SEO, as a blanket term, can be roughly broken down into three categories:

  • On-Site SEO (crawlability) – This is how easily navigable your site is to search engines (and to users). Performing On-Site SEO involves taking a look at your site’s architecture and content to assess if the appropriate methodology is in place. This involves things like heading tag correction, metadata implementation, title tag correction, correct keyword implementation and making sure that the correct redirects are in place to reduce duplicate content.
  • Content – Content is what both your readers and the search engines are looking for. The best sites have the best content. Period. This gives the search engines an ability to see your site for certain key terms, and it gives your readers something to link to.
  • User Metrics – How the site is used is a big determinant in how search engines see the site. This includes things like bounce rates, click-through rates, how many people visit the site, and how much content is shared and linked to.
  • Other factors – Other factors of how a site ranks in search engines has to do with externalities like the age of the site, whether the site has a dedicated IP address, if the author of the blog has a high trust metric, etc.

For these reasons and others, we always ask clients how they feel about the design of their site. Web Design and SEO go hand-in-hand in that oftentimes a better website experience for a search engine is also a better experience for your users. And it’s your users who we’re really concerned with here. All the traffic in the world won’t help your business a lick if that traffic doesn’t convert.

How SEO Agencies Operate

The above is designed to give you an example of how the blanket term “SEO” works. This wasn’t always the case. Optimizing your site to gain a competitive advantage over another site has been around since the advent of the internet, and in the past, Google and others weren’t always so good at sniffing out the bad players. In recent years, however, that’s changed.

Black Hat SEO:

Google and others have gotten better at reducing the amount of spam that plagues the internet. But they’re not perfect. A system designed in code and made by humans is undoubtedly fallible. There are some that, through experience or otherwise, have found ways to shortcut the system. Here’s a brief synopsis of how they do it:

Link Farms: Without a doubt, the number one thing you can do to increase your site’s online presence is to GET LINKS. This typically requires hard work, however. First, you have to generate good content, and then you have to get your message out to people who will share it and link to it.

Alternatively, you can link to that content yourself through what is known as a link farm or a private blog network. In these systems, people generate tiered networks of websites. The lowest tier (Tier 3) has automated content and links and is the perfect example of a spam website. It’s a numbers game until Google penalizes these sites. The next tier up (Tier 2) has got some manually generated (or spun) content and some higher-quality links. These sites generally don’t provide great info, but they’re not overtly spammy to the search bots. The top tier (Tier 1) sites have the best content that is manually generated. These Tier 1 sites are the “money” sites. The Black Hat SEO genuinely cares about these sites.

When you contract with one of these SEOs, depending on how much you pay and how extensive their network is, the SEO will add links in their Tier 2 or Tier 1 sites to give your site some of their “link juice” or “Page Rank.” If Google comes along and slaps one of their lower-tiered sites with a penalty, the top tier will still be ok, and the SEO will have time to recover by generating another site in its place.

The Problem with Tiered Link Building:

Tiered link building can be a great way to see a near-immediate benefit from your hard-earned dollars. There are problems, however.

Main Problem 1:  Google, Bing, and others are actively trying to prevent this sort of link building. This type of link building is in direct opposition to their main ethos – that is: let good content be rewarded with quality links. New algorithm updates are being rolled out all the time aimed at preventing just these sorts of things. Think your SEO is smarter than the kids over at Google and Bing? Willing to bet your online presence on that?

Main Problem 2: You can’t count on your links for long. Your SEO (not you) has total control over how long your links remain active. If things go south between the two of you, so do your links. Quality link building will get your links placed based on their content merit, not because you’ve paid someone to put them there.

Main Problem 3: If you get hit with a spam penalty it takes a long while to recuperate – many times it is better to start a site completely anew.

Main Problem 4 (The Big Problem): You just don’t know. Having given your money to someone who has put your links up on their network, you just have no good idea how and long they’ll be there and if they’ll ever hurt your online presence.

White Hat SEO:

Doing SEO the right way is hard work. Additionally, SEO work is an effort that takes months to see tangible benefits from. For this reason, many shirk it, though it’s their loss. Your online presence is the calling card of your business, so ask yourself this simple question:

Question: What’s wrong with dirty seats on an airplane?

Answer: People think that the engine won’t work.

It doesn’t always make sense, but people are emotional creatures. You’ve got to make them like you, and a dingy storefront won’t do it.


Well, there you have it. The quick and dirty explanation of how SEO works, and some of the techniques both sides of the aisle use. For the record, Alchemy on Demand never uses Link Farms or Black Hat techniques for the aforementioned reasons. Instead, we focus on content and let that drive rankings for us, and for our clients.

-Hudson Hornick
Alchemy On Demand

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