Todd Mintz on Search Engine Journal has an interesting post on whether or not it’s okay to break Google’s rules when it comes to optimizing your website for search. I am sure that over time it will cause a little stir in the search industry, especially with his conclusion advocating this practice. In his words:
Because Google’s guidelines do not have the force of law, how you manage your site and its tactics doesn’t involve ethical decisions (so long as you aren’t violating any laws) but business decisions. You should employ any and all tactics that can and will increase your revenue irrespective of Google’s guidelines.
To a certain extent, he is right. It is your business, and Google’s rules are not laws that you ‘must’ abide by. If a certain practice is good for your business, even though Google frowns on it, then it probably makes good sense to proceed with it. However, you do have to balance the possible effects of a Google search penalty – how much harm will that do to your business?
There is no doubt that Google is inconsistent when it comes to sites breaking the rules. What is dangerous about Google’s inconsistency is the way they apply these rules. Every now and then Google goes on a spree penalizing sites left, right and center for a particular group of breaches. Twelve months or two years later, they pick another group of rules to target. The last big target was paid links, and that caused a real storm.
We are probably overdue for Google to target a different set of rules to ensure they are being followed. By breaking those rules, you could be setting yourself up for a future penalty. Ultimately, it’s your business and your website. If you want to bend, twist, or even outright break some of Google’s rules, that’s your decision. Do your research first to see if other sites are also freely bending or breaking those rules. Better yet, do everything possible within the guidelines, then only bend the rules if you really need to.