It is impossible to have a successful website which receives adequate traffic without implementing an active, costly Search Engine Optimization strategy. In particular, during the process of setting up a new website. At least, this is what we have been led to believe by the SEO professionals. But is there any evidence that the techniques used by the SEO's actually work? And are the techniques they implement in contradiction to the search engines guidelines on ethical methods?
Current trends in the SEO industry involve manipulating rankings by creating as many quality inbound links from contextually relevant sites which benefit from a high Google "Page Rank". Along with these quality links, many SEO's will submit to hundreds or even thousands of lesser known search engines, indexes and directories, many of which which do little more than scrape content from the big three search engines and then spam them back. These directories can be found with a simple Google search and cost pennies for inclusion.
Then, the professional SEO will employ some keyword and html tag stuffing which can be done by anyone with basic knowledge of html and the willingness to write page content for an algorithm as opposed to a person. Creative and less scrupulous SEO's may even undertake a bit of tag and ping or create some doorway pages which may put the site being "optimized" at risk of vanishing from the search engines forever!
Of course, an SEO can earn $1000 or more per site for a month, just as a maintenance fee. Given that many of these companies outsource to India where highly competent programmers do the same job for 10% of the price, the SEO business is a good business to be in for the time being. The astute site builder can contract directly through Elance or similar service.
Now, it is not my intention to spoil the party for these SEO gurus. Don't get me wrong. All of the above techniques WILL work and can get good rankings in all the search engines. But they won't necessarily get a guaranteed top ten result for highly competitive terms in many cases. Many corporate sites will hire an SEO just because they think they have to. But for how long will the industry last?
With the major search engines continually developing highly developed algorithms to rank sites in their "rightful" place, the SEO boom will continue for the foreseeable future. The constant battle against content spam, blog spam and all form of ranking manipulation is not over by a long shot. But the bottom line is that all the latest SEO techniques can be found online just by spending a little time on research. The geeks make sure the secrets are out fast! The remaining decision is evaluating whether you have the time and inclination to do it yourself.