I gave the keynote talk at the SMX Conference in Stockholm today (slides here), and what I had to say doesn't jive with what many smart SEO people advise. Basically, I told people that all of the tricks and optimizations and clever tactics are a waste of time for the average marketer. Despite the millions of pixels that have been used to explain all of these clever techniques for worming your way to the top of the search rankings, I think that most search marketers would do better to steer clear of them, because they work for only a short period of time.
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These kinds of techniques go by many names, such as black hat SEO, spamdexing, or simple spamming. And many techniques that clever people use aren't expressly against the search engines' terms of service, anyway. So, it's not a question of morality here. You are free to do what you think is right without any advice from me.
But I am going deeper than that. My opinion is that most search marketers need to pursue approaches that work for all three parties in the search transaction: the searcher, the search engine, and the search marketer. Now, most of us have no trouble pursuing tactics that work for us, the search marketers, but we sometimes forget that our tactics need to work for searchers and for search engines, too, if we expect them to work long term.
Techniques that help search marketers but nobody else won't last. Eventually Google will shut it down. Don't believe me? Google stopped keyword spamming and PageRank sculpting already. And PageRank sculpting was never against the terms of service. If paid links get to be enough of a problem, Google might stop using links altogether.
Now, many people can make a good living fooling Google and searchers and everyone else, and if you can do that, more power to you. But most people will never be that clever and don't even have the time to devote to such a pursuit—they have businesses to run. And if you are running a business, you might not want to be so clever, anyway, for several reasons:
I am not here to give you advice on what to do here. I just want to share my opinion that doing whatever works has a dark side, where you have more ups and downs. Just go in with your eyes open.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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