• http://twitter.com/CarolynPrice Caro Price

    Great article. I’ve had to rescue more than one client from bad/spammy practices set in place by people who sell them on SEO but are basically fraudsters. But what’s happening online is no different really to what’s happening offline – people just have a new platform. Companies have always had to defend themselves against people trying to gip them.

    The bottom line with on-page SEO is to do what makes sense for the customers…create a sensible funnel through the site with strong calls-to-action and well written text and meta data. In 8 years I’ve never had to panic or redo a whole lot of stuff because of a change in Google’s algos or policies.

    On the other hand, Google sometimes attracts this kind of stuff by putting ridiculous policies in place. Putting so much weight on backlinks was one of them in my opinion.

  • http://www.advance-web.com don williams

    Excellent article.  Social media continues to be one of the most confusing areas for most businesses, large and small and in this “gold rush” atmosphere, the temptation to game the system appears to be overwhelming.  Add to that the fact that, in addition to a lack of understanding or strategy, most businesses also lack the manpower to maintain their social media presence. For many, the only choices appear to be outsource or die. We advise our clients to use social media as a means of distributing high quality content and let the “likes” “shares” and “pluses” take care of themselves. Any business that thinks they can buy their way to the top needs to forget about SEO and social media and consider PPC instead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1657530743 Star Gate

    This articles drives to the point very clearly. Any marketer who is serious in doing business long term should build the right kind of trust, and keep away from too much manipulation. Make things as natural and high quality to build real votes of confidence from the market.

  • Spooked1

    I’m glad I read this report, I was about to pay for some social signals for our ecommerce site, but you’ve talked me out of it :).  What I would like to know is what do we do if we can’t pay for backlinks, when time is limited and you’re competing with sites that are 10 years older that seem to be doing everything right, seo, social, content etc?  I’ve managed to get our site from page 2 to number 5 on page 1 in about 6 months using various linking strategies but I’ve pulled the plug because I’ve been scared off.  Hence the reason for paying for likes, +1′s etc. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=648275710 DiVi Fernando

    Nice article but I would not +1, tweet or like this because it shows India in a bad light… booo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=648275710 DiVi Fernando

    why dont you just supply fresh content to your site say in the name of a blog or news… just be honest with your biz n it comes around… startup businesses can never compete with the established ones even in the real world, why would be it any different on the internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5738687 Navid Dardashti

    I must say i disagree heavily. Facebook for businesses was intended to give businesses a chance to “join the conversation.” Businesses can do this in many ways, and offering sweepstakes and contests has been a means of promotion for decades now. Before Google joined this party by adding social signals to their search algorithm, no one complained about a contest that required you to like a page; individuals made the choice of whether they were willing to publicly like the company for a chance at the prize, and one of the considerations was whether they felt the company was reputable enough to “like” in front of all their friends and therefore implicitly recommend. Moreover, businesses online and off offer discounts and incentives for social validation and referrals. If you sign a friend up at your gym, you get a month free. So Google chooses to use these “likes” as votes, and now it’s unethical to promote your company, to add a viral component to your marketing- on social media? I’m not buying.

    And by the way, your whole article failed to address the possibility that the bakery “buying social votes with discounts” made phenomenal muffins! Sure word of mouth would slowly get around, but they would still have to market like any other business.

  • http://www.gatfol.com/blog Sally at Gatfol

    An article that really hits the nail on the head! I have to agree – the scheisters will home in on anything new and innovative with manipulative tactics that ruins it for the honest guys wanting to take advantage of top results in the right way. What to do about it? As a start-up business that wants to take on the world – and knowing very little about SEO, etc., we have improved our Alexa rankings from millions within the last 3 months to just a few hundred thousand recently, by presenting “quality and entertaining content” on our blog with no advertising, combined with some social media, which Google appears to be rewarding us for. Sticking to honest tactics should work in the long run…we believe… However, search engines must endeavour to knock out the “word-salad” sites that rubbish quality content and hammer the scam sites clogging up the web, to make way for the smaller businesses to be able to compete successfully at the top of search results. For as long as the public supports the “fraudsters” so as to win contests, prizes, etc., it will be very difficult for search engines to control search results, rankings and the future of social media!

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Trond, great piece.  I’ve been working on a piece on a similar theme and agree that at the end of the day, social signals will be less important that personal (browser) behavior/history.

    Worth noting that none of this is particularly new.  False advertising and manipulative methods have been around as long as commerce.  Those SEOs who work with low quality clients are in a bind in the sense that those folks will either have NO business, or have a short lived business as long as the link-buying/like-buying game lasts.  Businesses that do not generate repeat customers won’t survive in the long run because constantly having to find first time customers is too expensive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffreybtaylor Jeffrey Taylor

    Several months ago I blogged about the out of control buying of Google reviews. There are many companies that offer reviews for a price and it seems like a no brainer since Google uses reviews as part of its Places ranking criteria. It is a serious problem and if Google does not address it soon searchers will no longer trust reviews they find on Google. It is usually easy to spot by clicking on the user profiles of the reviewers. I have found numerous Car Dealers buying positive reviews to push negative ones that are real off page one.

    First of all, people are starting to catch on and fake reviews are pretty easy to spot, second of all it violates Google guidelines and hopefully a major slap is coming, and lastly it is ILLEGAL! Keep buying fake reviews and you may hear from the FTC. It is a $250,000 fine.

    Google needs to pay closer attention to this problem because their credibility is on the line. I have found in my research hundreds of cheaters in every industry. I even found a fertility clinic doing it. Imagine paying big dollars to a fertility clinic hoping to have a child based on fake reviews….

  • http://twitter.com/SilkCharm Laurel Papworth

    This can’t be right – my Search now shows MY FRIENDS that have shared sites. Not random strangers blabbing about muffins but my family and colleagues. If a company buys social signals from developers in India, it will rate highly for developers in India social network. Not consumers in other parts of the world. I thought that was what social search was about – seeing what your friends rated highly? 

  • Caroline I

    Great article, yes.  How come Twitter lets these accounts post their offers to ‘sell’ followers though?  Isn’t it easier to remove the source of trouble than ask all SEOs worldwide to be disciplined and responsible for the comon good?

  • http://twitter.com/OysteinLund Oystein Lund

    Thing is, you’re writing as if Google is some sort of objective, impartial judge of quality when SEOMoz and SEObook have conclusively demonstrated that in vertical after vertical they’re completely pushing the organic results off the first page in favor of advertisers and Google properties.

     Google has long since turned into an advertising agency with a search engine attached, and the search engine is not perceived as the important part by Management given the dissatisfaction voiced by Google engineers leaving the company. Closing Google labs, removing all the experimental tech bits – they’ve clearly either redefined “evil” or simply dropped the “don’t” from “don’t be evil”.

     So, your article is appropriate from a pre-2004 perspective. Today it’s 2012 however, and the Google culture your article assumes exist vanished sometime between 2008 and 2010.