It's important to play fair when it comes to boosting page rank - a lesson learned the hard way.

Marketers looking to boost search engine optimization are familiar with the need to produce linkbait. Quality content that catches links is vital to SEO as each inbound link to a site acts as a vote, pushing a page higher in search results. But it's important to play fair when it comes to boosting page rank – a lesson learned the hard way.

Ryan Abood, the founder of, recently spoke with about how a paid link gimmick got his business temporarily banished from Google – which accounted for 80 percent his company's revenue. Abood told the source he knew something was wrong when his firm didn't show up in the first results page for his industry keywords. It turns out didn't show up in the first thousand results, either, alerting him that the site had been penalized.

A number of the links to the site acquired by a business hired to help improve's ranking had been purchased. "Google looks at that like buying an election," Abood told

This mistake not only cost top spots in Google organic search results, but it also cost them in sales and extra marketing efforts aimed at compensating for the lost exposure. Abood says his company spent more on paid-per-click campaigns, but they still lost $2 million in 2008 winter sales and another couple million dollars in 2009.

In the end, Abood says the mistake forced him improve his content strategies. Examining shows that the site now incorporates social pages in its marketing campaign, and it also offers consumers a blog [] with family friendly tips that may appeal to its consumers. The blog clearly generates links as consumers have retweeted various posts – which may remind marketers that blogs are a burgeoning promotional tool among SMBs, as Brafton reported earlier this month.

The moral of the story is that the best approach to boosting SEO is offering consumers quality content that will garner clicks and inbound links. Marketers may want to check out Google's search engine optimization guidelines for more tips on how to avoid getting penalized for poor practices.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.