Barry Schwartz has a good post today about trust and falling off the wagon. He references an ongoing discussion at WebmasterWorld as well.
His main point is what can happen when you start with a white hat strategy for your site, but drift into grayer area strategies (such as buying links, or swapping links purely for Page Rank). Our view is that the hard part about this is that when you start with buying a few links here and there, you may even begin to see short term results in traffic, and at the cash register.
It’s like s seductive drug that draws you in, and it’s hard to resist. Barry also references the WebmasterWorld discussion where a senior member, glengara, asserts that the fall is harder and faster when you have a higher Page Rank (or more prominent) site. This may be true, simply because you are more visible.
Here at Stone Temple Consulting, we focus on the building of assets. For smaller web based businesses, we try to develop web sites that someone will acquire some day. No one is going to buy a house built on sand at the beach at low tide. And you best not sell anyone a site without informing them of the risks of any strategies you may have implemented (can you spell l-i-a-b-i-l-i-t-y?).
For larger businesses, it’s equally important to avoid taking risks related to the rankings and position of your web site. It’s not just the lost business when the hammer falls (i.e. you get banned). Imagine your dire competitor getting wind of your being banned by Google?
While they may not issue press releases about your search engine demise directly, they certainly will be letting your customers and potential customers know about your tendency towards shady business practices and question your general business ethics.
Aye there’s the rub. If it’s OK to cheat Google, Yahoo!, and MSN, who else are you willing to cheat? It’s a difficult spot to be in. Getting exposed can hurt a lot more than your search engine rankings.