In the past week, news broke out that fashion fiasta JC Penney was caught red handed by Google for conducting black hat SEO tactics to inflate their rankings in the search engines. JC Penney became predominate in the search engines for such terms as "black dress", "evening dress" or even "Samsonite carry on luggage" where they were ranking higher than Samsonite.com in the SERPs, weird eh!?
The JC Penny Story in Short
In short, JC Penney had hired a marketing firm to help with their SEO strategy around the holiday season. Oblivious, as they claimed, to what this firm did to help them gain high rankings in an attempt to drive more traffic to their website, some of these activities that included embedding links (buying links) to the footer of irrelevent pages across that web to point back to JC Penney's featured website, a big no no as Google's lead spam cop, Matt Cutt's might say.
Google search results for query 'jc penny dresses' (oops, spelt JC Penney wrong):
Google search results for 'gap dresses' points directly to the dresses for women page, whereas JC Penney's dresses' page is no where to be found in the top three results.
I think as this incident continue to making headlines in the news, no matter whether you are a small, medium or large business, doing due diligence and performing proper SEO from the start will pay off a bunch. If you planning to hire a SEO consulting firm to do your online marketing, I find it helpful to keep a one question at the back of your mind:
Do they have a track record of success?
Make the firm prove to you that they will commit to your project all the way through. Ask how they've helped their clients go from no presence to a combustion of quality traffic to their website. Maybe even ask an expert from the SEO community to give you their insights on the company you plan to hire. Afterall, it's always best to get a second or third opinion.
Contrary to hiring an external party to do your online marketing efforts, bringing on board someone internally to do your content creation, site architecture, etc is another option you have. Afterall, who know your business better than you and your team? Lindsey wrote a great article on 8 Reasons In-House SEOs Hire SEO Consultants, which give real life examples of others who've been there, done that when they were seeking SEO work for their websites.
Research, Write Awesome Content, and Share
Do your research, write awesome content, share your knowledge, and great things will come. The end result is always to get quality traffic flowing to your website, and to see those visits convert into sales. As Seth Godin's said numerous times in his famous Permission Marketing book, turn strangers into friends, and friends into customers. So go out and share the love, and let's turn the web into a great place to find all our answers!