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
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