This article will focus on the concept of using organic search engine optimization techniques to build page rankings and the associated benefits and problems this strategy brings for both the search engine optimization specialists and the search engine itself.
An organic strategy for increasing ranking uses using search engine optimization marketing techniques that stay within Google's official guidelines and aim to achieve a top ranking within the free links without breaking the rules Google set (other search engines use different rules but as Google is the most prevalent it will be used as the example). The main techniques that Google's algorithm takes into account are keywords relevant to the search terms, the number of links to the website and importance of these links.
This focus on good quality content by Google generally means that the most relevant sites get the top of the rankings as they produce the most accurate results to the search terms used. However this does take time and effort to produce a web site of such quality, especially in a competitive markets such as insurance / travel. This difficulty has caused a surge in companies looking to pay other webmasters to link onto their site, which short cuts the system so that they can achieve a higher ranking in a shorter space of time without having to focus on building their own backlinks and content.
Despite it being a long, hard slog to get a site to the top of the Google rankings the benefits of this are their to see. For example, at the time of writing there were approximately five million searches for the term car insurance in June 2008 alone. So as can be seen to be even on the first page of Google is on massive benefit. A study by Chyan et al claimed that there was a golden triangle that existed on Google searches and that 50% of searchers do not look outside the first seven results. Furthermore it has been estimated that 80% of searches result in click through to the free results determined by Google's algorithms and do not click on the sponsored links. Also, Google has recently introduced technology that allows it to crawl through and index Flash animations, which helps to produce even more relevant results.
Google has strictly prohibited this but have struggled to clamp down on it and there is now a healthy economy for those using paid links as they can sell their own website links to relevant websites and dramatically improve their rankings. However, despite the fact that Google has outlawed it, it is partly their own fault that this market has sprung up and thrived. This is due to the fact that it is very difficult for a new company to achieve a top ranking on the search engines organically due to the competitiveness of the most popular keywords and the head start established companies have over them in terms of back links, domain -name age and page rank. Furthermore Google has failed to penal companies that do pay for links adequately. Google have been known to ban companies for over a year from appearing on their rankings. However many companies are willing to take this punishment because in the long-term they will reappear on the top of the rankings as they keep their existing links when the ban is lifted.
The problem of paid links is also exacerbated by the fact that many of the leading search engine optimization specialist companies have been undertaking these black hat practices, which is making it more difficult for the smaller companies to get anywhere near the top, due to the large firms linking power and larger budgets. Not only does this create an unfair playing field it is also making paid links a acceptable search engine optimization technique.
Also on a more antithetical note, there may come a tipping point where pure white hat measures such as directory submission may not be enough to produce that holy grail that is a number one position (especially in highly competitive markets). This is where many will be tempted to cross the line and go over to black hat techniques. I have had the same dilemma through my career where I have been tempted to do so. However I have always found that perseverance and keeping the content up to date and relevant is always the best path.
To conclude, the benefits of using the organic search engine optimization marketing techniques are numerous and have to be considered too valuable not to included in any SEO strategy. However as the Internet as grows and keywords become ever more competitive it will become increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain a top ranking without having to cut a few corners here and there. Also until Google increases its sanctions against rogue agencies that are using the black hat technique of paid links will continue to be a growing trend despite the threats Google make.