Gray Hat SEO

berto-eric-webHaving your blog or Web site rank high in search engine is essentially a guaranteed way to convert sales. But as a PR person, how can you help your clients achieve number-one ranking nirvana?

While at the recent BlogWorld Expo, I sat in on a session that proposed the creation of a network of blogs with content specific to the various products or services your client sells. Relevant key words in the blogs’ titles and content will help it rank so that it does not dilute the keywords in other articles. The strategic use of keyword specific anchor text and linking structures will help as well.

Now, I’m not an SEO expert, but as a PR person, I see the many benefits to this. But there’s a side of me that asks, “Is this genuine?” There’s two sides to this. One of them is black, the other is white. So, I think it’s a gray hat strategy.

The Black Hat

From what I understand, the bad side of this comes in how the blogs are presented. If a network of blogs all have different designs, branding/names, domain registrations and IP addressees, then the assumption is that they are not related. But if all links and referrals point back to a single vendor, this is blatant link farming and search engines look at this extremely unfavorably.

This is a disingenuous method of boosting your page rank. And it does a dis-service to your readers. This will also, if identified by the search engines, end up hurting your ranking and site more as a result of being viewed as manipulative of the search engine results page.

The White Hat

Creating quality content is never a bad thing. But there’s a right way to do this. The theory is sound, but the practice needs to be executed properly.

If you keep the branding and disclose who runs the sites, then the benefits should still come. The underlying premise here is that the content is valuable. Provide information that helps guide a purchasing decision and that will help convert the traffic to revenue.

Technically, there’s more to good content than the words on a page. Ensuring that your site (or sites) is properly optimized with the appropriate links and anchor text, page structure (tagging, linking structure, focused keywords, etc.) and linking out to other quality content are just as important to helping your client’s blogs rank.

Sharing your content is where a different side of blogger outreach comes in to play. Spend time cultivating relationships with other bloggers and sites for content distribution and linking purposes, rather than develop this network artificially yourself. Develop authoritative sites that are on topic and link out to more sites than just your own.

So, in the end, it all comes back to “write quality content.” What do you think of this model, is it unethical? How would you improve upon this model?

Eric is a corporate communications and public relations counselor for bleeding-edge B2B companies. He has guided successful product launches, secured numerous speaking opportunities and created a blogging strategy that was named one of Inside CRM’s top 20 corporate blogs.

Eric’s background as an award-winning journalist and sociological studies brings a people-powered approach to community engagement. Eric blogs at http://thegeekgiant.com and http://www.thebigfiles.com.

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