I absolutely love Overstock.com but cant say that about their practices. Just to save a few bucks on their PPC spent they risked their direct traffic. I have said it time and again that the only thing that can let u win the SEO battle is Content, Content and did I mention content?!
Now lets look at what they really did. They held a contest encouraging students and faculties from various universities across the country to post their links and recieve huge discounts on Overstock.com. The process seemed pretty simple to students and thus picked up momentum. When Google bots crawled these numerous links on “.edu” pages Google gave it the highest rank. Thats what the process is. IT was only a matter of time when Google would realise the problem and take measures to fix it. As per the Google Algorithm, Google gives more importance to “.edu” sites than the normal sites.
As soon as google realised what has happened, (overstock page appeared number 1 on the first page even before the generic words) they took charge and changed their algorithm to fix the problem. They didn’t just fix overstock’s black hat practices but worldwide. Let’s be honest. they were not the first ones to be so ignorant to think they can fool Google, and they will certainly not be the last.
Page rank certainly increases when there are several pages talking about you, post your links on their pages and if the web has a lot of your content. So which method would you take? I would take the most reliable, the content. I agree it takes time and effort to develop, but no matter how google twists its algorithm to overcome the page rank logic, it cant and will not, ever, let go of the unique content logic. So, I recommend, take the tough route, make a long term plan.