Every company wants its web presence to thrive, regardless of its scale of operations. You might consider resorting to any means necessary to reach out to every potential client that you can. However, black hat Search Engine Optimization strategies like spamdexing only give short-term benefits at best. They may even drive away potential customers that recognize what you’re doing. So, let us go over how to ditch SEO and do ethical PEO instead.
Before we get started, let me explain what black-hat SEO is, its mirror white-hat SEO, and conversion rates. Then we’ll cover PEO and how to implement it.
What is Black Hat SEO?
The short version; black hat SEO is using underhanded means to artificially climb rankings.
Google and other search engines want to provide results with meaningful content, rather than spammy garbage. If the front page of results was always full of content-mill sites that are nothing but random keywords and irrelevant links pointing back and forth, would you continue using Google? I know I wouldn’t.
Because of this, Google is constantly evolving how it determines search rankings. Since the internet is so vast and grows by the day, there is no way they could determine rankings manually. Whenever someone discovers exploitative means of climbing the rankings without genuinely providing quality content, Google shoots it down ASAP. Hence its need for constantly updating algorithms.
Examples of Black Hat SEO
A few SEO practices considered Black Hat are:
- Keyword Stuffing – including an excessive quantity of keywords to make a page seem more relevant than it really is.
- Paid Links – as stated right in Google’s Advanced SEO Documentation, “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
- Link Farms – these are a group of websites that all cross-link at each other for the sole purpose of link building.
- Private Blog Networks – these are blog pages similar to link farms. However, it is a collection of sites with unidirectional links all pointing at the target site.
- Deceptive Redirects – aka doorway, gateway, bridge, or jump pages. They’re a group of similar content all vying for high results rankings before pointing to the real site which might not even be relevant to the ranked phrase.
- Low-Quality Content – thin, automatically generated, or nonsensical pages stuffed with keywords that don’t provide anything meaningful for the visitor. Or, unedited low-effort pages for the sheer sake of quantity.
- Stolen Content – copying content from other similar sites with little to no changes before republishing.
- Invisible Content – including content that is masked from the users purely for the sake of including keywords. This could be unrelated hidden text on images and widgets, or text that is set identical to the background.
- Spam Comments – posting comments on other websites for the sole purpose of generating links. Might include randomly generated or useless content before including keyword-rich anchor text for links to the desired site.
- Content Cloaking – checking for search index crawlers and providing different results than given to normal visitors.
- Bait and Switch – after content ranks well for a topic, replacing the content with something else entirely.
What is White Hat SEO?
The short version; white hat SEO is generating content worthy of climbing search engine rankings. There’s no trickery of gaming the algorithms to get an undeservedly high position on desired keywords.
Of course, these methods take more time and effort to implement. Otherwise, why would black hat methods even exist?
Examples of White Hat SEO
A few SEO practices considered White Hat are:
- Quality Content – well-edited content that contains meaningful information for the visitor. A page with a 200-word count stuffed full of unrelated keywords doesn’t compare to a 2,000-word count informative breakdown on a subject. You’ve read up to here, after all.
- Easy to Navigate Site – ensure your content is readily accessible with clearly labeled navigation menus, relevant internal cross-linking, and search options.
- Accurate Meta Descriptions – relevant meta descriptions help both users and search engines determine what any given page is about.
- Authentic Backlinks – both inbound and outbound links should be set with appropriate anchor text for relevant topics. Making your anchor text click me! doesn’t help Google determine what the focus of the link is.
- Mobile User Friendly – many users are on mobile devices. Ensure your page layout and elements still provide a good User eXperience on mobile, not just PC. Google has a mobile-friendly test site you can use to check.
- Managing Comments – even if you’re not the one generating spam comments, letting them clutter your site unmoderated can lower your rankings.
What is Conversion Rate?
Conversion rate is the ratio of visitors that carry through with the desired Call to Action of the page. This metric is trackable by gauging what percentage of visitors do things like filling out forms, following links, or making purchases.
Conversely, the bounce rate is based on the number of people that leave the site without engaging with the site any further.
To determine the success of your online business, it’s more important to consider the conversion rate over plain page views. By optimizing your site for your intended users instead of randomly screaming, “I am here!” into the void, you’ll earn happy, loyal clients.
A large driving force behind high conversion rates is ethical PEO.
What is PEO?
People’s Eyes Optimization, aka Conversion Rate Optimization, is when you focus on catering to your visitors. By providing a positive user experience, visitors are much more likely to stick around.
SEO is focused on people finding out that your site exists when searching for related keywords. However, when you only care about SEO, you’ll have a higher bounce rate. Putting your emphasis on PEO will not only improve your conversion rate but also naturally improve your SEO in the long term, too.
Most white hat SEO techniques go hand-in-hand with PEO. This is intentional on Google’s part since it wants only the best results for its users.
However, their algorithms aren’t perfect. Several PEO-focused aspects aren’t trackable by Google. One aspect, in particular, is the effects of visuals.
Effects of Visuals on PEO
Numerous Eye-tracking studies have discovered some interesting things. For example, while images quickly attract attention, pictures of people are even more effective. Within that category, depictions of women, babies, and attractive people draw the most attention of all.
You might have heard of the halo effect before. It stands true in PEO as well. In the previous example, people often have a cognitive bias towards attractive people. Once a positive impression is made, people tend to let it skew their opinion on the subject and anything related to it.
While users are focused on images of people, they are influenced further. Humans instinctively follow the gaze of others. An image of a person looking in the direction of a block of text will guide users’ attention to it, too.
Additionally, photos of people increase empathy and influence the emotions of viewers. Including pictures of your company’s employees will make them seem more relatable to users. Likewise, pictures of happy smiling people will instill feelings of trust and happiness.
Google only understands the alt text you provide for pictures. However, your site’s visitors might be more influenced by the imagery than the text itself. For example, if you are selling a product, images of the product can be far more effective than the narrative description. Of course, you should still include the text, too.
What Can You Do to Improve your PEO?
Now that we’ve covered things in-depth, here are some pointers on how to implement this newfound knowledge on your business’s website:
- Utilize Visuals – in addition to the already explained effects, keep in mind the phrase, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. For example, say you’re making a page for a landscaping company. Potential clients will be more compelled by an image gallery of your previous work than a 10,000-word essay describing topiaries you’ve shaped. They might be impressed in a different way by that essay though.
- Directional Cues – an arrow, triangle, or an image of a person facing in a particular direction can guide the user’s attention. Similarly, adjusting font size and color or adding colorful frames around important content can draw attention to it.
- Embrace the Contrast Principle – when selling services or merchandise, providing before and after imagery or pricing can help assure a visitor that your business is worthwhile. Saying something costs 10$ isn’t as compelling as saying it was 15$, but it is now on sale for 10$.
- Consider Element Weight – by weight, we mean size and amount of attention it grabs. A buy now button should be big and clear, but an unnecessary blinking red dot off to the side will just throw people off. Additionally, when planning layout you should group similar content together. This is following Fitts Law, which uses advanced mathematics to predict the time and effort needed for a person to aim at a target. The subcategory for Implications for UI Design is worth checking out, even if the math bits leading up to it make your eyes glaze over.
- Understand the F-Shaped Reading Pattern – due to the left-to-right reading pattern of English, people typically will skim through content in an F shape. If you’re going to put any important content off to the right side, you’ll need to use visuals to guide visitors’ attention over there. Otherwise, they might just scroll right past it without sparing a glance.
How to Ditch SEO and Do Ethical PEO?
It’s a pretty clear gimme that visitors will appreciate carefully edited, high-quality content over something riddled with inaccuracies and typos.
With all of the previous information in mind, some steps you can take to further improve your PEO instead of chasing after SEO are:
- Place Emphasis on the Landing Page – first impressions have a powerful, lasting impact. Google can see your metric ton of relevant articles for the given keywords. But, the user might lose interest right on the front page if it seems unreliable or awkward to navigate.
- Organize Site Structure – the more content you have, the more important it is to organize it all. Meaningful pages, sub-pages, and categories will break up your content or inventory in a way that users can easily access.
- Elements Above vs Below the Fold – content that’s visible without needing to scroll will be the difference between whether or not a user continues exploring the page. However, that doesn’t mean you should always shove your Call to Action first thing. Telling readers to go outside and yell at the sun before explaining why won’t be particularly compelling. (PS it’s cathartic. Please be mindful of your neighbors, though.)
- Form Formatting – aim for a better user experience when asking them to fill out forms. A clean and organized form without erratic styling is easier to process, and the fewer fields the better. Keep in mind that password creation is the most time-consuming part of any account creation process. So, do everyone a favor and make your security criteria clear. Also, including Google or Facebook Single Sign-On options to simplify login can be the difference between whether or not a user converts.
- Additional Formatting – giant walls of text tend to drive people into skimming past content. Utilizing headings, bullet points, and white space makes things more easily parsable. Also, font choice matters. No one is going to take a business that uses Comic Sans seriously.
Hopefully, your site doesn’t need a major overhaul to implement these suggestions on how to ditch SEO and do ethical PEO instead. Even if it does, prioritizing your users rather than scrambling to temporarily climb Google’s rankings will be more than worth it in the long run.
Good luck with your business growth endeavors. Together, let’s make the internet a better place by ethically putting people first, instead of chasing algorithms at the expense of our users. If you need help on this journey, don’t hesitate to contact us through the live chat in the bottom right, leave a comment, or toss us an email.