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Is Google losing the plot?

It's a tricky and complicated area as the dozens of comments at the end of the SEOMoz post demonstrate, and there are clearly many aspects to it. The consensus among the hopeful seems to be that Google are gearing up for something big, some sort of vast clear-out that will sort the reputable from the undesirable.

We can only speak from experience. We have to say we've seen that people are simply getting away with some very frowned up techniques.

Any SEO will tell you that buying links is bad. It gets you in big trouble and Google will stamp you down for it, or so we are lead to believe. Not so it seems.

We're some way into a very challenging SEO program for a company in a very competitive financial services industry. All is going well and as you would expect we are keeping a very close eye on the competition.

A strange thing happened in December

One day in December we spotted a brand new entrant at position 1, page 1 for an extremely competitive term. Out of nowhere and literally overnight. So we did a little snooping about were shocked to discover 68,000 (that's a lot) paid (that's not allowed) backlinks!!!

What to make of this? Who really knows...Things will slip through, that's just going to happen, but the company in question is still there. They've slipped a little (no doubt the cost of maintaining all those paid links is a little difficult) but you'll still see them on page 1 in a respectable place.

What do you think? Is Google too focused on other things? Neglecting its core product?