Adam Penenberg:
Greg Boser manipulates search engines for a living, and there’s little the Googles of the world can do about it.

Boser, who owns and operates WebGuerrilla, a web marketing outfit based in Valencia, California, is not alone. An entire industry of search engine optimizers, called SEOs, has sprung up, many of which take advantage of loopholes in the way rankings are calculated.

Google the term “search engine optimization,” and you’ll find more than 7 million results, with companies like Submit Express (“guaranteed top 10 placement based on your keywords”), SEO (“rank(s) more sites in more top positions than anyone in the business”), and AddMe (“Equip your site for e-success”) topping the list.

Since search engines are usually the first stop for online shoppers (with 40 percent of them choosing Google), your business could very well be toast if it doesn’t crack the top 10 — preferably the top 5, which would require no downward scrolling. (Not unlike the increased readership an article that begins above the fold in a newspaper gets.) One study concluded that sites that appear on the first page of results attract six times the traffic they did before landing there and earn double the sales.

With so much at stake, it’s not surprising that some search-engine-savvy geeks, like Boser, will do whatever it takes to get a client to place high in the rankings, something for which he makes no apologies. He claims he’s just being realistic.

“The search engines created the monster,” he said. “It only exists because Google’s algorithm places a lot of emphasis on link popularity.”

More here.