They can be a secretive bunch over at Google. So secretive in fact, that no one outside the company is ever entirely sure what they're up to; not Kalexiko, not any other SEO company, not Rex Banner, not anyone. What we do know is that their main objective is to provide a search experience that returns the most relevant and informative results to its users, and it's important to bear this in mind when formulating a good SEO strategy. Google also helpfully offers some vague guidelines on what constitutes good and bad web design, but they rarely go into any specifics. Like with any system, the algorithms can to an extent be manipulated in your favour, and there's nothing wrong with this - it's what SEO is all about. If however they catch you cheating, employing some of the shadier tactics in bumping your site up the rankings, you may run the risk of being penalised or even thrown off the search database altogether. It's happened before.
White Hat SEO
SEO can be broadly categorised into two overall approaches: white hat and black hat. White hat works on the assumption that through helpful, streamlined and effective web design, search engine users will find your website because it contains quality unique content that's relevant to what they're searching for. This means generating traffic, building links, creating useful up-to-date content - doing it the hard way basically. Not to worry though, at Kalexiko we're specialists at this and whilst the white hat approach won't get you overnight results, it will get you there eventually and keep you there in the long-term.
What it entails...
As we've covered before, a good SEO website is easy to navigate, emphasises the right keywords, is interesting and entertaining to read and gets plenty of traffic. The mantra here really is that 'Content is King'. A lot of website owners struggle with the content aspect either through not having the time or just not knowing what to do, and perhaps rightly so - if it were easy then everyone would be doing it. However a good SEO company can offer all sorts of creative solutions to this problem, from how to generate good content, link-building on other sites, even adding interactive features like games, as well as the important back-end stuff like site structure and meta tags.
Black Hat: The Dark Side of SEO
Black hat constitutes SEO's seedy underbelly - the performance enhancing boosters that provide short-term gain at the expense of long-term security and ethical practice. Whilst frowned upon in most SEO circles, it would be naïve of us to think that it doesn't go on. It relies mostly on deception, trying to trick the search engines into thinking that your site is more relevant than it actually is and therefore earning it a better ranking. Fortunately for us, the search engines are generally wise to these surreptitious activities and are constantly tweaking their algorithms to punish sites that engage in them, sometimes even throwing sites out altogether. BMW and JCPenny are some of the highest profile names to get in trouble for this so far, but there are guaranteed to be more in the future.
Black Hat Tactics
With the perpetually evolving nature of SEO it's difficult enough to keep up with developments in white hat SEO let alone black hat. As such, these are just some of the practices we're aware of; in all likelihood there's probably a lot more going on in those murky waters. One such practice is keyword abuse, where keywords are artificially duplicated or hidden within a website page so as to be visible to the search spiders but not to the user. Paying other sites to add links to yours is another illicit tactic, although there are exceptions for business directories and other legitimate means. In extreme cases SEOs have been known to engage in outright subterfuge, hacking competitors' websites and planting negative keywords, or wreaking other damage in order to harm their search rankings, although thankfully this is very rare.
How to Avoid Black Hat (should you want to?)
Google are always on the lookout for this suspicious activity and attempt to negate its effects where possible. At the end of the day they want to create the best search experience for their users, and they can't do that if everyone is abusing the system. There are ways of reporting websites for black hat tactics, but in an ideal world we shouldn't have to. Website owners with the best of intentions can also sometimes be let down by their SEO companies who without the website owner's knowledge are cheating their way up the ladder. Cheaters never prosper though, and should Google catch wind of what you're doing it's likely to cause long term harm. The best way to avoid running this risk is simply to talk to your SEO provider and find out what they're actually up to. If they're anything like us at Kalexiko, then they should be more than happy to do so.