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Black Hats, White Hats: SEO and JC Penney

A good friend of mine who works for a search engine giant that will not be named tipped me off to two very interesting articles about search engine optimization.  The first is a fascinating New York Times expose (requires registration) of “black hat” SEO tactics used by J.C. Penney to goose their Google search rankings during the recent holiday season. The second is from the popular SEO blog, and makes for some very interesting reading as well.

I’ll be honest with you — this story makes me glad that ServInt spends most of its energy building an honest, organic buzz from satisfied customers, rather than manipulating search engine results to make sure we pop up at the top of every Google search. That doesn’t mean we don’t think “white hat” SEO isn’t valuable, or that we shouldn’t always be certain that our web strategy maximizes our search engine opportunities. But I can’t help feeling that the best form of SEO — and I mean that literally — is delivering a product that is so superior that your customers will eagerly spread the word about you online. The question is: how can SEO take maximum advantage of that?

If you’re an SEO expert, I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this. Was the JC Penney event a watershed for the SEO industry? Am I right about old-school “word of mouth” being the best form of SEO? Is there a way to combine killer word-of-mouth buzz with killer SEO strategies? I bet you’ve got some thoughts here, and I really want to hear them. The most compelling insight gets a free round-trip airplane ticket to meet with me in McLean, VA, where we can really discuss things in detail.

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About Fritz Stolzenbach

Fritz Stolzenbach is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at ServInt. You can find him on Google+.

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