What color hat does your SEO wear? Is it white (the good) or black (the bad)? White hat SEO is considered legitimate and acceptable. Black hat SEO is shady and unacceptable. There’s also a middle ground of grey hat (the ugly) SEO that isn’t good nor bad, just questionable.
If you use white hat SEO, you’re fine, and your business isn’t likely to get thrust into the spotlight over SEO. Grey hat SEO usually allows you to slide on by, too. But black hat SEO, on the other hand, can be a scarlet letter to your company that will get you banned from Google entirely. SEO professionals and marketing experts often say that if your business’s black hat tactics are exposed, you’ll lose all credibility and have an extremely hard time recovering your image and winning back the trust of your customers. But is that reality?
Flying Under the Radar
Some black hat SEO tactics – like keyword stuffing and link spamming – are easy for Google to detect, and your website will be penalized for them. There are other versions of black hat SEO tactics that, when done in small doses, aren’t so obvious or easy to spot. While you may be warned that if your business uses black hat it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught, the truth is that many websites use black hat SEO tactics on a long-term basis and manage to fly under the radar. It really is a gamble. If you’re caught, it can be difficult to convince Google to allow you back into their search index, but it is possible.
Your Customers’ Impression
If you’re never de-indexed by Google for black hat techniques, how can doing so hurt your brand? You’ll get lots of great organic traffic from being at the top of the SERPs, and how likely do you think it is that your customers will wonder what kind of SEO tactics you used to get there? Here’s the truth: they don’t care. As with anything, there are sure to be some exceptions to the rule, but in general your customers do not give a damn about your online marketing tactics. While SEO is an important part of your life, most people don’t even know what it is or how it works. They only care about the important stuff: the quality of your company and the service or product you provide to them.
A De-Indexing Nightmare
If Google does blacklist you from the SERPs, will your black hat SEO tactics hurt your brand’s image then? It’s possible, but still unlikely to make an overwhelming impact. Most of your current customers will simply type your domain name into their browsers, and they’ll never even notice that you’ve been dropped from Google. It will then be your task to reverse all black hat SEO tactics and convince Google to let you back in ASAP, or simply let people know you’ve moved to a new domain. All this is a huge hassle, yes, and it will significantly lower the traffic to your site.
Your Brand’s Reputation
Would all of that damage your brand’s reputation for good? That’s what white hat SEO professionals want you to think, but that’s usually because they want you to hire them. A black hat scandal could be a stain to your reputation, but it is entirely possible to recover (JCPenney and BMW did after their scandals). If you’re caught, as long as you can admit your mistakes and get back in the good graces of Google, your customers will be okay with that – if they even cared in the first place.