In my SEO business I regularly speak to business owners who have been ripped off by their last optimization company. These companies or individuals they dealt with claim to know SEO but who in fact sell what I call “smoke and mirrors” practices that are not only obsolete but harmful to the site’s rankings or the speed at which the site becomes visible on the Web. The site owners were swayed more by an affordable price tag than asking to see some proof that the company has ever promoted a site successfully.

If someone buys an SEO contract based on a low price he’ll get a low-quality job. One interesting thing to note is that when they approach another SEO they are still looking for a cheap price, as if it were the fault of the new SEO and that his last loss should be covered at the expense of the next guy. These bargain-hunters will always lose because they don’t understand what they’re losing – future income. You simply have to be on the first page of search engines to make money from your website.

Things that web service companies offer in their packages are easy for their staff to execute and so the contract becomes profitable if they can get the client to pay for nonsense like automated search engine submission (a ten-minute job using a free web tool) that anyone could do, but that should not be done at all. Google will find your pages and index them on its own, you don’t need to risk the “sandbox effect” where the site will be placed in a probationary netherworld for up to a year.

Social Network Marketing and Social Bookmarking can act as advertising by spreading the brand awareness to others and so it would act as advertising in that respect. If you can find your niche market through SNM it may yield some rewards but in comparison to straight-up relevant link-building it’s like picking grapes in a field when you could be in a hotel ordering champagne from room service.

I maintain that the quality of links is more important than quantity. If the links dilute the relevance factor by being placed just anywhere then rankings will suffer because the less effective links will complicate the path between the searcher and the web pages. The content associated with the links might cause confusion – when retrieval bots get frustrated they simply leave and find a more direct route. All of this is done in the blink of an eye of course. It’s also a bold conjecture based largely on theory, for SEOs don’t get instructions from Google, they can only observe and react.

The good linking methods – general SEO directories, niche directories, press releases, SEO article marketing, Squidoo lenses, blogs, and carefully-chosen link exchanges. I’m not a big fan of reciprocal linking and when a site is new no one else wants to trade links without a good Google score. Reciprocal linking to 300 directories wouldn’t help your rankings; the links should be one-way only.

The bad – Folksonomy is the general term for collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, etc. are time-consuming so the site owner will be paying for more hours of work that produce dubious results. SEO customers are largely medium-size business based on reasonably quick cash flow from their advertising dollars. Bookmarking allows others to add the bookmark and be aware of it, but nothing says they’ll ever use it to buy anything. Moreover it can cause a diluting effect on the relevance factor if it’s done wrong. Repairing this damage is virtually impossible so folksonomy would be best practiced by non-profit and information sites. Link-baiting and giveaways may work for some at the moment but methods like this may see some usefulness and then fade away like the pop-ups did years ago.