I just picked this up as part of a thread on http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4084419.htm
Quote from Alby
“What Google is doing is amazingly irresponsible in my opinion.
The fact that Google constantly repeats the statement that “What a competitor does can’t hurt your rankings” doesn’t make it any more true, and by now almost everyone is aware that it is a lie.
Unethical webmasters are killing off competitors by the hundreds (or maybe thousands) on a daily basis and Google does nothing about it. People’s lively hoods are getting destroyed by no fault of their own, and Google doesn’t seem to care.
It is so easy to take out a competitor by posting a large amount of low quality footer links from unrelated websites. It has happened to two different websites that we have in the last two years, and it is practically impossible to get your rankings back.
The sad things is that this would be a relatively easy problem to solve if Webmasters were allowed to use Google Webmastertools to “block” links by basically saying: “These are sites that we do not want to be associated with in any way, and links from these sites are not something we have been part in creating.” However, by allowing this Google would have to admit that bad incoming links does hurt your site. So instead Google just pretends that everything is fine, at the cost of Webmasters.
People who are repeating Google’s mantra “Incoming links can’t hurt you” are either not actually looking at what is happening or are in uncompetitive industries where this type of behavior is still rare.”
“For search-engine optimization purposes, some companies offer to sell high PageRank links to webmasters. As links from higher-PR pages are believed to be more valuable, they tend to be more expensive. It can be an effective and viable marketing strategy to buy link advertisements on content pages of quality and relevant sites to drive traffic and increase a webmaster’s link popularity. However, Google has publicly warned webmasters that if they are or were discovered to be selling links for the purpose of conferring PageRank and reputation, their links will be devalued (ignored in the calculation of other pages’ PageRanks). The practice of buying and selling links is intensely debated across the Webmaster community. Google advises webmasters to use the nofollow HTML attribute value on sponsored links. According to Matt Cutts, Google is concerned about webmasters who try to game the system, and thereby reduce the quality and relevancy of Google search results.“
I should have emphasised the importance of Quality Links. The gaming aspect of linking was very common practise a few years back. I have not heard of anyone who actually did this for some time, It appears the practise continues.
Google has a strict policy regarding deceiving practices. If they are unhappy with your SEO practices, they can ban your site. Do not load pages with hidden text, or reduce the relevancy of the search engine result for more information, please refer to the webmaster guide. Of course , if this is all to hard, hostpossum.com can help you achieve a better result with our sensible, SEO methodology.