In my early days I played a bit more in the darker side of the game. I fully admit that I built and ran more than 1 or 2 scrapers, aggregators, and MFA style sites, but as a business model those type of sites are really on the decline, and not something I’d ever recommend to a beginner or intermediate level person.
The key difference is Google has set the bar so high for trust, that the time and energy put into making a a POS site rank aren’t worth it any more. It’s just as much work to build something that has real value as opposed to something that doesn’t. There are exceptions to the rule, say you are able to bankroll buying old sites with years of established back links and fine tune the content without Google noticing and “reseting the meter” on you. Or if you have a network of well established sites that you can “borrow” a little juice from to get yourself on track, that will work too, as will some really nice underground, and under the radar link buys. Again these are tools that aren’t in the toolbox of your intermediate or beginner SEO’s.
So what is my advice to someone starting out or ready to break out, look for a way to differentiate yourself first and use SEO to promote it, not the other way around. Sugarrae calls this a POD or point of difference (see Sugarrae interview with Chris Garrett). Your POD is the thing you do differently, that makes you stand out and makes you memorable, and in some cases it even makes you defensible. If you’re early enough to the market you can become the self referencing authority, but if you’re not you need that value add and point off difference.
Here ‘s the reason you need the value of good content to back up your SEO, if you are a decent SEO at some point your are going to start to rank, someone will mention you, out you, or even narc on you (cause you know Google encourages that kind of behavior … do no evil my ass). At the time when some engineer decides to crawl over your suspected SEO site, if you don’t have the content that makes the grade, or your POD, you wont have the links or on site material to pass the sniff test, and all you’ll have is a nicely polished turd, whose rankings are about to get flushed down the toilet.
Build something of value, and use the SEO to elevate it, because while not everyone will call out something useless with a bit of hype, deep inside people know quality content from bad content, if they didn’t we’d all be watching more reality shows like who wants to marry a midget instead of Battlestar Galactica.