One of the recurring questions from last weekend’s European Software Conference was how to draw the line between legitimate and dangerous SEO.

Interestingly a common pattern tends to emerge.

Companies engaged in legitimate SEO are often concerned that their efforts may land them in trouble, resulting in possible bans or a dramatic drop in rankings and traffic.

Companies engaged in questionable, black-hat or downright illegal SEO tactics often seem to think that they’re immune from such penalties. They think that they’re smarter than Google and won’t be caught. At least until they watch their Google traffic dry up overnight.

Watching your SEO traffic plummet is never pleasant...

As a rule of thumb, Google are usually reasonable.

I like to say that if you could sit in a room with a representative from Google and answer all of their questions with absolute honesty, and without the fear that they might spot that page or technique on your website, then chances are you’re not going to get in trouble with them.

If you could answer every variation of “…why did you setup that page in that way?” with an honest and reasonable answer, then you’re probably in the clear.

If, on the other hand, the honest answer would be that you were trying to boost your traffic from the search engines, then you may have a problem.

And if the only honest answer would be that you’re trying to trick Google, then your day of reckoning will most certainly occur at some point.

Good SEO is about making sure that people looking for what you sell find it. Without having to lie to Google.

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