In other words, are businesses that hire "blackhat" search-engine manipulators more likely to engage in outright criminal activity than those who play the traffic-generation game by Google's rules?
That's the suggestion being made by Google Web-spam enforcer/blogger Matt Cutts in a provocative post that's unlikely to win him friends among SEO types, many of whom already consider Cutts the enemy.
The assertion by Cutts was prompted by news of the arrest of Matt Marlon, who was CEO of Traffic Power, a blackhat SEO operator that Google banned in 2006 and Cutts held up as an example of manipulation the search giant won't tolerate. Marlon is accused of running a mortgage scam in Nevada.
So is mere hiring of such characters a gateway to corporate crime?
For a while now, I've had a slight hunch that clients that embrace blackhat SEO on their site are willing to cut corners in other areas of business as well. Earlier today I was reviewing an email from 2001 (!) where Google removed a very large company's website from our index for hidden GIF links, machine-generated doorway pages, and cloaking. It's interesting to look back with the benefit of hindsight now. Later on, the company:
- had 10+ employees convicted for inflating revenue
- the CEO was sentenced to 10+ years in jail
- another executive was sentenced to 2+ years in jail
Can I definitively claim that there's a connection between a willingness to embrace blackhat SEO and a willingness to cut corners in other areas of business? No, of course not. But I have seen several examples like the one I mention above. That's why I'm glad that as more site owners learn about SEO, the long-term odds of blatant SEO scams going undetected go down.
But it's still quite a leap.
After all, incurring the wrath of Google may result in a euphemistic fate worse than death - banishment from search rankings - but it's not going to land you in the slammer.
At least not until Google completes its quest for world domination.
Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent Buzzblog items. And, if you'd like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here's where to sign up.
Top 10 Buzzblog posts for '07: Verizon's there, of course, along with Gates, Wikipedia and the guy who lost a girlfriend to Blackberry's blackout.
A to Z on what doesn't matter in tech anymore: As in AOL to Zune, naturally.
My brush with Mr. Phone-In-His-Ear.
Gates on education: Knowledge is good.
Average Joe asks Bill Gates a priceless question.
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This year's "25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries."
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