Li Evans writes in a Cre8asite Forums thread referencing an interesting post on Pronet Advertising by Muhammad Saleem about whether SEOs are part of the problem in social media optimization. In the the post, Muhammad references a SEOmoz post where Rand Fishkin offered to award his readers for linking the anchor text "Greatest Living American" to Stephen Colbert's website, ColbertNation.com. Surprisingly, the effort paid off. At SES NY, when it was mentioned at a forum, it was ranked nowhere. As of this weekend, it is ranked #1. In the Cre8asite Forums thread, moderator Li asks if Muhammad has a point.
One of the members, iamlost, feels that the problem is faulted to how Google weighs links.
Much SEO behaviour that non-SEOs find objectionable is a direct result of the SEs (notably Google) giving sheer link quantity a value....
Google either actually can not or (my view) chooses not to clean up mass blog links even after they are lost into site archives. The SEO link rushers are but a symptom of a SE disease. Beating on a symptom will not cure the problem.
I just searched for "Greatest Living American" on the Big 4, and all of them ranked ColbertNation.com for the search term on the front page except for Ask.com. Only Google ranked #1. Therefore, this may be a correct assessment.
The other problem is that there is dislike in the industry when there are contests being held out of "boredom." Because of this ranking tactic, the discussion continues to say that there the increasing concern that SEOs are snake oil salesmen. Danny Sullivan addressed this concern on Search Engine Land not long ago. Bill Slawski writes in to explain that there are all too many search engine optimizers who are not truly SEOs:
There are small business site owners who will only link to people who link to them, creating reciprocal link pages and Triangular Square Oblong Trapezoid link patterns. These are people who aren't SEOs and link only to improve their pagerank rather than adding links on the basis of providing value to their visitors. This is not SEO. This is not an SEO tactic. This is a sad and misguided practice.
I think that the underlying concern is whether relevancy is key. Muhammad has a good point indeed. These tactics are scrutinized too much within the industry and legitimate SEOs' tactics are questioned.
A very deep discussion continues at Cre8asite Forums.