White Hat SEO Checklist: 3 Ways to Ensure You’re Not Penalized for Overly Aggressive Search Strategies
3. Ethical: Pushing the boundaries too far can land search marketers, and ultimately the brands they represent, in hot water. Being penalized or blocked completely by Google is more than just a search problem. While it's true that this sort of action makes a brand invisible in a critical medium, it can also have an impact on the brand's overall perception. Recall the 2011 J.C. Penney fiasco. The brand made national news when The New York Times called them out for problematic link-building practices. In this case, J.C. Penney paid for thousands of links, which Google explicitly forbids in cases that "disregard the quality of links, the sources and the long-term impact it will have on their sites." J.C. Penney's reputation was tarnished, and Google penalized the brand by burying its search results. Instead of turning a blind eye to search practices and taking successful search results for granted, brands need to, at the very least, be aware of search practices being implemented on their behalf to prevent negative brand impact.
The line between "acceptable" and "unethical" can be fuzzy and it is not uncommon for search marketers to push the limits in the interest of driving results. It is up to brands and their marketing teams to understand the tactics and strategies being implemented by search marketers. To protect the brand, we should always err on the side of sustainable, legitimate and ethical.
Eppie Vojt is a digital marketing consultant and John Walker is digital marketing manager at Harrisburg, Pa.-based integrated marketing firm JPL. Vojt can be reached at email@example.com and Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.