In the old western movies, the good guys wore the white hats – the bad guys had the black hats. That same terminology has been adopted in the world of Search Engine Optimization(SEO) to denote sites that use integrity in the SEO strategy and those that don’t. White hat designers follow search engine guidelines to optimize their site. Black hats use backdoors, cloaking and link farming. We’ve all experience the black hat strategy of link farming. You are shopping for a specific item and you Google that item. Up pops a well known retailer’s name in the search results, so you click on the link only to find out it was a page with lists links of unrelated websites. JC Penney recently made the news for black hat SEO strategy, “J.C. Penney Black Hat SEO Backfires”. Executives claimed they had no knowledge that the marketing company they hired was doing black hat strategy. So what can we do if we want to preserve our reputations for integrity in the marketplace when working with outside vendors? Here are five simple steps to take to make sure you maintain your reputation for integrity.
(1)Have clearly defined core values or operating principles that form the foundation of all your decisions. Make sure every employee knows these values and is held accountable for their delivery.
(2) If you are hiring services in a field you are unfamiliar with, do some research and play “what if?” What’s being done in that industry that doesn’t meet standards of integrity? What possible consequences are there for your company if integrity is compromised? “What if” this hit the front page of the Nashville Business Journal?
(3) Check references on any service providers you are considering hiring. Do the companies have a reputation for integrity? Ask questions around your core values to determine who is best suited for the work you are contracting.
(4) Clearly communicate your core values to your selected service providers or vendors. Make it clear upfront in writing what your expectations are around your core values and how they should drive decisions as the vendor does work for you.
(5) Reward and celebrate vendors who uphold integrity in their services. Write them a recommendation on LinkedIn, a letter of recommendation, or tweet about them. Recommend them to others. Do all you can to help the good guys win.*
* Nancy’s Integrity First Column – Nashville Business Journal – 9/9/11