One thing I’ve learned over the past year or so is there are good and bad way’s of going about things in the search world. “What do you mean?” you may ask. . . let me explain.

If you market online, more than likely you’re going to run into a situation where you have several paths which you can take. Some people take the 100% white hat route, some people take the full on black hat route and some people may take a “grey” route. Obviously, white hat refers to straight and narrow, black hat is going directly against search engine terms of service and the grey route might consist of methods that are not listed in search engine terms, seem harmless, but a few people may have a different take on if it is right or not. Even if you think you practice only white hat techniques for promoting and optimizing your site, you still need to drop the target from your forehead because there might be one simple thing you do that you think is fine, but a certain someone reviews your site and dings you with a penalty unbeknownst to you.

What I’m referring to is the people that go to these conferences that the major search engine’s go to. There is a right way and a wrong way of attending these things. They can be an absolute gold mine of information and a great way to network with others in your industry, but they can also be a sure way to magnify the target you’re putting on your forehead.

Lets say you attend one of the sessions/classes and they’re discussing duplicate content. They open the floor for a little Q&A session and you decide to ask a question regarding your companies website, giving the url and hoping for some free helpful advice. Maybe you get some good advice, maybe you don’t, but one thing does happen that you are unaware of. A certain search employee is sitting in the crowd and starts digging through your site finding a thing or two he doesn’t like but has always seemed ok to your company, along with not being against the terms of service. With the click of a mouse, your site has been wiped from the search results. All because you threw your company url out for some helpful advice.

This is something that does happen and it can easily happen to you if you visit these conferences or even post your site url on popular forums. If you have questions, don’t offer your site url so all can hear. What is a complete disaster to the business/site owner is a mere game and fun to the search engine employees. They are really not up for giving advice (typically) or making constructive suggestions, they will just wipe you right out of their results. Google has talked about notifying webmasters when they penalize or ban their site from their results, but the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t happen at this point, so you only know when you disappear. Even then, it’s next to impossible to get an answer of what happened.

How you attend the conferences and/or popular message forums without jeopardizing you and/or your companies website with search engines, is simple; remain as anonymous as you can. The only people you or your company is interested in seeing your site are potential customers. If help is needed where the site is necessary to review, hire a specialized company that is on your side and will provide constructive and helpful answers.