The SEO industry is highly fragmented, with many reputable agencies and of course some players that use questionable tactics to try to “game the system”. In the industry, the parlance is the ethical “White Hat” vs. the unethical “Black Hat” shops.
Proper SEO is really a blend of art and science… but unfortunately there’s quite a bit of shady tactics and wild overpromising (“We’ll guarantee you first position!!!!”) that come with the territory.
Many clients have fallen victim to dubious SEO practices, sometimes by individuals and sometimes by established agencies. This has lead to an undercurrent of “All SEO is spam” thinking with many clients.
Google’s Paid Search and SEO Guru Matt Cutts recently took some time to address this very question in a video: “Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam”?
The short answer: No, all SEO is not spam. But there are black hat operators out there, so beware if your SEO agency is not fully transparent in the strategies and tactics they’re using for your website.
Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth (sorry Matt!)