No wonder there has been tremendous growth in the SEO industry. Google the term and you'll get more than 7 million results. One, Submit Express, guarantees a "top 10 placement based on your keywords."
Another, Search Engine Optimization, claims you will experience an increase in traffic of up to 6,000 percent, while Patrick Gavin promises to "market your website as if it is our own" with a "combination of both on-page optimization and a very well-implemented link-popularity campaign."
Of course, where there is money to be made, there is also the potential for the search engine equivalent of vote rigging. One company you won't encounter on Google is Traffic-Power.com (also known as First Place), which was banned, along with its clients, for various shady practices, like allegedly creating "link farms," networks of sites that link to one another to increase popularity; concealing keywords in backgrounds; and leaving out search engine bait -- long lists of keywords and links that are added to a site for the express purpose of attracting search engine spiders. Some dissatisfied customers mulled a class-action suit, which has been dropped.
Oneupweb's Wehr says she has helped two former Traffic-Power clients, which she declined to name, who were banned from Google. "You have to be forensic detectives to clean up the mess Traffic-Power made," she said.
That required about 80 hours of work to track down all of the link farms, phony domain names, search engine spider "attraction pages" and other nefarious tactics she says the company used to cheat the system. At about $300 an hour, it was an expensive lesson for her clients, and in the end, it took six months before Google agreed to reinstate them.
"It's harder to do it our way," she said, "but the results last much longer."