White Hat SEO 101 – Infographic With Explanation

SEO Building Blocks

SEO Building Blocks - Click For Full Size Image

Please Share This Image:

Level 1 – Getting Prepared

Keyword Research – Doing extensive Keyword Research really should be the first part of any SEO plan. Knowing which keywords you want to rank for will dictate everything you do moving forward. More importantly, doing proper Keyword Research will tell you which keywords you can actually rank for. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time and money optimizing your site for ultra-competitive keyword terms that you have absolutely no chance of ranking for. SEOMoz has some amazing keyword research tools that are a great compliment to the Google Keyword Tool.

On Page SEO – On Page SEO is the single most important factor in determining where your website ranks. The good news is that it’s one of the few things in SEO where you control 100% of the puzzle. People often jump the gun working on external factors, but the fact of the matter is you should have your On Page house in order before even thinking of external factors. Well written title tags, descriptions, headings, content, incorporating blod & italics text on the page, and tweaking your keyword density are all just a few of the On Page SEO factors you should be considering. On Page SEO is a complicated topic that would require a lengthly post on its own to do any justice. I plan on writing a post like this in the future, but there are already several great posts on this topic out there. SEOMoz has a particularly good one.

Site Blog – Having a “blog” for your site is a particularly great way to communicate with your visitors about site updates, direction, and achievements. It’s also a great way to do some interlinking within your site. Starting a blog for your website is a great initial SEO building block and should be updated at least once per week. Blog posts should be a minimum of 300 words and be well written original content.

Notify Google – Google gives you great tools to notify them about content on your website via Sitemaps and Webmaster Tools. This is a critical step in ranking better and should be considered an essential building block of your SEO plan. Webmaster tools also notifies you about performance of your website and crawl errors – among other things. Add your site to Google Webmaster Tools and evaluate the data on a weekly basis.

Level 2 – Great Content

Industry News – Writing about industry news is a great way to build valuable content. You can find out about industry news by simply going to Google News and searching on current topics in your niche. Just be sure to write original content and spin the article in your own compelling way. You can also reach out to all your partners and ask that they notify you of any major events within their organization. In some cases, with the right relationships, you can be the one to break the news on your site first. Breaking news is a great way to get links and eyeballs to your site. These types of articles don’t convert into sales incredibly well, but they are a vital component to your SEO plan. Finally, if you are lucky enough to be in a niche where you can write enough of this type of content, you should submit your site to Google News. This is a great way to capture more searches and drive traffic to your site.

Infographics – Infographics are a new trend that started in late 2009. They are a great way to communicate a message visually and generate an amazing amount of links, retweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1’s. In doing some research I found that the average infographic was getting at least 10 links and 50 tweets – not a bad investment.

Link Bait – In addition to Infographics you should be creative about creating other forms of link bait to your website. Writing something controversial, writing a custom plugin that you give away, doing a study that provides eye-opening information, etc are all good examples of link bait. The best types of link bait are going to require a lot of thought and effort to create – don’t be lazy.

Industry Contributors – A great way to get links to your site is contract respected industry insiders to write content for your site. People who have large amounts of Facebook friends or Twitter followers are a great way to find these potential contributors. The great thing about these candidates is that they are prone to tweet the content they write or even link to you.

Authority Content – Authority content is a great way to attract links. The key is to write content that is useful and add it to your site often. Over time your site will become an “authority site” in Google’s eyes and in visitors eyes.

Level 3 – Link Building Foundation

Directory Submissions – The majority of directories are considered a waste of time and money in today’s SEO landscape. However, directories such as the Yahoo Directory and other niche industry directories are still regarded as good links. It’s important to do your research since links from spammy directoires can actually be counterproductive. Link building is hard work, but these can be the easiest links you’ll ever get.

Press Releases – Press Releases are also regarded as good and easy links to get. Services such as PR Web allow you to purchase upgraded releases where you can insert any links you like. It’s a great way to get focused anchor text to help your overall SEO strategy. Use this strategy sparingly since doing an excessive amount of Press Releases can be counterproductive. You should reserve releases for important topics that will get readership.

Get Links From Partners – Getting links from your partners can prove to be difficult, but it never hurts to ask. I find that being persistant really helps, or asking what you would need to do in order to get a link from them. Many times partners will give you a goal to hit and give you a link in return. Links from your partners are some of the best links you will ever get to your site. They will almost certainly be authoritative, be 100% relevant, and are totally white hat.

Level 4 – Advanced Link Building

DMOZ – We placed the DMOZ under advanced link building because you typically cannot get a link from the DMOZ to a newer site. A good editor will only approve sites that are well established and of high quality. Of course, depending on what niche you are in, it might prove difficult to even get a quality site in the directory. Many of the categories are corrupt and are almost impossible to get into.

Blogging Contests – Blogging Contests seem to be the new wave of link building. I feel like these are pushing the envelope of white hat SEO, but they are still considered white hat nonetheless. There are 100’s, if not 1000’s of blogging contests going on at any one time. The basic idea is that a site will run a blogging contest that has sponsors. These sponsors get links from everyone entering the contest; the people entering the contest have a chance to win part of the prize money the sponsor is putting up. Find a site doing a blogging contest in your niche and put up some prize money.

Guest Blogging – Writing a guest blog on another site in your niche is a great way to get a link. There is no doubt that other sites in your niche are just as hungry for good content as you are. Most sites will gladly let you write for them if you are respected in the industry. The end of your article is a great place to add a link by crediting your site. Something like “This article was written by Michael Jackness of ABC Company”.

Reviews – Product reviews are a great way to get links to your site, and are no doubt the cornerstone of most affiliate related websites. Putting maximum effort into writing amazing product reviews will get you a lot of attention. Be sure to include pictures, personal experience with the product, positive & negatives, etc. It’s also a good idea to open up visitors comments on your review page so others can read their opinions. These comments build trust (and links).

Wikipedia – Everyone knows who Wikipedia is and a link from them is highly valuable. While their links are “nofollowed“, they still count for something. The best way to get a link from WikiPedia is to write a piece of content that you specifically intend to use as a reference link from WikiPedia. It’s not unusual for a link that you add to a page to get removed by an editor. If that happens keep trying until one sticks.

Level 5 – Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Google +1 – Late last year Google and Bing confirmed what most people in the SEO industry suspected for some time; social media interactions affect SEO rankings. This means that it’s more important than ever to post good quality content. Junky content that is written by people in India for something like $5 for a 500 word article just isn’t going to cut it in today’s SEO world. Every piece of content you write should be good enough for vistors to want to click on “like” or “tweet”. It’s also important to include social like buttons in prominent places on your webpages.

Level 6 – Refine

Review Analytics – It’s important to review your analytics and Webmaster Tools data on a fairly regular basis. This is a great way to see what keywords you are ranking for and how your site is performing on the web. This data also includes page load speed, which is another important factor in your SEO rankings.

Keep Learning – Since SEO is a moving target it’s important to never stop learning. SEOMoz is a great place to learn about what’s going on in the industry. They have amazing videos each week called “White Board Friday”. Additionally, they have 2 webinars per month for members only that are interactive and provide amazing insight into current trends. There are also other great SEO forums such as SEO Chat.


  1. Interested in knowing more about the corruption at DMOZ. Great entry, btw, one of the best ones so far

    • Just like anything else – where there is power there is corruption. At lot of the editors in the DMOZ flat out make you pay them to get a listing. I hate to admit it, but in the online poker affiliate industry it’s something that I did. Of course that is one of the most filthy industries to begin with, so it doesn’t surprise me.

  2. I’d add UGC to your Level 2.

    We’ve had great success withit, particularly product reviews and customer service-related content. I find it’s much easier, given limited time/resources, to create an automated process to receive and display UGC — rather than doing manual work like, blogging, article writing, guest blogging, etc. We are also fortunate that we receive about 20-30 reviews each day (supported by a pretty aggressive automated email campaigns based on purchase/registration life cycle) and further drive them with monthly and annual promotions.

    If you have a CRM and/or receive frequent customer service-related questions… I’d also put that content right on your category and product pages. Most top retailers have rolled out an Ask & Answer component to their product pages partly for the SEO benefit. We’re doing the same. No sense keeping all that great content hidden in a database somewhere!

    • For those of you who don’t know what UGC is, it stands for User Generated Content. Mike has a great point about UGC and if you can fit it into your site then it’s “Google candy” for sure.

      Great comment – thanks.

  3. Hey, buddy! Just thought I’d let you know DMOZ is getting shut down…

    Google it 😉

    • I Googled it, but don’t see anything serious about it. There was some talk about it in 2008, but nothing recent. Do you have a link?

  4. First off great post as always! Second, I half agree with Mike L’s comment about UGC – If done correctly then I agree it can be a great addition to a website and provide great value to your readers and of course help you rank for a ton of LTKW’s and such.

    My issue is that way too many people incorporate UGC which adds little value and can become a major headache to moderate, controls spam, avoid useless duplicate content, and can eat up valuable resources (Time) – So in theory UGC is great in some cases done the right way. I don’t think I would recommend it for most webmaster or websites.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Also, I cannot imagine DMOZ ever shutting down for good. I think they need to clean house and remove the section mods who are corrupt or blackmail webmasters. In short, they need to establish some good SOP’s and stick to them.

    Good stuff MJ, I’ll def be sharing this around the web!


    • Randy, there are some great SaaS providers of UGC services. I use Bazaarvoice for our Ratings & Reviews, and they actually provide all the moderation, spam, etc. services for us. After initial setup, we honestly do very little except for respond to the occasional poor review.

      Also, since adding this type of UGC, we’ve been sky-rocketing up the search rankings. Not only for broad category keywords but also the juicy LTKWs as well. Google gobbles it up!

  5. I’m not surprised there are DMOZ editors demanding payoffs.

    There was (and still may be) a Fiverr seller and DMOZ editor (so he said) offering to “format” your DMOZ application and claiming that “incorrectly formatted” applications will be rejected.

    • Charleen – Thanks for stopping by the blog. In regards to the DMOZ, it’s good to know I’m not crazy.

  6. Awsome article once again 🙂
    Congratz on the new house…. I have one question as you did own websitehosting.com site. I have 5 domains for UK and 5 domains for US that I need to register(I usually register domains through godaddy) and host them. (The hosting package should allow up to 20-40 wordpress sites for first 6 months) Which website hosting site and deal would you recommend? (Price vs. Quality,Speed)
    p.s.: I dont mind signing up through your aff. link if I like the one you recommend 🙂

    • Thank you very much. We got Internet installed yesterday and I’m actually working from there today.

      I use godaddy to register all my domain names. Then, I host them with HostGator’s dedicated hosting, or HostGator’s spin off – seohosting.com. SEO Hosting allows you to have an unique class C IP for each site. If you are optimizing your UK domains for UK traffic you’ll want to use a host over there. I’ve had good luck with eukhost.com. Best of luck to you.

  7. Awesome article! Just found your blog and I already found some great articles!

  8. Mike,
    The DMOZ stuff is still a bunch of chatter and rumors. Most recent stuff is on a Linkedin discussion page.
    More importantly this article you wrote about SEO is really on point and will be a good resource for anyone. Not to mention the cool SEO building block picture will help show my clients what path they are on.

  9. Brilliant list. Link bait is something that I’ve always wanted to try but I’ve never got around to giving it a shot – probably because I’ll need to spend lots of time on it!

    About DMOZ, from what I’ve heard it’s nearly impossible to get in to it nowadays.

  10. I like the link bait approach you mentioned in this article. “Writing something controversial, writing a custom plugin that you give away, doing a study that provides eye-opening information” sounds like a lot of hard work and effort but can be beneficial in the long run. Thanks Michael.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *