Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Spotlight on the Australian SEO industry

An extraordinary claim from an unnamed CEO of an Australian SEO company was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, saying that 'most' search engine optimisation firms use unethical techniques to boost their Google rankings - which, if true, could lead to penalties or their removal from the search results. He apparently quotes that there are "only 2 of the top 10 SEO firms that I would classify as ethical or 'straight'". However, he doesn't seem to differentiate between whether these firms just use such techniques on their own sites, or on their client's sites as well.

This coverage of SEO techniques has arisen following the demotion of Sydney-based company The Found Agency, who have been 'found out' by Google for pushing the barriers to achieve their previous high search rankings. They were using the somewhat dated technique of providing a free click counter to third party websites which included a link back to their own site, thus increasing their own link popularity.

Whether Google discovered this through their algorithms or another competitor ratted on The Found Agency, the result was that their rankings have disappeared off Google, including any for their company name. The founders of the agency claim that they wouldn't use any of these tactics for their clients if there was any risk of penalty, but when many companies choose an SEO agency by finding them within the search results, then it's not a great example to be setting!

In regard to the claim about the prevalence of unethical SEO techniques by Australian agencies, it is perhaps an indication of the growing competitiveness within this market and the need for top visibility to attract new business. Agencies may be testing different approaches to perform well on Google and it can be an ongoing challenge for the search engines to combat this activity to produce the most relevant and 'fair' results for users.

One of the core reasons for Google's success is that it has managed to effectively battle many of the outdated SEO techniques that used to manipulate their results and in most cases there are now very few long term substitutes to some hard graft to achieve high rankings. Companies may try some tricks to get a short term gain, but in the long run you have to play by the Google rules or face the possible consequences - which in terms of a high Google ranking can make or break an online business these days.

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