This postby Steve Rubel on the proliferation of SEO consultants with dubious tactics (and intentions) is just the latest cry of alarm about this ugly trend. It should be no surprise, of course, that some will promote/sell ways to jack the system to make organizations (or individuals) look better in search results – either by burying negative on-line mentions, generating a lot of fluff and/or driving the popularity of positive mentions. There is certainly merit in proactively trying to get positive corporate or personal content near the top of the ladder – in fact more companies should be doing this as per of their ongoing PR efforts – but problems occur when this is the only purpose of the SEO efforts. And there is a difference between adjusting copy in a press release to get the right words (or tags) featured in a search and generating empty content or fake traffic just to alter the search returns. As Rubel suggests, SEO rankings should be a by-product of engaging in on-line conversation, not an end in itself. Hopefully PR and marketing professionals just becoming familiar with social media will steer clear of the snake oil salesmen and focus on doing the right thing – driving credible and transparent conversations.