White hat SEO refers to the tactics and techniques used to improve a website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), that are seen as ethical and above board by both Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Quality Raters Guidelines, and equivalent guidelines from other search engines.
Search engine algorithms conform to a strict set of rules designed to ensure that the results they return are accurate and fair and best serve the searcher. An important part of this function is to prevent websites from using shortcuts that seek to unfairly manipulate the algorithm, by falsifying their status in some way. To search engines, this is seen as disrupting the reliability of the SERPs and it is something they take very seriously.
White Hat SEO represents best practice because it does not risk compromising the integrity of a site, will not mislead or harm visitors and recognises the level playing field in search that is Google’s stated mission to maintain. In this sense, one of the guiding principles of white hat SEO is optimising your site for humans and not search engines.
While white hat tactics will not yield instant results, they allow websites to build a strong and consistent web presence over time by establishing expertise, authority and trust (which are the pillars of Google’s E-A-T concept which now underpins its Search Quality Rater guidelines).
What constitutes white hat and black hat is difficult as it can change over time. The principle that underpins white hat SEO, however, is concerned with targeting genuine users rather than exploiting flaws in an algorithm. Usually this involves producing engaging, useful content that adds considerable value to a website and a visitors experience. Legitimate technical processes are then used to promote the customer experience through good UX, useful and keyword rich metadata and mobile friendliness).