EDIT: I DIDNT SEE HOW LONG THIS GOT...WHOEVER DOESNT READ IT, I WONT TAKE OFFENSE LOL
First, thanks for your reply qwerty.
I think, in the end, it doesn't only come down to whether something is an error that will be fixed at some point, but also to how much money you can make while it is being fixed.
Plus, I do not think that I'm exploiting an error, if I still create the best page for the people who search (what exactly is the best page for them would be another question, but I don't want to complicate this right now). It is just that until search engines are completely perfect (if they ever become this during my lifetime), they will always have a certain algorithm that determines what will rank at the top.
Now, they rely on links quite a bit (for highly competitive queries). In the future they will/might take user feedback (e.g. conversion rate might make a lot of sense for e-commerce websites) to determine what will rank on page 1 for a certain query.
In the end, if they have 100s of 1,000s of pages they could rank, as long as their method isn't completely perfect there will always be some pages that should rank in the top 10, but dont. And there will always be some pages that shouldn't rank in the top10 but do....as long as there is some margin of error in the method they use to rank web pages.
And the thing is that...if you're on page 2 rather than on page 1...which can happen even if you have the best page, but google's algorithm simply isn't perfect...then you will get an abnormally low percentage of the traffic you should receive (as in most SERPs few people bother to look at page 2) - if you truly have the best page.
Here's an example:
The other day I searched for something (a comparison of 2 demographics) in Google. I couldn't find what I was searching for anywhere. I searched and searched and searched, but couldnt find it. If Google's search engine was perfect I should be able to simply create that page somewhere and everyone else around the world typing that search into Google the next day should find that page at #1.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a world with perfect search engines, yet but search engines rely on certain quality factors that I would have to build up to get that page to rank.....the site/page would have to age....it needs the right links that the search engines want to count...etc.
However, by creating the truly best page for that given search query (and related queries), you should have a much easier time building the right links to it (sorry if im obsessing about link building, again..)...than if you were trying to rank a page with bad content that doesn't help anyone.
So I see whitehat SEO like this:
1. You try to create the best page for a given demographic that is searching for it online.
2. You show the search engines the way by leveraging the signals of quality they use currently...and by removing the barriers they face currently
If I completely ignore the signals of quality the search engine uses to understand if I have great content for that given search query...then in many cases I wont get the page into the top10 for competitive queries, imho. And I will get only a fraction of the traffic to it that a top10 ranking can get me (and that I should get, if I supply the best content for this given search query).
So nowadays, building some decent links (for example) to a page you want to rank is something you should do, if you want it to actually rank.
However, maybe the search engines will use user feedback data (e.g. conversion rates for e-commerce sites) or social media mentions,etc. increasingly in the future, and maybe abandon links as an important ranking factor.
if you truly have the best page for the given query, even though the links you had built which were helping you rank during the y ears before wont count anymore......you can now leverage the new signals of quality to get a top10 ranking again, and much more easily than someone trying to rank a crappy page. Matter of fact your page should already be ranked fairly high in the search engines, if it is the best page for the query as it will probably perform well at new factors the search engines may be using. It may however only be in the top 50 of the 1,000s of pages the search engines considers. Working on improving conversion rates & social media mentions (or whatever new factor has become more important) however, might help you get on google's front page, again...and get the traffic you deserve if you have the best page for the people searching for it.
Somehow, I'm afraid you wont agree :-), but I hope I got my point across. I'm not talking about exploiting an error in the system....Im really talking about errors in the system (the algorithm) that prevent y our page from being on the front page even though it should be on the front page (if we had search engines that were absolutely perfect, which simply isnt the case, yet........and might still take a long while to happen).......and that this can make a *major* difference in the traffic and sales you will receive, because so few people bother to go to page 2 (in most SERPs).
Edited by PatrickGer, 11 September 2010 - 05:06 PM.