in Business, Philosophy, SEO, Web

But It Works…

So here’s the issue. Google provides guidelines for webmasters to help them “do the right things” to get their websites to perform better in Google.

These guidelines say things like:

“Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.”

“If your company buys a content management system, make sure that the system creates pages and links that search engines can crawl.”

“Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as cloaking.”

But one of the most important of these guidelines, and the one that is most abused is the following:

“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”

In fact, it’s such an important guideline, Google has created a complete link scheme page which says in part:

Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

Now one might be inclined to think that if webmasters violate Google’s guidelines, their sites may be negatively impacted by these violations in Google search results. And in fact, Google expressly states that participating in activities that violate their guidelines, “can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

But it works.

Every single day, I see numerous examples of websites that blatantly violate these guidelines. Especially the don’t use excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging and the buying or selling links that pass PageRank. In fact, this is one of the most popular ways the search engine optimization agencies that work specifically with law firms operate.

And the websites that employ these agencies to perform these tactics tend, by and large, to perform very well in search results.

And so, if you’re a search engine optimization consultant, like me, you’re presented with a challenge.

Do you advocate strict compliance with Google’s guidelines? Do you advise your client of the risks of these various strategies so that they can make an informed decision and help them proceed in whichever direction they choose? Do you ignore the risks and participate in these schemes holding your breath that Google is unlikely to catch you?

I’m not the first SEO to face these issues. They have been faced by SEOs since SEO was a word. They have been thoroughly discussed and debated. In fact, the SEO community has even come up with cute designations for the various types of SEOs based on their answer to the questions posed above:

  • White Hats – Strict compliance with search engine guidelines.
  • Gray Hats – Toeing the line between compliance and more risky tactics.
  • Black Hats – Ignoring the guidelines and doing whatever it takes to get results and not get caught.

My approach is to educate my clients the best that I can so that they can make an informed decision. And I will always do that.

But it works…

But should I refuse to work with clients that, after being fully informed, insist on pursuing these tactics? I wouldn’t be serving the internet community. I would be helping folks violate Google’s guidelines.

But it works…

I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of doing something that I could be proud of.

But it works…

I know I will be the one left holding the bag when it stops working.

But it works…

It may hurt my professional reputation with those that want to do things “the right way.”

But it works…

It seems that the best I can hope for is that someday it won’t work, but as for today… It works.

But it won’t…