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When I say aggressive, I mean that the sites in question are not just pursuing links from high quality, relevant sites - they're pursuing links anywhere they can possibly get them, no matter the quality. The sites from which the links come are often quite keyword dense, with content crafted solely for rankings, not users.
These are, in many instances, sites with which our clients would not necessarily want to associate their brands or whose traffic wouldn't be interested in the services sold by the companies to which they link.
Clearly this type of activity can and does work - often long-term - despite search engines (read: Google) repeatedly telling
webmasters not to do it - which is why sites still do it, particularly when things get competitive in a given niche for the most valuable keywords.
Even though it's naughty, when you do this in tandem with a lot of equally naughty (and bad for users) keyword-dense text and keyword-heavy Titles and Meta tags, it often still works a treat - again, in the long term - even though Big G tells us is it shouldn't and it doesn't.
If it doesn't work, then why else would a business title its pages "Widgets, Widget Suppliers, Green Widgets, Widget, Widget UK, Widget Manchester" and then pursue a link from a site which is, say, about drain cleaner, which has equally catchy Titles and Meta?
We advise clients to avoid this sort of practice - a link should always bring greater benefit than just a bump in the SERPs, be it branding/advertising or traffic - and we certainly advise clients to avoid keyword stuffing on their pages as websites are for users - not search engines.
The problem is, no matter how much search engines say "don't do it, " "it" continues to work a treat and doesn't generally bring a swift and decisive punishment.
My question is then, is it ever acceptable, as a "white hat" SEO consultant, to use these sorts of practices to get rankings (where rankings=traffic=conversions, obviously) if it's the only way to get ahead in an uber-competitive SERP where everybody else is doing the same thing? e.g. If we can't beat them fairly, is it ethical to cheat too?
Are the odds of "getting caught" acceptable if everybody at risk knows the risks - particulary when considering the fact that should Google issue a penalty, that penality should be placed upon the whole SERP?
Is it even worth Google penalising every site in that SERP if everybody's guilty of the same offence - which is why the risk itself
may be considerably lower in this type of SEO environment?
Any and all opinions and thoughts welcome.