Webmasters deserve everything they get.
There, I've said it. If you've had a penalty from Google you deserve it. If you've had a penalty since Penguin hit last year for the first time then you not only deserve it, you're being very cavalier with your business.
I mean seriously, bad links, thin content and the result of such is very well publicised, so why are Webmasters still doing it?
Would you not pay your corporation tax? Would you fiddle your accounts to avoid paying tax? I'd hope not, but why then, will so many business fiddle their SEO? The result is broadly similar - it costs you in the long run and your business could disappear over night.
Learn from the mistakes of others!
Last year when Panda and Penguin shook the SEO industry I (probably naively) thought that SEO's and website owners alike would fall into line and divert their efforts to making the best websites possible by publishing great content and really becoming influential in their industries. I mean you had to be literally living under a rock not to have heard about Google spanking well known brands such as Interflora - yet many website owners have not learnt.
I do try to make an effort and educate where I can but its feels like a lost cause. The web is rife with website owners looking for SEO shortcuts: Here's some real forum topics from a well known UK Forum:
All of these have one thing in common - the original poster is frankly - wanting to manipulate Google Page Rank and short cut their SEO - they may not get a penalty tomorrow but they likely will - and they’ll deserve it.
The effort they spend in trying to cheat Google could be better spent creating interesting content to publish on their own website thats worth linking to. One link from an authoritative source linking to your great content often carries more benefit than any Blog Comment, Forum Link, Article Link or Low Quality Directory could ever give you. Not only are you getting the SEO benefit you're also engaging your visitors and establishing your authority.
SEO isn't just about high rankings, its about trust too. If your content encourages visitors to trust you they'll much more likely turn into customers.
SEO isn't an equation either:
If you think like this, get it out of your head now. There is no w+x+y+z = Number 1 in Google. It is a myth that you should now consider busted.
Yes back links count - but earn them and don't build them.
Yes keywords on a page count - but write for humans and not Google - if a human understands what your page is about then so will Google.
As an SEO Consultant I cringe whenever I tell a business owner what I do: SEO has become such a dirty word and it pains me to say it. The thing is, we're not doing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) anymore, we're doing Website Optimisation for People - the search engines will reward us for giving people the best possible experience and Webmasters should embrace it.