So, What Color is Your Hat?

18 Mar

Yesterday, Social Times (a blog/news site that covers social media news, memes, companies, and products) published an article about JC Penny getting caught using black hat search engine optimization (SEO) tactics over the holiday season.

(Curious what I mean by black hat SEO tactics?  Social Times explains is pretty well by saying, “This refers to practices that Google (and other search engines) find to be ‘deceptive and manipulative’ as opposed to the accepted ‘white hat’ practices used by the majority of top SEO companies. If white hat optimization is Luke Skywalker, black hat is Vader.”  Basically, SEO tactics are used to make your website, blog, etc. easier to find via search engine.  And, Google (and others, but really who cares about the others?) has rules about the ways that you’re allowed to go about doing this.)

Note how I say the article’s about them getting caught using black hat tactics, not their usage of black hat tactics.  Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems to be pretty widely accepted that many retailers use various black hat tactics, but it’s something that people are rarely willing to talk about.

Recently, I’ve been meeting with a lot of people engaged in internet marking and search engine optimization efforts.  (I’m exploring my interests in the topic and learning about how different marketing departments engage audiences via online channels, particularly social media.)  And, it’s one of those issues that everyone tends to talk around.  Usually, at some point in the conversation, I ask about their tactics in a very general way and they understand what I mean.  Then it gets awkward for a second…  Most people have sworn up and down that they only engage in white hat SEO, but I did have someone admit to me that they get a little in the gray area and push up to the limit of what Google considers acceptable.  (Personally, I found the honesty refreshing.)

So, what is the best way to ask about someone what color their hat is?

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