8 White Hat Strategies for Combating Search Engine Bias

8 White Hat Strategies for Combating Search Engine Bias

While you may view search engines as a neutral tool for querying, in actuality, search engines are created by company-affiliated individuals and operate much like any product. They’re designed to satisfy the consumer and financially benefit the producer.

Although this realistic view of search engine intent shouldn’t necessarily raise any red flags, what might concern you is how search engines serve up results.

Google, in particular, intervenes algorithmically to remove spam results that the search engine believes are useless to the consumer. While it is arguable that less spam is a good and welcome thing, what happens if Google deems your site spam?

In addition to the removal of spam, Google is a habitual booster of massive corporations such as Amazon and Facebook. The rationale for boosting larger sites is not particularly nuanced.

Big names can outperform small companies when it comes to SEO, and they typically offer a wider selection of items that can satisfy the consumer. With that said, this Google bias can underserve your site by burying it under offerings from big names.

In the world of Google bias, you need to understand how the deck is stacked against small businesses and actively work to ensure your site performs to the best of its ability.

How Are Search Engines Biased?

When you encounter the word “bias,” you might associate it with nefarious connotations.

Although there have been claims that Google bias slants search results against particular political leanings, when it comes to search engines, Google bias overall tends to trend more toward erring too heavily on the perceived wants of their audience.

Google search algorithms are based on a slew of information, including the phrasing of your query, the reliability of sources, the relevance of pages, and countless other factors. Even your location and settings can help Google discover the most relevant information for your search.

It stands to reason that the aggregation of this information lends itself toward suggesting sources that try to match and satisfy past behavior, as well as other defining indicators.

In addition to these algorithms, Google bias can be impacted by domain authority (DA), a ranking metric that indicates both your site’s success in ranking on search engines, as well as your site’s perceived expertise surrounding a specific topic.

DA is measured by various factors, including inbound links, which are vitally important to score calculation. With an increased amount of inbound links from other relevant domains comes an increased DA score, in most cases.

The Effect of Search Engine Bias on Businesses

Unfortunately, bias (whether helpful or not) can significantly impact small businesses that have few inbound links and sparse content. For big organizations with equally big wallets, constant content creation can earn inbound links and score a high DA score, helping them land top positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Collectively, the above factors can severely limit your site’s search result visibility. Not only are you competing against big brand names, but you’re also losing SERP traction if you’re not actively recruiting inbound links and establishing expertise.

There is also a chance your DA will decrease when a massively popular site (think Twitter) gains a large number of inbound links, deflating your search rank and lowering your overall DA score.

For sites as large as Twitter or Amazon, there’s not much a small business can do to compete with the sheer number of inbound links and resulting high DA. However, you can aim to earn a higher score than your competitors by employing white hat strategies to combat Google bias.

Ethical Strategies for Combating Search Engine Biases

While the above may seem daunting for small-to-medium business owners looking to grab some top-SERP terrain, you can use several strategies to help you compete for those rankings.

By incorporating the following four approaches into your digital strategy, you can compete in the battle for search visibility.

Focus on a Single Subject

While it’s clear that Google bias means delivering results from big-name sites, the algorithm is also partial to sites that focus on a single subject in depth.

This strategy not only helps you earn points in Google’s algorithm, but it also helps you establish yourself as an industry expert in your field.

Instead of creating a range of content, focus on a single topic that satisfies every component of the buyer’s journey and build out a content map from there.

This task might seem overwhelming due to the sheer amount of potential content, so here are three places to start:

  • Content that educates on early-journey topics
  • Content that highlights your point of view on your topic
  • Content that explains industry perspectives on the topic

Build Site Relevance

When we talk about search engines, the word “relevance” references how much a site’s content correlates to the active search term.

Much like DA, relevance is vitally important in determining where your site lands on the SERPs for a specific query.

To improve your site relevance score, you should determine intent around user search and create a content strategy to match those queries.

Also, make sure you are relevant to user queries by having the most up-to-date business information on your site and local search profiles.

Earn Inbound Links

Inbound links (or backlinks) are links coming to your site from an external source. This type of link does a great amount of work to improve your site’s perceived expertise. If another site is linking to your content as a point of clarification or for additional information, you’re clearly an expert in the field.

While this all sounds wonderful, how do you earn those inbound links? With many strategies available for the savvy marketer, below are our top five white hat steps for success that can help you grow your number of inbound links and reduce Google bias.

Score Inbound Links

When you write good content, good things may happen.

Editorial inbound links are the holy grail of link building: they’re free and they’re lasting.

Next time you’re crafting content, consider the true value of the piece and assess how your audience will use it.

If it’s helpful to your industry and includes a how-to, chances are it can earn you at least one inbound editorial link. It’s just because you wrote great content.

Craft Useful Infographics

Infographics are great tools. They allow rapid dissemination of information without a lot of reading.

When you create infographics on topics relevant to your industry, it can exponentially increase the likelihood that another content marketer sees your graphic and links to it in their next blog post.

Give What You Get

Although we’re talking about inbound linking, we can’t discount the power of outbound linking. By linking out to other members in your industry, you grow your community.

Not only that, but you also increase the likelihood that the goodwill outbound linking will return the favor in the form of inbound linking.

Create Unique Content

Notice missing content about your specific industry? Chances are, you’re not the first to notice content holes.

When you encounter missing content, you should prioritize taking advantage of the hole and filling in the gaps in information.

This strategy not only benefits your site by further establishing you as an expert in the field, but it also creates opportunities for others in your industry to link to your content, earning you even more inbound links.

Aid a Journalist in Need

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a service that connects journalists with potential sources. Three times a day, HARO sends emails that share topic areas and specific questions journalists are hoping to be answered, like the one in the image below:

When you share responses to these questions, journalists typically indicate your role as the source, linking back to your site and scoring you additional inbound links.

Create Long-Form Content

If you’re not writing long-form content, tomorrow is the day to start.

Long-form content can gain you more online visibility in the measure of likes and shares, an opportunity to engage more with your community, and serve as a clear indicator of industry expertise.

How does long-form content help you combat Google bias?

A serpIQ study found the best-performing content usually tallied over 2,000 words.

Research conducted by Brian Dean underlines the finding that long-form content is much more valuable to users than its shorter counterpart in many cases.

Now that we know long-form content performs better, how can it eliminate Google bias and help make your site more visible to future consumers?

Below are the top two reasons why long-form content can help your site emerge from the shadows of big brands.

Authority

We talked about the importance of establishing expertise in all content development, and this tenet is nowhere more true than in long-form content.

When you create extensive guides, blog posts, white papers, books, and other deep content dives, you not only establish yourself as an expert among your peers, but you also begin to establish yourself as an expert to search engines.

This can give your content and your site a much greater chance of being seen by an unindoctrinated searcher and overcoming existing Google bias.

SEO

When you create long-form content, you have nearly endless opportunities to use keywords to your advantage.

In shorter content, deploying multiple keywords may present a challenge, but with high word counts come more opportunities for you to make your keywords do as much work as possible.

When you start winning on some of your identified keywords, your site can begin to climb in SERP rankings, making you more visible to searchers, providing an edge over your competitors, and removing existing Google bias.

Conclusion

While it is inarguable that Google bias exists, it’s important to remember Google bias isn’t inherently bad, and it doesn’t mean small businesses are incapable of overcoming search barriers.

By incorporating these elements into your digital strategy, you can begin to surmount Google bias and start increasing your site’s rank on the SERPs.

As you implement these strategies, keep customer intent in mind and remember not to create content for content’s sake. Like most things, when it comes to content strategy, quality prevails over quantity.

Which white hat strategy have you found most effective to use against Google bias?

White hat affiliate marketing 101

White hat affiliate marketing 101

Affiliate marketing strategies come in many shapes. Choosing your approach to traffic is one of the crucial steps in establishing your methods and the course of your campaigns. Many beginner affiliates choose to join a white hat performance marketing network. But, what does this mean exactly? Affie is here to introduce you to their inner workings in our white hat affiliate marketing 101 course.

White hat affiliate marketing 101: White Hat Offers

Choosing white hat offers means deciding to always follow the rules when it comes to traffic. To put it simply – you are following the laws of your country and the terms of service of your network and all other parties involved in the process. Transparency and legality are some of the most important reasons to join a white hat performance network.

Illustration of a man sitting on a pile of coins.
You’ll be sure you are in the clear!

Traffic monetization using exclusively white hat methods may seem slow and tedious, but you can rest assured you won‘t face any legal problems. Additionally, choosing not to cut corners is more efficient in the long run, as you will be able to use all the benefits of working with a traffic source instead of against it. In other words, whitehat methods mean

  • higher potential pay
  • better search engine ranking
  • more conversions

White Hat Vs. Black Hat Performance Marketing

On the other hand, you can choose a black hat strategy and go against laws, policies and terms of service. To put it differently, using black hat methods means scamming people and lying to them to get their money. The most extreme cases of black hat marketing include lying about the product, phishing, or not delivering the product or service after the customers pay for it. Basically, going black hat means knowing what to avoid in order to get a chance to work with advertisers directly and going against it for profit.

It doesn‘t take a genius to realize why so many wannabe affiliates turn to black hat methods. Scamming doesn‘t take a lot of effort or investing a lot of money. If a person‘s morals aren‘t stopping them from being fraudulent, it is the obvious choice. Especially so if you compare it to hardworking affiliates who invest a lot of effort and constantly work on improving their campaigns.

Illustration of a man hitting centre of a large dart board.
Using black hat methods can look enticing!

Now we have to wonder – why aren‘t most people using black hat methods? Besides the obvious moral hurdles, the biggest disadvantage of blackhat affiliate marketing strategies is obviously the possibility of legal consequences. These can vary depending on the severity of your methods.

Another thing to look out for is your reputation. The vast majority of black hat offers can only last for a short period of time. Even if they turn out to be profitable, they aren‘t sustainable, and affiliates who chose them have to move on to another venture. This cycle repeats itself constantly, and those affiliates get a terrible reputation. Hence, they either have to quit or have many backup plans, which means investing more money. Finally, even if they do have the means to do so, their bad reputation will follow them. Thus, fewer and fewer people will fall for their scams.

What Affiliate Marketing Campaigns Can You Run Whitehat?

As you can see, even though white hat offers take more time and effort, getting your start in affiliate marketing the right way gives you more chances to start an actually successful and respected business and see it through.

Another great thing about choosing white hat tactics is that you will be able to implement them in almost every vertical. As long as you know the right way to use web analytics and similar tools, that is. Here are some of 2020‘s most lucrative verticals. You can make a significant amount of money while playing by the rules with them.

Illustration of a woman receiving a pile of coins from a computer screen.
Here’s where you can make money with white hat methods!

Gaming is mostly white hat. It also allows highly immersive and entertaining ads that showcase exactly how the game works. This makes both following the rules and creating a successful ad a lot easier.

Dating campaigns can use both white and black hat tactics. Still, as the vertical is always relevant and has something to offer no matter your target audience, it isn‘t hard to profit while being honest and refraining from overly aggressive marketing.

Lead generation is a great opportunity to profit and collaborate with different companies. Branching out and partaking in affiliate programs by drawing more customers to them can bring you a lot of money while following the rules.

Case Study: How Shopify Uses White Hat SEO Tactics To Get Customers

Case Study: How Shopify Uses White Hat SEO Tactics To Get Customers

Have you had the chance to look at the backlinks for #1 ranked content pages across diverse industries? Well, it’s easier said than done. It’s a lot of hard work.

However, we chose eCommerce and decided to check thousands of links that point to Shopify (the blog).

Here’s what we found:

What we found amazed us. We weren’t looking at these backlinks per se, but at the patterns, the correlations, and essentially, we wanted to know why Shopify ranks #1 for several eCommerce-related keywords.

Going a step further, we uncovered the importance of content and why your choice of a particular content format matters.

For example, for any given keyword, I might write a “how to” post while you write a “case study” post. Given that your domain authority and mine are exactly the same and let’s assume we get the same amount of social shares, truth is, our rankings will vary.

My hope is that after reading this case study, you’ll properly align your SEO tactics and focus more on whitehat – instead of wearing a black or gray hat.

But before we get into the Shopify’s whitehat SEO tactics, let’s get the basics out of the way.

What is white hat SEO?

It simply refers to any practice that improves your search visibility on a search engine’s organic listings page and makes the users happy. In other words, white hat SEO is aimed at obeying search engines guidelines. It puts the users first.

Be it link building, content creation, on-page optimization, and more, you’ve made a choice to do it legitimately — instead of trying to manipulate search results.

Let’s bring it home: For most people who do SEO, the major concern is to improve their rankings. But that may not be the goal of any website that chooses white hat tactics.

For example, Shopify’s search approach isn’t necessarily to boost search rankings. But rather, they create content to help the users have a proper understanding of ecommerce in general, and running a profitable online store business, to be specific.

Similarly, any practice that’s aimed at inducing search rankings isn’t white hat. It must be another type of hat, and I’m sure Google doesn’t like it.

An overview of Shopify’s SEO tactics

More than 350,000 businesses use Shopify to power their online stores. How do you think Shopify acquires these customers? Is there a secret to their SEO strategy?

Well, it’s not really a secret, except you don’t know it. But we do because we invested 29 hours of our time to study their strategy.

When using SEMRush, the first thing we notice is that Shopify currently ranks for more than 717,000 keywords in the organic search in the US:

But in the Uk, the number of keywords that brings organic traffic is about 70,000.

Why am I showing you these results?

Well, there are two reasons;

  1. First, Shopify has more users in the US than Uk. Obviously, there are more users who share their content and link to them in the US.
  2. Second, you have the opportunity to dominate some of the keywords that Shopify isn’t ranking for in the Uk if you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur. But even if you’re not, you can see patterns that your competitors are using and loopholes to exploit.

Moving on, let’s see the internal structure at Shopify.

Internal page linking

Of course, there are several factors that contribute to a sustainable ranking in Google but internal linking is pivotal.

During our analysis, we noticed that for every post that Shopify publishes on its blog, there’s a minimum of 7 internal links (these are links that points to internal pages; articles that were previously published on the site).

This screenshot is only a section of Shopify’s post. Can you see the seven internal links?

I’m sure you’re used to internal linking. But are you aware of its impact on search performance?

According to Graham Charlton from Search Engine Watch, internal links sends a clear signal to Google that this page is relevant to search users typing in that keyword.

Since an internal link is any link from one page of your domain to another page on the same domain, it becomes clear that if you’re looking to rank an older post that you published, interlinking it with new pages could improve its rankings.

And more importantly, it will help users get access to your older posts and benefit from them.

This is in line with Google’s objective: To build an interconnected web, where users can find exactly what they’re looking for in the search engine.

So from our analysis of Shopify’s white hat SEO technique, which the company may not be deliberate about, we found that internal linking helped a lot.

To make it clearer, one of the keywords that Shopify ranks #1 for in Google is “dropshipping guide.”

That particular page has 16 internal links.

It’s detailed and rich, which brings us to the next phase.

Rich and evergreen content

I don’t have an online store, neither do I promote one. But one thing I observed while analyzing Shopify’s SEO strategy is that they publish only rich and evergreen content.

In fact, when you visit their blog page, you’ll hardly see any post on generic topics. You will either see a case study, an ultimate guide, an interview, or an analysis. Take a look:

This Shopify’s dropshipping guide, for example, contains 11 chapters (i.e., pages). I think it’s the most detailed guide on this topic ever. No wonder the page ranks #1 for that high-volume keyword.

If I tell you that Google is scouring the entire web looking for rich and comprehensive content, would you argue it?

I don’t think so. When you do a search for any random keyword (as long as they’re not question-based), what you’ll see is a comprehensive content.

Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz in his whiteboard friday teachings a few months ago gave an overview of what to include in your content to make it richer and more useful for your audience.

Most importantly, Google will deem your page more relevant and invaluable to searchers who search for that keyword or related keywords.

Comprehensive content is the best way to beat your competitors and 10x your content.

When you create such a content, you’ll intimidate your competitors and cause them to only envision creating such content, but the discipline to pull a seat and do it will not be there. That’s exactly what Shopify does with each content they create.

If you want to dominate organic search results with your content, the first thing that you have to do is change your mindset about link building. Here’s how it works:

  • Create compelling content first
  • Then build/earn links to it

Most website owners do it the wrong way. They first learn all the link building strategies, but they suck at content creation.

It’s not going to work that way. You’re either going to create 10x content than your competitors that are already ranking higher in the organic listings or you’ll not see results.

How to make your content better than your competitors

a). Write irresistible headlines: Brian Clark said that 8 out of 10 people will click on your headline. Obviously, he’s not lying. But before you write your headlines, take a look at the top 10 rankings for your keyword, see what they did and then craft a better headline.

For example, here are some of the headlines in Google for the search term “influencer marketing tips”:

At a glance, you can see that the headlines are compelling. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve yours. You could make yours much more beneficial and inviting.

Here are some examples:

  • 25 Powerful Influencer Marketing Tips You Can Implement Now
  • 7 Best Influencer Marketing Tips That I Used To Grow My Startup
  • Influencer Marketing Tips: How to Connect with Influencer Quickly

These are headlines that I created without much research. If I had more time, I’d make something more compelling. But you get the point?

b). Improve your meta description: Search users read your meta description. Data from KISSmetrics proves it. In short, you should think less about SEO and more about click-throughs. Ask questions in your descriptions, and tell users to click and find out more.

c). Go in-depth: If your competitors merely touched the surface of a very important topic/subject, you’ve got an opportunity to do better. You should go in-depth; explain every detail. Touch every aspect of the topic.

For example, if you want to create a post on Google AdWords ads, don’t be surprised if you found that most of the pages that are ranking very high in Google at the moment are not in-depth.

In-depth content is relative. But as a rule of thumb, you need to break down your topic step-by-step.

If searchers are looking to start a consulting business, for example, your article should help them in every way possible. I used this strategy in my recent SEO case study – I found that most of the case studies aren’t detailed and the focus is on one company.

But I changed all of that. I conducted my research, asked questions, and compiled 21 companies and their SEO strategies.

If you’re detailed in your content, then you can’t expect a 1000-word post at the end of the day. It should be between 2,000 – 10,000 words. No fluffs. But real value.

Such type of content is a natural search engine magnet – give it 60 – 90 days and you’ll be amazed at its organic positioning. And guess what? You don’t even have to build hundreds of links to it.

When we analyzed 3,236 Shopify’s posts, we found that 73% of them contains more than 2,000 words.

And of course, an in-depth content isn’t complete without visuals. You need to use your own data (you can always get these visual charts and screenshots from the SEO tools and platforms) that you’re using.

To get even better results from your content, create a relevant infographic and embed into the post.

This would help website visitors trust you more — because you’ve given them the choice to either read the lengthy article or learn from your infographic.

As you can tell, creating comprehensive content is difficult, but that’s what Shopify does every other week and the results are obvious for all to see.

Editorial links powerhouse

Shopify has a great strategy for earning editorial links. Interestingly, we’ve covered how they create comprehensive content on virtually every eCommerce-related topic. This has earned them natural links to rank higher in Google.

Here’s how WordStream defines an editorial link:

“An editorial link is a link that results from a site having good content and marketing techniques. An editorial link is not paid for or directly requested, as is the case with acquired links. Editorial links are part of a strong link profile.”

I’m not aware that Shopify has a team of guest bloggers who pitch other authority blogs to get them published. I’m also not aware of the links the company has purchased to boost their rankings.

It was all editorial. Shopify has great content and as a result of that, people link to them. This has made their link profile stronger than ever. Their dropshipping guide in particular has earned more than 1220 backlinks from 189 referring domains.

Note: Majority of the websites that link to Shopify’s guide are eCommerce-related, while others are media websites, such as Mashable, Lifehacker.com, and more.

Trending keywords selection strategy

Before we concluded our Shopify analysis, we also examined their keyword strategy and found that the company follows a different approach.

Yes, they capitalize on trending keywords (topics).

Why is this important?

Well, you’ve got to know that Google Keywords Planner is outdated. Or to put it mildly, Google uses past data to gauge popularity.

But you and I know that web users are dynamic and needs change over time. So, instead of using Keywords Planner or any third-party research tool to find keyword, you’re better of creating content around trending keywords.

As an example, when Shopify created their dropshipping guide, how to start online store, and several other popular guides that generate a large percentage of its traffic, they used trends.

As of 2012/2013, the keyword “dropshipping guide” wasn’t popular at all. But that notwithstanding, Shopify plunged in, researched on it and created one of the best guides ever. Look at the trend.

Prior to 2015/2016, most dropshipping-related and online store business keywords were fluctuating. Why? Because it was difficult to run a profitable online store in the past. People would get excited about it and later give up. But it’s a lot easier now.

In 2017 and beyond, the right way to do keyword research is by getting into the conversation. Hang out with your target audience, listen to them, and find patterns in their questions and opinions.

If you’ve not been using Quora to find relevant questions you need to start today.

Some topics might not be as popular today as they would in 1 – 10 years time, don’t ignore them. But create rich content and become the authority on that topic — when it eventually grows.

Because by the time the competition begins, your web page would have become stronger. More so, competitors will either link to you or they’ll have no real substance to add to their own content.

But don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to ignore Keywords Planner or any keyword research tool for that matter, but use the insights to research real-time questions from Quora, and follow the trends.

Conclusion

Whitehat SEO tactics might not work for everyone because it takes time.

But if you decide to invest time and resources in creating comprehensive content while capitalizing on topical trends, you’ll not only drive targeted traffic and social shares but earning editorial links to your web pages will be easier.

Yes, Shopify is an authority website and its domain authority is a major determining factor to its search visibility, but the whole essence of this case study is to guide you — and show you opportunities that you can leverage for your own business.

This article was contributed by Michael Chibuzor, who is an SEO consultant for SaaS companies. If you’re looking to improve your search visibility, drive targeted traffic, and grow your revenue, you can reach him directly at https://Saasbrand.com