The Dark Side of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You underestimate the power of the dark side.
If you’ve had an email address for long, chances are that you’ve been spammed by a SEO company promising you placement at the top of search results for whatever category your business falls under. They’ll be right there, hopefully in your spam folder along with various anatomy enhancement offers and letters from long lost relatives overseas that want you to help them transfer their newly acquired fortune. Sometimes they’re even bold enough to call you. These guys are relentless and non-discriminative in peddling their services – you get these solicitations, I get these solicitations, big web companies get them, etc. Such a promise may be tempting, especially if you’re launching a brand new site and want to make an immediate impact. But the long-term effects can be crushing to your online presence.
There are several unethical tactics (referred to as black hat SEO techniques) that Google and the other search engines frown on. These include link farms (I’m sure you have seen pages that have nothing but a ton of links on them), buying links, masking content, stuffing keywords, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, these tactics can work in the short term. For example, JC Penny was recently busted for participating in link farms, but not until after they had cashed in during the holiday shopping season. I can see them now, towering over their competition, grinning and blasting them with force lightning…completely oblivious to the fact that they are about to be thrown into the bottomless abyss. Google is quite good at weeding out this type of thing and doesn’t hesitate to lay down the law.
As a result of their shady dealings, JC Penny’s positions in Google rankings were significantly reduced. I have full confidence that JC Penny can and will recover because of their size and reputation, but could your company? Is that a risk even worth taking?
We’ll cover some good search engine optimization techniques (white hat SEO) a little later. But in the meantime, avoid any SEO company that contacts you with promises of fame, fortune and top placement.