With the popularity of SEO, social media, and the boom of the online industry, competition is becoming fiercer than ever. It is no longer common to find someone outside of the marketing world who doesn't understand the basic fundamentals of search engine marketing.
Back in 2001-2002, all you needed was a website utilizing basic SEO elements and a few links and Google would love you and you could outrank your competition. Fast forward to today, the game has completely changed. Now, Google will likely ignore you until you're able to prove your website deserves to rank in their search results based on their criteria. With over 100 factors taken into account into the Google search engine algorithm to determine how a website is ranked, this has lead to new level of abuse and capitalization from certain individuals and companies to try to game the system. Search engines are constantly changing the way their algorithm works in order to fight spam and tactics that violate their guidelines. Violation of these terms can lead to a website being penalized or in worst case scenario, banned.
Social media has become a key player in influencing the impact of search engine marketing and Google has openly stated they are now considering social signals in their ranking algorithm. With the popularity of social media networks such as Digg, Twitter, Facebook, and most recently, the introduction of Google+, the level of abuse is rising from underground groups to manipulate and find ways to trick search engines.
Most recently, new social media company Plussem.com began offering a service where they utilize a group of people to vote for the website of your choice on Google+ in exchange for a fee. Looking for 50 votes? It'll cost you just 20 bucks. Want 2,000 votes? You can get it by paying the equivalent cost of an XBOX 360. While this idea sounds enticing, and may work for a short time frame, the MIT engineers behind the scenes at the Google Plex are most likely working day and night trying to figure out a way to prevent abuse from such services. My thought on this topic is, if you do get any type of benefit, it will be short lived.
This type of manipulation is nothing new. Dig further around the web and you will find all kinds of paid services where you can buy social media love.
Let's take a look at the service Subvert and Profit as an example. This site offers everything from paid YouTube to Twitter votes. Not only can advertisers benefit from this, but social media users can also make money from it. Want your message to be spread across Twitter? You can do that too, with a service like Sponsored Tweets.
The rise of these types of services is here to stay. While these services can make you appear popular to your audience, participating in these networks will not give you a long term benefit or a spike in search engine traffic or rankings.
Focus on building buzz-worthy and interesting content your audience will naturally react to. Utilize SEO best practices, participate in social networks to build your networks and you will build your reputation online as an authority on your topic.
Remember, content is KING.