Search Engine Optimization was not even in the lexicon of the internet until recently. Now, “SEO” is big business for many companies and a lively profession for tens of thousands around the world.
Yet, as Google’s Matt Cutts often notes good SEO is more the application of common sense than any tricks that run increasing risks of search engine penalties. Hiding keyword text, for example, now can get your site banned completely from Google. Competitors can file spam reports easily if they find this, so Google benefits from legions of website owners and SEOs who are carefully and selfishly “watching the competition” in an effort to get them removed.
Years ago “gaming” the search engines was easy, common, and led to very questionable results. Google’s brilliant “pagerank” innovation, which used the linking structure of the web to rank sites, led to superior results. However it also distorted the very linking structure it used as sites sought to purchase text links from high ranking sites to boost their own prominence.
Text link purchases is still used, though far less than in the past. Many SEO’s swear by it. However all responsible SEOs would agree that Google is cracking down on this in a big way and it carries the risk of wasting money. Cutts suggests both publicly and privately “do not buy links” though he also indicates it won’t confer penalties as much as simply wasting money.
In my opinion this advice should be followed even by websites intent on doing “anything they can” to achieve higher ranks. The time and money is better spent creating better content and seeking deeper and richer link relationships such as those that come from having a good article posted online, blogs and forums, etc. That said it’s become virtually impossible to develop large and powerful incoming link campaigns to all but a site that is of extreme relevance and quality in a category. More about that later….