Search Engine Optimization is one of the most important business changes you can undertake.  Google is all but in control of who finds whom on the Internet, and since the Internet is how people find each other you need to give yourself the very real leg up that SEO provides.

I’ve told that story before. Now I’ll tell you about a big mistake. Yes, mine.

While we’re very good at SEO here at Answer Guy Central, and regularly get great results boosting both our clients and ourselves to the top of search engine results, like anyone we want . . . more. So a few months ago I tried a little trick on The Computer Answer Guy page. On the page, hidden in the text, I embedded a small graphic about a dozen times. The image was six pixels across by nine pixels high (the exact size of one character of text), so by setting its color to “transparent” and putting it in places where a space character would normally be, the image was completely invisible.

The image was named computersupportcomputercarenewyorkcity.gif, and by naming and pointing to that file a dozen times in the Computer Answer Guy page and also by creating a title that described the picture using those same words, I crammed fully two dozen extra references to what The Computer Answer Guy does into the page.

And it worked. The Computer Answer Guy went to or near the top page in Google’s Rankings for the things I wanted it there for.

Then, Google noticed how.

I don’t know how they noticed. If you understand SEO and think about the logic behind how we set that up there’s no reason for Google to have found it. I could go into a long explanation of page and content construction to back that up, and as I’m writing this I’ve thought of a way that I could have made the trick just a little bit more difficult to uncover. But find it they did. And Google has rules against tricking them.

The technique is called “Black Hat” SEO. And I won’t be doing it again.

By the way: we never do Black Hat for our clients. this was an experiment; I wanted to know just how smart Google is, and I found out. Good thing you injected yourself and not a patient with that serum, doctor!

What was the impact? See for yourself:

In case you aren’t good at reading graphs, I’ll lay it out for you: we were averaging almost 800 search engine impressions per day. Then Google found our little trick and practically overnight we dropped to something just north of zero.

Let’s recap: SEO Good. Computer Answer Guy Good At SEO. But BLACK HAT SEO VERY VERY BAD.

You have been warned.
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