wheel - 3:30 pm on Jun 26, 2011 (gmt 0)
Really? The agencies I'm familiar with wouldn't do something like this, they know better. If there are agencies that you know who are doing this, I'd be willing to bet that it's offshore SEO being done in the SEO Sweatshops that now plague our industry. Ya, just what a local Mom and Pop needs, 100s or 1000s of links from China, India, Pakistan, etc.
Then I suspect you maybe haven't asked enough details about what they're doing. Not everyone is simply outsourcing offshore. Even the top quality white hat firms are doing some sort of automation, purchasing, or blatantly artificial link building. As soon as you start with the words 'we use a crawler' (and many of the top firms do), you've got artificial. I'm not meaning to discredit anyone, but I'm talking about pretty much every one of the top, well-known white hat SEO firms that we all know.
They start off with 'we're white hat'. But when you start asking how they actually find the sites to get links from, automation or $'s enters into it. You simply can't run 10,100,1000 clients and not have automation.
And website owners are buying into it more than ever. It's like everyone knows they're pushing the line, but they look at what others are doing and want to copy it.
You need look no further than the link building forum here. It's half as dead as it was 2 years ago. And I can't remember the last time I saw even a single thread about how to build one up, quality links. Nobody asks how to get .gov's and .edu's anymore. Not even on the radar (links like that are more my focus than ever, personally).
Now everyone's looking to social media like it's the cure for their woes. It's not. Google hasn't devalued link building, they've just raised the bar. Which frankly is excellent news for me because it increases the barriers to entry of ranking.