If you think that you are keeping a low profile and Google isn`t tracking all those quick fix misdemeanours, you couldn`t be further from the truth. The reality is that Google knows all, and Matt Cutts and the crew are getting smarter by the day.
As grey-hat SEO tactics become more subtle, Google continues to expand its guidelines and even if they don`t have enough to hammer you right away, they may be archiving your movements for future evaluation.
The following “questionable tactics” fall in the grey area between legitimate tactics and search engine spam. They include tactics such as cloaking, paid links, duplicate content and a number of others. Therefore, unless you are on the correct side of this equation these tactics are not recommended.
If Google employs this archiving approach, they will be in a position to uncover in the future what they are unable to unearth now. They could in essence be documenting your every move and thus emphasising the importance of ensuring that all your actions (digital footprints) are well thought out and as clean as possible.
As Stephan Spencer mentions in a post on Search Engine Land, there are always repercussions; some are slow to manifest, but may turn out to be severe and long-lasting.
Even if you stop using these unsavoury tactics after a certain point, don’t assume that it`s all good and Google will acknowledge that you are not gaming the system. It may be that sooner or later Google will be able to detect just about anything and impose a penalty based on this.
Back in 2003 or 2004 Google did start to include some aspects of historical data into their algorithm – and some sites were immediately hit with penalties for stuff they had done in the past.
So, as it gets cheaper and cheaper to store vast quantities of data, and as technology improves, so does the archiving power of the net and by extension, Google. As Google continues to improve its guidelines and algorithms, we can deduce that there will be a time that Google will have the power to track your past misdemeanours and discipline you accordingly. Even if your digital footprint looks clean for now, in the future, Google might still find out that it’s tainted somehow.
There are webspam tools such as Wikiscanner that are already being used, and as time passes, it’s pretty inevitable that further tools will emerge as a means to boot out the culprits. SEO tactics will come under increased scrutiny and amplify the need for all Search Specialists to be very careful to leave a clean footprint.
In my humble opinion I feel that this is an important subject, as this will increase transparency and trust in our industry. There is too much negativity and controversy surrounding SEO, and its unfair on the White Hat SEOs that have always played by the rules.
What I don`t completely agree with however, is that conception that Google could be in a position to penalise you even after you have actively made amends and changed your devious ways. If Google is in a position to archive everything and has record of your past mistakes, webmasters or SEOs should be punished when they game the system. It`s also the client`s responsibility to ensure that they don`t do business with sketchy agencies.
But saying that, the “damage control” should also be acknowledged by Google, they should also have record of the clean up that is happening. So you get punished when you going off the right path but awarded when you start to make amends and have everything in order. Even if it takes longer, eventually you should achieve damage control. Once this has been achieved, the key is to maintain and focus yourself on the long term gains as opposed to the short term unsustainable growth and returns.
It`s crucial that webmasters and SEOs start to actively put in the extra time and effort to properly rank a website. This will ensure that the site will not be penalised down the road or even banned from the search engines entirely. Your only option is to actually stay squeaky clean. Not just look clean. Big brother is always watching and foresight is becoming all that more crucial.