SEO today is a lot different from what SEO used to be a few years ago. Those who knew how to game the system would make sure that their websites (or their clients’ websites) were at the top of the search engines, whether they deserved to be there or not. It was an interesting and unfair time when those who were looking for shortcuts and not doing quality work ruled the search engine results. Myriads of high quality sites would rank worse than spam-filled cesspools of bad, spun, or keyword-stuffed content. It was a dire time for those who worked hard and hoped to be rewarded for their efforts. That reward came, of course, but it was like training for a year only to get the second place, losing to someone who’s trained for a month but used steroids.
This is actually a pretty good metaphor for what was happening back then. Steroid testing wasn’t that advanced and users remained mainly unnoticed, winning many races without putting too much effort. The commission (Google) knew something was up, but testing was difficult and couldn’t properly prove whether or not someone has been using steroids. Everyone was suffering; the commission, because they couldn’t properly control the process; the people who were watching, because they weren’t pleased with the results; and the contenders, because the unfair competition was winning every time.
However, time passed and Google upgraded their algorithms. The bad content was suddenly penalized and a lot of low quality websites were either thrown out of the search results or their rank was sunken deeply under the weight of their collective fault. Suddenly honest, hardworking people were rewarded for providing good content to the people. And the people were happy because they could finally find what they were looking for. Everyone was happy, because you see – SEO is not about enriching yourself. It’s about enriching everybody. If everyone can benefit from what you do, then you’re doing a good job.