It’s late at night and you’re driving along the highway in your brand new Rolls Royce Phantom that sports the license plate ‘BEST SEO‘. All of a sudden you see the flashing lights behind you. You were driving the limit. You know you were obeying the rules of the road. What gives?

You’ve just been pulled over by the Google Patrol and it’s pretty obvious that you aren’t guilty of anything other than being a high-profile SEO.

A post yesterday on the SEOmoz blog points to two recent posts on other blogs which discuss an emotional topic for SEOs: the fact that Google clearly keeps a close eye on prominent SEOs and treats them differently than it does other website owners.

According to Michael Gray, an SEO who runs a site called ViralConversations.com:

What we have is a pattern of behavior that closely mirrors racial profiling.
Assuming someone is terrorist because they are of middle eastern decent,
assuming someone is guilty because they are black, or assuming all SEO’s are
guilty of being link brokers just because they know the value of a link, it’s
all profiling and it’s all wrong.

Why does Michael feel this way? The other post SEOmoz references provides the context:

Michael Gray was seated next to me during the You&A session and mentioned
Viral Conversations, his product review
site that hooks bloggers up with free products. When Viral Conversations was
first launched, he received an email from Matt Cutts with recommendations for
things he’d like changed. One “recommendation” was to make sure bloggers used a
nofollow on all links to rid any sense of paid link impropriety.

Lisa Barone, the author of this post, concludes:

When you assume otherwise and bucket SEOs into a “high risk” group, holding 
sites hostage, it’s malicious. And I’m no longer wet behind the ears. I’ve seen
sites unfairly punished and left for dead simply because of the SEO association.

Despite the fact that his site has come ‘under surveillance‘ by Google, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz provides a balanced look at the subject, pointing out that it’s somewhat natural for Google to keep an eye on “operators of interest“. And right or wrong, he comes to the logical conclusion that complaints about Google’s inequitable modus operandi “are unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the way Google does
business
“. He provides some common sense suggestions, several of which are worth repeating:

  • Decide Whether it Pays to Become a ‘Well-Known’ SEO
  • If You’re ‘On the Radar,’ Carefully Consider Your Projects
  • Plan to Be ‘Reported’ for any Gray/Black Hat Activity

These suggestions cannot be understated.

In one of my favorite movies, Scarface, Frank Lopez tells a hungry Tony Montana, “Remember when I told you when you first started working for me, the guys that
last in this business, are the guys who fly straight. Low-key, quiet.
” This sort of advice isn’t just for criminal masterminds.

As nice as it is to be part of ‘the community‘, to share knowledge and to be recognized as an expert, when it comes to SEO activities I think there’s a lot to be said for keeping a low profile wherever possible. As much as I sympathize with those who have found themselves being unjustly pulled over by the Google Patrol, when you’re driving a Phantom with a ‘BEST SEO‘ license plate, the question has to be asked: what did you expect?

Photo credit: FaceMePLS via Flickr.