Google has introduced recent changes to their algorithm that has opened the door for a spate of unethical SEO companies. Link building techniques such as link networks, link farms, paid links and many other dodgy tactics employed to manipulate the search engines and gain rankings, deemed violations of Googles quality guidelines would previously have been discounted and the ranking of the website wouldn't be affected (negatively or positively) by these links.
However, changes made recently by Google now sees websites penalised by these types of links, to the degree that a website doesn't even appear for a search for their own brand name. Google's 'manual spam actions' now heavily penalise a website for having this type of link profile and it brings a whole new sector to SEO.
Imagine you're second for a keyword, you've been struggling to overpower your main competitor for a year - they always seem to be able to retain top position no matter what you do. Well, now with the recent changes by Google, rather than spending time and money on quality links to your own website, spend all that time and effort on 'black hat techniques' on your
competitor's website. This change brings about a huge moral dilemma - continue to toil on your own website and hope you can achieve top position, or screw over your competitors and let them deal with it.
This appears completely wrong to us, Google has often said in the past that they won't penalise or blacklist websites because it allows for this practice of building spammy links, including porn, casino, Viagra and more; to devalue a competitors website rather than working on promoting your own. What we can see evolving is websites having to constantly review their link profile to ensure that all links that are going to their website are links that fit within the guidelines, are either built and authorised by them or are natural links, otherwise each link will need to be assessed and evaluated whether to be removed. This is potentially a
huge amount of work, every month, to ensure that there isn't a competitor negatively affecting your website.
There are a number of firms out there that bring the SEO industry into disrepute, 'snake oil salesmen', and Google's recent move invites many more of these unethical firms to work in SEO and potentially further disparage the firms that focus on market leading services. It is now more important than ever when choosing your SEO agency, or in house employees, you are extra vigilant ensuring that their tactics are up to date and won't penalise your site.
Google's mantra of "don't be evil" is now a mixed message. If you do evil you can achieve great rankings, by simply knocking your competitors off the rankings. It could come back to haunt you of course, if your competitors do the same thing to your website. At which point, there could be no results for a keyword search as they could all have knocked each other off the results and Google's results would be greater affected and worse than ever before.
Paul Thornton is Head of Execution at Digital Hothouse, an Auckland-based digital agency, with over 15 years experience of online marketing and SEO.