I recently caught wind of the ability to grow perfect white (or clear) diamonds in a lab. They have been able to create colored diamonds in labs for some time now, but the white diamond idea intrigued me so I started doing some research. I searched on "white man-made diamonds", "cultured white diamonds", "synthetic white diamonds", "lab grown diamonds" etc. and the site that consistently showed up (at least on the PPC side) was DiamondNexusLabs.com.
I spent some time on the site and the more I read, the more it sounded like this company had accomplished creating the perfect white diamond. And the best part was they were incredibly inexpensive! Paying hundreds of dollars in comparison to thousands of dollars made me think I could upgrade my wife's wedding ring for our anniversary without breaking the bank. I was ecstatic! I did a quick search on the company name to double check its legitimacy and a scan of the first page of results only gave me more confidence. It even looked like they were doing some SEO because their Facebook and Twitter pages were on the first page. Good for them!
Because I was in a consumer mindset (and it was very late at night), I felt like I had done enough research on the industry and the company and I started to seriously consider purchasing. Luckily, something inside of me forced me to sleep on it. The next morning a thought occurred to me: If this company was doing SEO or having someone do it for them, they may have been doing some reputation management on their company name. I checked on it, this time doing a more thorough search on the company name, and lo and behold, every SERP but page 1 made it very apparent that reputation management was being performed for this company. I found hundreds of comments about the company being deceptive, fraudulent, and even illegal in their claims. According to most, the company was simply a reseller of CZ diamonds that can be found for $10-20 regularly. Now, if you want to sell CZ diamonds for exhorbitant prices to uneducated shoppers, that's one thing, but when your site appears to claim that you're selling something very different than what you actually are, that's a big problem in my book.
In addition, every time I found a negative comment about the company, the very next post was someone who was extremely pleased with their purchase and took the diamond to jewelers who couldn't tell the difference between it and a real diamond. Odd? I thought so.
What really hurt me most about this experience was that with the exception of the last practice, the marketing that had been done seemed to be fairly white hat. Someone was using good for evil. I know this isn't the first time this has happened in the SEO industry, but it was definitely the closest I have been to it.
This experience brings up a very difficult question that SEO companies have to face. Even though you may perform transparent white hat techniques for clients, the business model of the client may be "black" or even "grey". Do you still perform the work? Do you make a company successful in Google who doesn't deserve it?
Hopefully it's obvious where I stand.