I recently read a post aimed at exposing how some people/organizations use black hat SEO techniques to get their competitors banned from Reddit. Written by Jonathan and Erik Bernstein, this post (which can be found here) got me thinking of all the companies that use black hat SEO techniques and call themselves “SEO experts”. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of them and too many people fall for their trickeries and then find themselves with an online reputation that hinders rather then benefits their organization.
Note: Black hat SEO techniques are fast, easy and dirty practices of getting your website to the top of the search engines. These practices are against Google policy. They may get you to the top of the search engines fast, but Google will just as quickly discover your dirty little tricks and it’ll all come crashing down – with your organization’s reputation suffering the most damage.
MACM often gets calls from entrepreneurs and organizations that have unfortunately fallen victim to these black hatters and ultimately call us to help them regain control and fix their online reputation. It’s an unfortunate thing to see since most of these individuals and organizations didn’t realize that they were hiring someone to do “illegal” work on their website in the first place.
The worst part is that these black hatters and “online reputation specialists” are really disgusting and unethical people. Let me give you an example as to just how disgusting and how unethical.
True story: How black hat SEO will destroy your online reputation
The other day I received a call from an entrepreneur in distress because he was being attacked online and any time an existing or prospective customer googled his name or his business all they found was negativity and false claims against his company. The reason for these attacks you might ask? Well, he got contacted by an SEO company and decided to pay them for some work on his web presence. Once he realized that this company was focusing on the wrong types of SEO tactics he quickly confronted them. When they refused to undo what they had done and refund him his money, the entrepreneur took to review sites and websites to warn other potential victims of their work. When the company caught sight of these reviews, they told him to remove them or he would be sorry. He refused and so the company took to the internet and, with all of their SEO savvy, began to defame his name and brand online. Worst of all, it worked and now this poor guy is suffering from a negative and false online reputation that is handicapping his business and income.
It’s extremely unfortunate, but you can’t imagine how many of these stories I hear each and every month. Individuals, entrepreneurs and organizations who once fell for the black hatters’ promises of SEO glory are now suffering from a terrible standing with the search engines and defamatory claims against their organization that will take a lot of hard work, time and money to fix.
How to manage this black hat SEO risk
- Don’t fall for those spamming emails you receive offering you link building or SEO services
- Before hiring an SEO company, do your homework. How do they work? What types of success claims do they make? For example:
– If they promise you high-rankings, walk away. No one can guarantee anything when it comes to the search engines
– If they promise you overnight success, walk away. SEO is always an ongoing and long-term strategy
- Don’t be shy to get referrals and speak with past customers
- Do a search for the company’s targeted keywords and investigate how good their own search engine rankings are
- If they seem too good to be true (in their claims, in their pricing or in any other way), they probably are
Online vulnerability audits and white hat SEO campaigns are both invaluable crisis preparedness and crisis prevention strategies that your organization should continuously be putting into place. Just make sure that you hire the right team to help you strengthen your online reputation, because the wrong team will ultimately send your company into a crisis, rather than help you prevent and avoid one.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.