Avoid Black-Hat Like The Black Plague: Ask Questions

18 Feb
February 18, 2011

via Flickr (DoubleM2)

By now, you’ve heard the story about how retailing giant JC Penny got caught up in the perils of “link building.” Google is applying little “negative feedback” (my term) which will likely prove more costly than the fees they paid to the black-hat-wearing SEO firm that did the deed. Several SEO pundits, including Search Engine Land, have analyzed the recent situation so there’s nothing much more we can add to the story.

Except this: be very, very careful.

It’s far too easy for a client to turn to purported experts and say, “Ok, we trust you. Do what you need to do to get us good results.” There are lots of bad ways to handle digital marketing. Bad SEO. Bad advertising. And sometimes, as JC Penny is discovering, those bad things can bite back.

So now you’re expecting me to say, “Hire Sitewire! We don’t do bad things!” True, but that’s not the intent of this post. Yes, I want to provide a cautionary tale, but it’s more about knowing what your outsourced firms are doing than anything else. You have to ask hard questions. You have to sometimes look under the hood to find out what is happening. Too much is on the line to leave it to chance, or to have things done on your behalf that you are unaware of. Not that I want you to get paranoid, but it’s time to be a little less trustworthy. Trust is earned.

For the record, we don’t do link building here at Sitewire. We think quality links start at home, and recognize the importance of relevant and remarkable content as the cornerstone to getting people to give you the all-powerful link. While “if you build it, they will come” isn’t exactly true when it comes to attracting links, it’s a much safer approach than trying to game the system. So don’t.

While we do a whole heck-of-a-lot more than search, we still do a lot of it. Our focus is on sustainable search engine optimization practices that help Google, Bing and other engines notice and properly rank your content. We will never knowingly engage in practices that are frowned upon by the publishers, be it link building, doorway pages or any other black-hat techniques. Heck, we don’t even like the grey ones!

But as mentioned earlier, black-hat techniques aren’t limited to SEO. There are serious no-nos when it comes to paid ads. Social marketing is a ripe market for abuse. Let’s face it – deceptive practices in advertising are as old as… well, advertising. It’s a slippery and sometimes slimy world out there. Try not to get any on you.

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2 replies
  1. Travis Unwin says:

    Stories like the one above are all too commonplace, Josh. Hence my admonishment, as the line between your “cornerstone” and my “black hat” is rather thin.

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