make liberal use of quotation marks and boldface type for dramatic effect.

I want you to stop thinking about keywords as “key-words”, or some kind of abstract idea that’s a “component of SEO.” I want you to think about what keywords really are.

Keywords are questions that people are asking. So answer them.

Google isn’t ranking “content” for “keywords”. Google is giving answers for questions. It’s Google’s purpose to give the best answer to any given question at any given time. Google’s algorithm has the sole purpose of finding and returning the most relevant and informative answer for a question. That’s what every update has been about. Every penalty. The knowledge graph. Google Now. It’s all been about returning the best possible answer to the question that’s asked in the search bar.

White hat vs. black hat SEO can be better expressed as answering a question vs. forcing a sales pitch where an answer should be.

Spammers HATE These 3 Simple White Hat SEO Tactics!

Don’t mind that section heading; I think clickbait titles are starting to really get to me. But seriously, here are three really cool and powerful things that you can start doing right now to help your SEO. Better still, since white hat SEO means good marketing, these things will likely do more than help your rankings and traffic stats – they’ll help your brand and business.

Tactic One: Answer the questions that no one is answering.

Well that seems obvious. But how do we find the questions that no one is answering? Oh right, Google is literally telling us all of the time, because keywords are questions that people are asking. So let’s look for keywords with high search volume and a low number of results. I’m gonna go ahead and use SEMrush for this, because SEMrush is awesome (and not just because I used to work there), but you can just as easily do this in Google’s Keyword Planner.

Let’s say that I was going to, I dunno, write an article about SEO. Because I’m an SEO business. I don’t know what to write about, so let’s go find something. I’ll pop into SEMrush, and look at the phrase match report for something really broad, like the term SEO.


Then, I’m going to sort this thing by the Results column low to high, and look for a keyword with a decent Volume and low number of results.


Wait… that first one looks an awful lot like… the title of this very article…

Try that with a topic that’s related to your stuff. Don’t think about this as keyword research, think about it more like finding writing prompts. Once you find a good one, it’s time to do the most important thing: write a good, thoughtful response that people asking the question (searching the keyword) will want to read.


Part of good marketing is aligning your business and brand with things you support and care about. It’s part of the reason we get into business in the first place. We want to make a difference in our communities and spread our values.




 April 18th, 2015. Go to this.


How to find great sponsorship opportunities? Let’s try a great Google advanced search!


I really love recommending to my clients that they dedicate a portion of their advertising budget to sponsoring causes that they love. You also really get to know your clients when you sit down and have a conversation about what they’re passionate about. When you sponsor something great, and everyone wins.

Tactic Three: Get people together offline, and they’ll follow you online.

munchkin-rulesI used to run an ecommerce business. I won’t get into too many details about it, because I sold the domain a while back, but it was selling board games and super nerdy gaming supplies. Like, SUPER NERDY. I had a warehouse, hired someone to ship stuff, backend tying inventory to shipping – the whole thing.

Board games are effing competitive online. Yet I sold $100K worth in 8 months without ever buying an Adwords ad, and while working full-time somewhere else. There were a couple things I did:

  • Every package I shipped had a really funny flier with a picture of me looking crazy, with a coupon code
  • Did the stuff I mentioned in this article
  • Used marketplaces for sales AND to drive people back to the site
  • I started a Beer & Board Games meetup group (which I still kind of run).

Check out what happened after my first Meetup. (Also ignore what happened after I started slacking on the site).

That’s just showing SEMrush’s estimated search traffic based on Google keyword rankings. What it doesn’t show you is the huge boost in referral traffic I got from doing another thing at the same time:

  • I posted my Meetup event in every local event directory I could find.


News sites, event sites, board game sites… everything I could think of. It had a pretty great effect. And you know what else? I got to get drunk and play board games with cool people. It cost about absolutely nothing, the bar was happy to have me, and people came to my website.

In summation

Good SEO is good marketing. Do that.

UPDATE 2/9/15

Told ya so:

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25 thoughts on “The Blatantly Obvious Guide to White Hat SEO Tactics

  1. according to white hat SEO is all about ranking up the site using all seo protocols( without breaking or malfunctioning the SEO genuinity , but I’d like to go with @SEAN MALSEED, especially the kick-start line “stop thinking about keywords as “key-words”, or some kind of abstract idea that’s a “component of SEO.” I want you to think about what keywords really are” which still works in all SEO ethics.

  2. Digital marketing companies like Adit firmly believe in using only White Hat SEO tactics. In the long run, doing SEO the right way will pay off better anyway.

  3. Nice I was expecting some stuff about broken link building and guest posting… I’m glad I found some unique techiniques to add to my list of things to do… oh and I still use the ranktank position tracker sometimes 🙂

  4. I’d replace No. 3 with “Word-of-Mouth WORKS”. Not only can you do more advertising with less investment, but your resulting customer base will be more loyal.

    Yeah, this article seems way more about marketing than SEO. Still good, though, and because marketing doesn’t change with the cycle of the moon like SEO, it’s still viable info!

  5. nice sean! i like how you showed the sem rush research part of getting your title. i don’t yet have that tool but really want it next. i agree 1000% on this article. white hat is honest and it’s also understanding what google wants. we don’t do any tricks or short cuts although our clients would argue we’re doing magic. nice to see content from knowledgeable folks. thanks!

  6. Both tools are useful if used properly. Adwords is a great tool with branding and new products. SEO is more like a long term strategy. To test conversions, adwords is very useful and comes in handy while seo targets are not yet reached. It is costly but you get what you pay for. I agree too that seo – if it works could be the winner in the long run.

  7. White hat techniques works but it will take some days. Many don’t understand that and they use blackhat and ruin their site/blog. i am confusing many big seo companies are still using black hat software and techniques, is it safe for those clients who wants quick results?

  8. Black hat SEO has no place now in the current link building campaigns. Google’s major updates marked the death (or impending death) of black hat SEO methods so to win the SERPs, going all-white hat is your best and only option.

    • This comment is NOW (Sept 2016) even more relevant than when it was first written.

      With the new updates with Google algorithm, value and relevance are becoming the number one thing focus one when it comes to SEO, if you get these two factors correct – you can rank anything… (time and resources dependent of course)

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