My one-year journey as a full-time white hat SEO

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Memoirs of a former black hat seo

Coming from a black hat 🎩 SEO background  I am pretty well versed in PBN setups, pillowing, anchor text ratios, 2nd tier interlinking, and all the other stuff that Google frowns upon.  A year ago I completely shifted gears and I decided to go into a full white hat SEO mode.  This is my journey and what I learned from it.

Giving white hat a spin

Giving white hat a spin

First, why did I decide to run this experiment? 

I wish I could say that I am so data-driven that I wanted to see if following Google’s guidelines to the letter provided better results.  What really happened is that some moron virtual assistant on the other side of the world forgot to renew some domain names and I lost several PBN’s overnight.  This was so frustrating that I decided needed to do something different.

I gotta tell you this wasn’t easy at all. It was like being a T-Rex 🦖 and going plant-based overnight 😩. I went to the other end of the spectrum for a full year.

The results have been incredible!  First, let’s start with listing the techniques I started using and the results.

Longer content

Longer content doesn’t necessarily mean fluff. I set out to provide the most useful, informational and practical content focusing on the users’ intent.  The only downside is that it takes longer for content to rank on the first page. So is a patience game, but the good thing is that content cements itself in a very good position on SERPs.  We even managed to outrank some government websites!

I outranked some government sites

I outranked some government sites

When I say longer content I don’t mean just following SEMrush SEO content word count suggestions, I mean way longer than that.  But it also depends on the niche market.

As a black-hat SEO (I promise, I’m not trying to rank for these keywords), I used to spin text all the time, throw a couple of backlinks on a schedule and get immediate but temporary results.  Now I don’t have to fear the next Google algorithm update.  

No Backlinking

I also have to mention that since backlinking is considered somewhat both black or white hat (grey-hat, let’s see how many times I mention the word hat), I haven’t used a single backlink in my SEO process.  Yes, you read that right, not backlink profile, no outreach, nothing, zero, nada.

I recently attended SMX East in New York City and met a lot of really cool people.  I also heard the phrase backlink profile several times. I think I even avoided link building vendors on purpose. My right eye twitched every time someone mentioned backlinking.  I almost got withdrawal symptoms. 

When someone says link building

When someone says link building

But you know what?  One of the reasons I went from believing backlinking was the number 1 ranking factor to not have to use them at all is because most of the content I’ve produced in the last year is ranking on the first page of results.  Not only that but 11-15% of the content is getting a brand new rich snippet or grabbing it from competitors.

My getting a rich snippet dance

My getting a rich snippet dance

Planning Content based on Intent

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

As a black-hat SEO a lot of times I was spinning text to meet word counts and primary keyword density, I know, I know.  But as a white-hat SEO things get a bit more complicated than that.  You have to plan not only for levels of user awareness but also for intent.  Site structuring is not the same! 

Consumers at the top of the sales funnel don’t want to see a salesy pitch, they still don’t know they have a need! They are there to learn, not to buy!  And readers at the bottom of the sales journey don’t want to “learn more” about your product or service, they are ready to buy!  Give them a clear call to action (CTA) for crying out loud!

In conclusion

All in all, I think I’m a better well-rounded SEO because of what I learned this year and from my original background.  I know what it feels like to be worried monitoring algorithm updates, and also to have the peace of mind of knowing what works and what doesn’t.

One thing is what most SEOs do, another one is what Google tells us to do and a different one is what really works.

Google doesn’t want us to game the system and I agree, we don’t want spammy content when we search for an answer.  Now I know is not only about the traffic or  the volume, but about the quality of the traffic.  We want to attract the correct customer to the right page and provide the best information available that will help them to make a better decision when purchasing.  

I am an SEO with over 19 years of experience based out of Ocala, FL. My mission is to help businesses increase their online revenue through high-performing digital marketing strategies.