The dark art of blackhat SEO
Showing Google one page and users another, creating thousands of pages with slightly duplicated content and setting up "doorway pages" stuffed with keywords are just some of the methods Tegtmeier uses.
These SEO strategies are all completely against Google's terms of service, but Tegtmeier is unfazed.
"We don't want to get our clients just one number one, or number two, but numbers one through 20 on Google... the search engine is technically a parasite, and really I'm not in the business of creating a good impression with anyone."
This is the dark side of online marketing – this is what is known in the industry as "blackhat" SEO.
Every day, thousands of blackhat SEO experts like Tegtmeier are using techniques designed to trick Google's spider "bots", which constantly crawl over millions of websites for pieces of text, and use a secret and ever-changing algorithm to rank the most relevant, descriptive and popular pages.
The higher your page is ranked, the more traffic it gets, which means most savvy web businesses use typical SEO strategies such as optimising for common keywords and search terms, and regularly updating content.
But some are prepared to go further. While Google severely punishes websites using blackhat techniques, and in some cases actually bans them from the index altogether, the importance of ranking on page one of Google means many sites are prepared to take risks.
Experts say the line between black and "white" SEO is looking increasingly blurry, with many experts and website operators asking whether certain blackhat methods are now just part of doing business.
What is blackhat SEO?
There are dozens of different blackhat techniques sites use to get ahead of the pack, but what are they trying to do?
"Blackhat SEO is all about tricking Google," Stewart Media chief executive Jim Stewart says.
"When people talk about things like comment spam, that isn't blackhat – it's more like rudehat. That's just passing off marketing to someone else. Blackhat SEO is a little more detailed."
"Anything that is done to manipulate the search result, anything you're doing that would basically manipulate the user search experience – that is blackhat SEO."
Jasmine Batra, chief executive of Arrow Marketing, says the big problem with blackhat SEO is the strategies used often annoy other users in the process.
"What you are supposed to be doing is manipulate the search engine to find relevant websites. But if you are doing it in a way that is not helpful, if you are making your site appear for non-relevant search queries, then you're hurting the user experience."
While there are dozens of different blackhat methods, there are three popular techniques most sites use:
- Keyword stuffing
- Cloaking and doorway pages
- Invisible text
The use of invisible text is one of the most basic. This is where a site will use text on a website in the same colour as the background, making it invisible to the naked eye.
A good example is Big Boys Toys, a site which appears to categorise and then link to other types of hobby sites. When users visit the site, they appear to see a normal type of entry page, on which users click a link to enter the site itself.
But when users highlight the page, they'd see the following:
When the Google Bot visits this page, it finds the invisible text, incorporates that into the algorithm and then determines Big Boys as a "relevant" site. While this might be a clever technique, it appears to be against Google's regulations.
"Trying to deceive (spam) our web crawler by means of hidden text... compromises the quality of our results and degrades the search experience for everyone. We think that's a bad thing," Google states on its web developer blog.
But it isn't just obscure sites using this technique. Grabdenim.com.au, the top ranking site for the keywords "women's jeans" and third most popular for "denim" is using a popular blackhat SEO technique known as "cloaking".