"We are not Punished for Our Sins, but by them"
-- Elbert Hubbard
Take a look at this eight years old post that Matt Cutts did about paid links, and then a fairly recent post about guest blogging that has set the alarm bells ringing in SEO community, and you will find a lot of similarities e.g. Matt Cutts denouncing some link building strategies, and then the commentators, at least a big majority, voicing their disapproval of Googles approach.
And the similarities didnt end there, because the follow-up was pretty much the same. Google followed the warnings with a sitewide penalty imposed on MyBlogguest and PostJoint (as well as some publishers using these networks).
Deja Vu -- All Over Again
It's fast becoming an extremely predictable cycle. Some SEO guys sense an opportunity of building links in an already existing marketing tactic e.g. guest blogging, web directories, press releases, article marketing, and the likes. They give it a try, find some success, and get overexcited.
As soon as a particular strategy becomes mainstream, and gets into the hands of ordinary Joe, it starts transforming into a questionable, spammy tactic. And it always ends with some warnings, followed by an algorithm update or manual penalty for some websites using that particular tactic.
That is what has been happening from the beginning and it will continue to happen in the foreseeable future.
Note that none of these marketing tactics are actually invented by SEO guys, and that tactics like guest blogging, business directories, blog commenting, or press releases are not really evil by default. It's just that a particular technique comes into the hands of SEO guys, it's bound to be misused, and once it reaches the tipping point a Google penalty is nothing but a sort of formality.
So, What Actually Happens?
Question is, what's so inherently wrong with the SEO guys? How do they manage to ruin each and everything they touch? Why do all of these tactics come to a disastrous end as far as link building is concerned?
Before I move on to the why part, let me first clarify that I've used the term SEO guys a little bit loosely in this post. Needless to say, I am talking precisely about the SEO guys who actually contribute to the downfall of all these tactics and not the entire community.
A big majority of SEO or Online marketing guys have some kind of technical or IT backgrounds, and maybe the urge to automate each and every thing comes from that. The first thing they'll be looking to do with any of these techniques is to try and automate, or streamline each and everything. They don't want to do the hard part so they are trying to oversimplify all the time.
Starting from the auto fill plugins used for submitting the websites to the directories to systemizing guest blogging, trying to automate each and everything will eventually result in poor quality. Some of these tools can save a lot of time (which makes them an absolute must), but you shouldn't really be looking for a mechanism on autopilot that keeps churning out back links on its own.
Looking For Quick Tangible Results
Many SEO guys are actually aware that a certain technique will do more harm to the website than good, and still they continue with it, mainly because they are looking for quick tangible results to retain their clients or jobs. They will stick to these tactics because they need to show some progress, and because the real progress can take some time (i.e. sales and conversions), they resort to the good-for-nothing, but easy to accomplish targets.
They can't spend a lot of time on quality stuff because it's hard to measure in numbers, so they keep making merry with the quickies as long as it's helping them show some progress. And because half a dozen guest posts at ordinary blogs will give an impression of more work as compared to a single post on quality blog, they tend to go for the first option.
Trying To Cut Corners
In his post about Guest blogging, Matt Cutts actually mentions that it has reached to a point when people are talking about how to automate guest blogging and guest post outsourcing. We have already talked about the menaces of automating, but what really makes outsourcing a bad choice?
Here again, the problem doesn't lie in the outsourcing, because it makes perfect sense from business point of view, as long as you are choosing the right people for the right job. The problem starts when businesses or SEO guys start looking out for the cheapest possible options to do the job.
They want more links, more exposure, more visitors, and more sales, without paying the price. That's precisely why they've hired internees in the past, with nothing but copy pasting skills to submit their websites to web directories, they went for article spinning software or cheap rewriting packages to carry out article marketing, and they choose guest blogging packages promising 5 guest posts in less than $100 dollars. Needless to say, when you are trying to cut corners in all possible ways, the end result is always the same i.e. the quality of the work will get compromised. And when a big majority of websites or SEO guys are doing it incessantly, the method itself starts to look farce.
One Trick Pony
Most of those guys who are guilty of overdoing a particular technique are doing this because of their inability to learn the nitty-gritty of Search Engine Optimization, or Internet Marketing in general. They go from one place to another, looking for an easy to understand technique that works, and start investing all their time and resources on that particular method. Doesn't matter how good is the technique; getting fixated on one single method will actually make you vulnerable to a future Google penalty targeting that particular method. When it comes to Internet Marketing, its actually better to be the jack of all trades (e.g. social media, blogging, outreach, paid advertising, conversion optimization) and master of none.
The SEO Obsessions:
It makes perfect sense, if you like reading guys like Barry Schwartz, Danny Sullivan,or Bill Slawski to keep tabs on search engines and online marketing industry but you need to get your priorities straight. Because the moment you start paying more attention to Matt Cutts, as compared to your customers, you are probably losing the plot. The obsession with the SE optimization leads to weird things that wouldn't really make sense in the real-life marketing, like keyword stuffing, cloaking, or doorway pages.
All things considered, it doesn't matter which online marketing method you choose, it will backfire in the longer run as long as you are trying to cut corners, automate the entire process, overdoing, or trying to fast-forward each and everything.