Like it or not, the search engine optimization (SEO) strategies implemented by your webmaster may impact more than your company’s keyword rankings. Black Hat SEO, as unethical search engine optimization practices are generally called, can have negative consequences for your company’s public image as well.

A relatively recent case in point would be the doorway pages utilized by automaker BMW. Google penalized the BMW site for using doorway pages, which trick search engines by showing them different content than what is presented to users. BMW got a lot of free publicity out of the deal, but probably not of the type they were hoping for. BMW quickly removed the doorway pages from their site, and more than likely, someone behind the scenes got their hand slapped too.

If your company is intent on building not only a brand but a stellar public image, the last activity you’ll want to engage in is Black Hat SEO tactics. Although there are some gray areas, certain practices are widely considered unethical and could tarnish one of your firm’s most valuable assets, your company image.

Black Hat Techniques to Avoid

Building doorway pages into your site is forbidden with just about every search engine. Doorway pages, which are really fake pages or spider food that cater to search engine algorithms but are never seen by users, have one primary goal: to trick search engines into higher rankings. They should be avoided at all costs.

Placing invisible text on your site can also get you into trouble with search engines. An example would be putting black text on a black background on your site. This practice is also unethical. Keyword packing or stuffing, which involves putting long lists of keywords on your site without anything in the way of content, can also get you banned from the search engines.

If your webmaster or SEO firm is engaging in any of these tactics, beware. Your site could be penalized by the search engines for these tactics, and any gains that result from them early on could be more than offset by the cost of being indexed by the search engines, not to mention the black eye that unethical practices could give to your company.

Link farms and linking schemes with the primary intent of manipulating search engine rankings, as opposed to providing valuable content on the web, can also get your site dropped or banned from Google. Google also has a very dim view of duplicate content, which involves the promotion of two or more nearly identical sites.

Black Hat SEO is simply not worth the risk. Your best choice will always be to engage an SEO firm whose ethics reflect the stellar image your company has or is striving to achieve.

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