My day job requires me to know a bit about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and after 5 years obeying the Google Gods, I’d like to think I know enough to get a website onto the first page of Google.

To be honest, that’s the easy bit. The hard bit is keeping it there.

Google publishes guidelines for every webmaster to follow. They are as open as they can be without giving away too much and throwing it open to spammers. There are SEOs that live by these rules and there are SEOs that bend them to get where they want to be. I fall into the first category; never wanting to take a risk to gain an advantage because I believe (as with everything in life) it’ll soon catch up with you.

My ethical approach to SEO means that it often takes a long time to see results and I seem to get outranked by those using grey hat and even black hat SEO techniques.

This gets me thinking about whether you should obey Google’s rules. Google are, after all, the biggest search engine in the world. Here in the UK they account for around 90% of all monthly searches (Experian Hitwise UK). This means they probably account for a very high percentage of traffic to your website, so really, you need Google. But should you bust a gut to build your website exactly how Google wants you to? Even if this doesn’t suit your company, branding and marketing strategy?

Google has a massive monopoly and is using this to put fear into the heart of every webmaster. Just mention ‘Google update’ and you’ll see them running for their PCs, frantically trying to find out what the update was, how their sites are now listed and how they can recover from this catastrophe.

Don’t get me wrong, Google is great. I use Google several times a day for all my searches. The only time I use Bing or Yahoo! Is when I’m checking search engine positions. But I do think that Google has too much power. Especially over companies that solely operate online. Google has the power to down rank or even remove sites from their index, putting people out of business.

I don’t think for one second that this is Google’s intention.  I think this is something that businesses have to account for when they market their business online. Google should not be the be all and end all. It’s far too risky. On online marketing strategy should include many areas of promotion such as social media marketing, article marketing and email marketing to drive traffic to their website.

A business built on search engine positions is a vulnerable one.

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