We have all seen the emails and persistent ads that tell us that the secret to SEO has finally been uncovered. The messages tell us not to worry about our website and all that messy code and content stuff – just get some backlinks!

“All the winning websites have lots of backlinks,” they say, “so join our latest automated link-building program and you too will be a winner!”

The pitch is remarkably similar to the one given by Sylvester McMonkey McBean in Dr. Seuss’ Star Belly Sneetches as he goes about selling a quick fix to happiness:

“I’ve come here to help you.
I have what you need.
And my prices are low. And I work with great speed.
And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Star-belly Sneetch Guarantee

So what’s the problem with all this quick and easy link buying?
Zoo animals – especially the black and white ones called Panda and Penguin.

In reality, Google’s Penguin and Panda updates are just the latest names of their ongoing algorithm improvements that have included Vince, Florida, Jagger, Big Daddy and many other predecessors. They were all designed to identify and eliminate spam. And they’re getting better.

This stuff is not new. Google has always been trying to improve its ability to purge spam from their SERPs.

One thing that did change with the introduction of Penguin was the need to undo what had been done on other sites and not just your own. Remember all those easily acquired backlinks from cheap directories and author-less blogs? They now need to be removed in order to submit a re-inclusion request.

But don’t fret. Just like in the Star Belly Sneetches, there is a service for that. Some directories and web farms are now offering to remove those paid links…for a fee.

“Then, of course, old Sylvester McMonkey McBean
invited THEM into his Star-Off Machine….
Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went.”

Sneetches - Star on Star Off

Chasing Google’s quickly closing loopholes comes with a price and the price is getting steeper. There is a better way.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you could sit down with a Google engineer and confidently explain your brand-building tactics. If it seems too easy, too fast or too good to be true, it probably is. If your SEO efforts are something you would hide from your customers, save yourself the time, effort, and energy by not doing them in the first place.

by John Sherrod
Google +