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plan is not devised before the site is launched, or if the SEO plan is not properly implemented after the site is launched, you could be in for a letdown. Even if you do everything right, with billions of sites on the web, it’s a constant uphill fight.

That’s why some firms are getting down and dirty.

Techniques used to increase page rankings are divided into two groups. One is the “White Hat” method whereby the practitioner uses search engine-approved ways of producing results. This method produces higher ranking pages by doing it the right way, meaning that they conform to certain guidelines with no deception. What Google and others are looking for is the confidence that the content a search engine indexes (sees) is the same content a user will see. The White Hat method intended for the long haul.

The second method is referred to as “Black Hat.” Black Hat users fully expect their sites to be banned sometime in the near future, but not before capitalizing on the higher page ranking...the computer-age equivalent of “Fly-By-Night.”  They use methods that are deceptive and frowned upon by search engines. One technique is to use text that is hidden in the background of a page. This text will normally be the same color as the background and contain highly searched for words that have nothing to do with the site.

One of the most notable examples of trying (and succeeding) to beat the system is that of J.C.Penney. In an article in The New York Times, it is explained how J.C. Penney was able to take cheating search engines to a new level. Someone (J.C. Penney denies any of this) loaded the web with thousands of link-backs to Penny’s web site. As a result, if one were to search for tight jeans, pillows, brassieres, underwear, you name it, J.C. Penney would be listed first. As an aside, even though they admit nothing, J.C. Penny fired their SEO company.

Google did do some “punishing”... at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for “Samsonite carry on luggage.”

Two hours later, it was at No. 71.

The punishment was more severe for BMW, who employed Black Hat techniques on their web site. They were given what the BBC called “The Death Penalty.” Essentially, Google removed all references to BMW from their search engine. Ouch!

The bottom line on the utilization of SEO is that it can be an effective way of generating traffic to your web site. However, I would also say that the company who relies on search engine traffic alone is one that will face big trouble in the months and years to come. Major corporations have the money and wherewith all to maintain their high rankings full-time. Few smaller businesses have this luxury.

Businesses would be wise to blend SEO with more traditional methods of marketing. Printed materials, word-of-mouth, mailings, etc. would assure a longer-term success rate. In a twist of irony, it may even be more advantageous to have links to your site placed on other web sites...ethically, of course.

Rick Fuller

President, AmeriFound, Inc.