Learning about Search Engine Optimisation can be a daunting experience for anyone fresh to the field. I remember the first time coming across SEO, at the age of 15, busy designing a photography website on Wix (I was 15 okay!?). Going through the settings and finding the SEO tick-box and thinking; “Wow! This is really going to get my name out there!” I was so excited I published my website and immediately Google’d it aaaand…. nothing. I was disappointed, but I chalked it up to my inexperience and didn’t go near it again, until now.
Looking into SEO as a professional is a completely different story, and the amount of information out there has increased exponentially since I was that age. Now you have a virtual cornucopia of choices in everything from Analytics Tools, Proxies, Hosting, Campaign Services etc. and the main reason this has happened is because of the ongoing efforts of companies like Google to fool-proof their algorithms. Before we continue, we should backtrack ever so slightly, to get a better view of how everything fits together.
One of the main ways that Google makes money is by charging companies to appear on the first page of Google when someone searches something related to their business. Google does not exclusively display paid-for results, but the ones that are paid-for go right at the top of the page while any other results appear right afterwards. For those companies who do not want to pay what could be a significant amount of money for paid-for placements then have to rely on being the most relevant for that particular search phrase. Google’s algorithms scan websites and decide which of them are most relevant to whatever was searched and displays those right underneath the paid-for slots. Google’s algorithms also sniff out any websites that may be using SEO to influence their ranking on search results, and when it does – let’s just say that it does not end well for the website. this is because it goes against Google’s Terms of Service.
This is now the playing field, and there a thousands of people worldwide who are trying to figure out ways of getting their clients in the top spot every time. Okay, now we understand how Google works, now lets see how people have been working with these rules.
As people try to find holes in the system, many of them have been developing tools and services to help get the desired result – at a price, of course. These tools can range from Free Trials all the way up to thousands of dollars a month, U.S.! That is a serious amount of budget to spend and, unfortunately, with mixed results. These tools work on spam-like principles, whereby they make use of a type of SEO called a PBN or Private Blog Network. They use their own algorithms to simulate human behavior online, creating dummy support sites, writing blog posts, and creating footfall in the thousands. The problem is that these algorithms are rarely accurate and can easily result in a low quality PBN, which Google can easily sniff out (again, not good).
This is barely the tip of the iceberg that is SEO, with more tools and services than anyone of us could ever afford. The proverbial cornucopia. All these innovations and efforts to scam the Search Engine giants has lead to a set of ethical labels being created – a system of self-categorisation of the type of SEO you offer as well as the degree to which it contravenes Google’s Terms of Service. White Hat, Grey Hat, and Black Hat.
White Hat SEO: Is the in-page SEO your website offers you, you add attributed keywords to the code of your site that Google can pick up on, and rank you accordingly. Not very effective.
Grey Hat SEO: Is the blurry line between White and Black Hat SEO. It highly depends on your own ethical stance regarding SEO and what you are willing to do to get the results you want.
Black Hat SEO: This is where you are using a number of different tools to force your website to rank higher. This can yield great results but takes a metric ton of research, trial/error, blood, sweat and tears.. and it may not even work..
Which will you be?