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 +