Digital Marketing

Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO for Schools

March 19, 2019

If your school has ever looked into hiring a search engine optimisation (SEO) company for your school, you might have been completely confused, and even disheartened, by what you found. A number of SEO companies seek to bamboozle their clients by implementing tactics that trick search engine algorithms. This is known as ‘black hat SEO’, and while these techniques might achieve some quick wins for your school initially, over the long run you will find them damaging.

What's the difference between black hat and white hat SEO?

Black hat techniques include things like keyword stuffing (filling your content with irrelevant keywords), cloaking (showing one version of your content to users and another to search engines), and paying for low quality links on third party sites that direct back to your school.

White hat SEO, on the other hand, is creating quality content and a great user experience for the people who are visiting your website. White hat SEO is not only more ethical, its results are more sustainable (therefore, it will be more valuable over time). All of the strategies we recommend and use in our eduSITEs are white hat SEO techniques.

What are some white hat SEO tactics that I can implement today?

SEO can be completely overwhelming. There are a huge number of ranking factors (elements of your website that search engines look for in order to rank you in search results), and it’s hard to know where to begin.

We always recommend that clients start their search engine optimisation process by performing a short website audit, and looking at the following elements: design, responsiveness, content quality and information architecture.

Design

Start by looking at the design of the website (the look and feel). When a client comes to visit your website, what will they think about your school? Does your website match your school’s branding? Does it use your school colours? Are the students in your images wearing the latest version of your school uniform? If parents visit your website homepage and immediately click away, that sends a strong signal to Google that your website is not relevant (we've talked about relevance before -- it's really important!).

Resource to help you: Design Principles for Your School Website.

Responsiveness

Next, test out your website on a range of different devices. How easy it is to navigate your school website on a mobile phone? Does it resize correctly when you access it on a tablet? Way back in 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendliness was a major ranking signal. In 2019, if you still don’t have a responsive website, you are way behind the times.

Content quality

Search engines use your quality as a major ranking signal. This is because quality content shows that your site is unique and matches searchers' queries. Quality content is well-written, researched and updated. It's important to also consider which keywords you are including in your content, and use them sparingly in important places like your H1, H2 and H3 headings, anchor texts and opening paragraphs.

Resource to help you: How to Create Effective Website Content.

Information architecture

Finally, look at how the pages on your website are organised (the information architecture of your site). Is the information on your site set out in a way that your users will do what you want them to do easily and quickly? Just as users will navigate through your site, web browsers deploy automated robots (also known as “spiders”) to crawl through your website. If the information is organised in a way that doesn’t make sense to a human, there is a good chance that a crawler will be misdirected as well.

Resource to help you: The Importance of Information Architecture.

What should I do if I find black-hat tactics on my school website?

Not to alarm you, but we'd recommend you seek professional help immediately! Black hat SEO might have performed well for you initially (in fact, it might be giving you some great results right now!), but over time they tend to backfire quite spectacularly. Your website could even be blacklisted from Google altogether.

If you’ve performed a quick website audit of your school website, and you've noticed some black hat tactics, or if you would like to improve its design, responsiveness, content or information architecture, talk to Digistorm. Our friendly sales team are more than happy to talk you through your options. We have a team of designers and developers who have the knowledge and experience to build your school website based on best practice principles (all white hat, no black hat!). Book your website demo today!