Not much here but wasted time, due to search engine algorithm penalties.
A good rule-of-thumb for peace-of-mind is to ask "would I be doing this type of SEO work if search engines did not exist?" A paradoxical question in that it seems contradictory but could be valid. Therefore, we can say, we master SEO work, but the "SE" stands for Silent Edit.
I like to think of SEO as Silent Error Omission. After working on backlinks and updates, one of the reasons we do not see our website at the top of engines is because we do not know what makes it unfriendly. There is a Silent Error that could be considered unethical SEO according to search engines' terms! What we did to improve our rank is being penalized, without us knowing! We could be in unethical denial! Right?
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius
Realistically, the bottom line in the success of any business is the honor of the owner. Has he built a business on sand (cheating) or on rock (playing by the rules)? The spirit of honor is the name of the game and cultivates synergy in a company.
"It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built." - Luke 6:48
The more I work on SEO, the more I realize the makers of SE algorithms are easier on webmasters than most of us may think. When a calculation is meaningless to the algorithms then it should not be included. The smaller the algorithms, the faster the search engine's crawl of the, now, multi-billion webpages.
Algorithm penalties exist, but they should be only penalizing web sites that show the likelihood of being maintained by an unethical webmaster.
I know SEO and here is a conclusion for those considering unethical SEO. Getting and staying at the top of the engines requires wise SEO work. The only shortcuts I can come up with are doing things that other successful webmasters do.
Having an algorithm penalty attached to your website, without you knowing, is like living with the US government's stance on the WTC bombings. Its a silent penalty until one is strong enough to handle the truth (God's will motivating the righteous to take action).
Algorithm penalties will considerably reduce visitor traffic. I am now seeking to memorize every superior info online that tells webmasters how to maintain a search engine friendly site. thy SEO Work Schedule is a good page to study, for more info on this.
Recently, I discovered that when your url name is not found at the top of Google, when being searched for after the http://, there is a good probability that your site is being penalized. The solution to fixing this penalty is to think about how you manipulated and distributed your backlinks. Then we should fix the unnatural parts. Then hope your site gets rid of the penalty. An answer, on this penalty, can be seen at John - Level 15.
At Google, a reconsideration request (in Webmaster Tools), after fixing a probable algorithm penalty, should help. While doing this, what you'll find, written by Google, is: For sites that directly profit from traffic, evidence of good-faith is important.
No Link Scheming:
Words from Google Webmaster Help Center: Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links. [Quality guidelines - basic principles @ Google]
To me, this means that if your site is not a bad site, your link could go on any webpage. thy SEO Checklist #3 helps.
Unethical SEO I Know But Don't Recommend:
1. Cross-linking within your own sites could work in the short-term. Once engines label your sites with this unfair boost in popularity, your sites' rankings will likely drop. I do not recommend cross-linking, for this reason.
2. Surfing your site with the Alexa Toolbar will raise your Alexa Traffic Ranking. The more pages you surf at your site, the greater your rank increase.
3. Updating (changing) your meta title tag once a month improves your chances of having two titles for one page at one engine. This increases the chances of your site coming up twice for one search, and for better ranking for a keyword in the new title.
4. Posting to forums and blogs with the intention of getting a free link.
Search engines are now using an html nofollow write-up attribute used in a link to instruct engines not to credit the link as a backlink to minimize spam. The following syntax is used at sites to combat spam posting: <a href="http://__" rel="nofollow">__</a>.
As a poster, I combat this unethicalness, having a genuine interest in the subject I am commenting on. Also, one can offer money or reciprocal backlink for a link. I have given good backlinks to those sites I posted at that gave me good traffic. This traffic will show up in free site stat software like Google Analytics.
Another way to avoid the guilt that comes with getting a free link is to create your own blogs and free pages hosted at another's site. Most of the free pages available online come with built-in ads, some of these are pop-ups. When you do find a create-a-free blog or page hosting site, it is wise to sign up using your strongest keyword as your log on name. This keyword could be part of the web address of your page.
Examples of free hosted blogs are blogger.com and bloglines.com. Examples of free hosted pages: tripod.com and googlepages.com.
Unethical SEO techniques are not exactly righteous thoughts and could be hazzardous to mental health. [Philippians 4:8]
An SEO's funny declaration of the abbreviation SPAM: