Is this a black-hat SEO technique?

One of our London SEO training course attendees recently wrote:

“I have a quick question and I was wondering if you could help:

We are steadily improving our progress on Google in the USA and our MD has an idea to help out – I want to ensure this isn’t black hat.

The idea is to give bloggers rewards (free cinema tickets for example) to their followers who follow the journey of typing in our company name, related search terms and click on our website.

Keen to hear your thoughts.”

Is this black-hat or white-hat? I wonder what Matt Cutts would say?  I’m pretty sure he would say that this was a covert technique intended to manipulate the Google search results (i.e.  A black-hat technique).

A better approach would be to:

  1. Concentrate on blogging. Good fresh content will improve traffic, repeat visits and engagement and your Google quality score will reap the rewards.
  2. Build your Google+ following by announcing regular offers via your feed.
  3. Build your profile on Google+ with honest customer reviews.

I read somewhere (Reference to Follow?) that it is acceptable to incentivise reviewers as long as you do not try to influence their judgement.

As a simple example, it would be acceptable for a restaurant to offer a free glass of wine in exchange for a review as long as they didn’t stipulate that it must be a good review. Your reviewers should also state that they were incentivised to leave the review.

For example:

“I thought I would take advantage of the free glass of wine and leave a review for this restaurant …”

I hope that helps.