While I was answering a question to one of my SEO leads in a discussion about black hat vs grey hat SEO, I had to sum up my discussion on this sentence “whatsoever, SEO is similar to doing an illegal thing in a legal way”. However, the subject is up for debate and I would love to hear readers’ views in the favor of or against this theory. Below is my take on it.
Website Grading 10 Years Ago:
If you have ready my first post on this blog “think human, think Google”, it will make it lot easier to understand the concept behind my proposed theory. When search engines were invented and they started working, there were only a few domains over the worldwide web, fewer websites and very little competition in across different niche. It was quite easy to list top 10 websites for a particular keyword search due the fact that there was so little competition. As the number of websites grew, and more and more people started selling the similar services and products online, the grading work of search engines became more and more challenging. As opposed to the past, now search engines had to take into consideration more than one factors to evaluate and grade the sites. Google was on top of the list in grading sites more efficiently after it started its operations earlier this century. That’s when a big shift happened from tens of other search engines to Google, because people realized somehow that results presented by Google were much more comprehensive and related to their search terms than other search engines.
On-Page Gets Attention:
In the battle of site grading and evaluation to get them to the top ranking in search engines, several criteria were developed. If you have seen Matt Cutt’s video clip in 2008 when he was answering about SEO, he pointed out the fact that how can a website appear in results and they are not using the keyword terms in their content. This is when people just started realising that they have to use “keywords” to get attention of search engines, and here is when a proper on-page SEO strategy started to develop. In the following years (2007-2009), website owners realised that only stuffing keywords will not help them rank, but they rather need “votes” from other sites or what we call backlinks that Google much appreciated those years and all sort of quality, poor, spam, mass links did great job for most of the websites and people made a lot of money using all these techniques.
Era of Mass Backlinking:
During 2010, Google started realizing how people were manipulating the SEO algorithm Google had in place, so it started giving close attention to the quality of the back-links or “votes” a site was getting from other sites. In an ideal world, a site gets votes or a back-link when another person likes a page on that site and shares it through his blog network (guest blogging these days), micro-blogging (web 2.0 properties), his news channel (press release) or commenting in their blogs/forums. A good example is Wikipedia, CNN, BBC and other knowledge intensive sites that people quote onto their blogs most often. However, with increasing websites, blogs, personal sites, micro-blogs, news channels, video sharing sites, document sharing sites etc, not everyone could get a normal “vote” or back-link from another related site simply because worldwide web became crowded. There were tens of thousands of sites in a particular niche and getting to know all of them was not practically possible, so some sites got this “vote” and others did not.
At this point, the website owners started contacting other similar sites or news channels to draw their attention to the quality content they had or services they did offer. People got few votes this way. Later on when this technique didn’t work well (and the reason being increasing number of similar quality websites), people started barter exchange to promote their website, i.e, link versus link. Later on getting a link became part of SEO ecosystem and every stakeholder had some benefit in this ecosystem including getting unique content, natural traffic, a back-link, some money and so on.
Nip the Evil in the Bud:
The last nail in the linking coffin was the invent of paid links, links in exchange of quality content, paid blog networks and paid linking services aka SEO Services. This is when Google had to show its black face earlier this year (2012) and all those nasty tricks, link schemes, link farms, blog networks, automated links etc were ditched.
If you have made it up to here then here comes my theory of “doing the illegal in a legal way”. SEOs have learnt the lesson, website owners have become more careful in building links, and content writers are no longer using spinning software. But does the SEO have changed? The answer is NO. SEO took a shift from the old classical SEO to the new modern SEO where most of the old techniques are being used the same way but more carefully and apparently legally without sending signals to Google that a man-made effort is being done to rank a website. This includes not leaving footsteps for Google, not following a pattern, diversification, change in link types and link velocities, mixing no-follow with do-follow links, reducing keyword density in content, creating proper URL structure and keeping a natural pace on how you move with your SEO. Most of those illegal things are still being done, but in a legal way and as they say in a proverb in my language “you are a thief only if you get caught” or as the proverb says “innocent until proven guilty”. Your bad days will start only if Google proves you guilty, so keep yourself low-profile, do all the wrong (not the blackhat) but in a legal way