Nick from Threadwatch has an interesting post today about how the real "secrets" of SEO never make it onto search forums. I agree, but it's not a reason for most to panic.
Nick puts himself out there by discussing how when he saw an effective but generally unknown technique, he got the person posting to remove their post.
This leads into his discussion that the "good stuff" doesn't generally make it into forums -- or more important, if it does, it doesn't last long given that search representatives monitor forums closely.
The statement is both true and false. Absolutely, there are secrets and tips passed among friends that never see the light of day on forums. That might make some people feel panicked. Don't.
I've never been a big proponent on trying to have people follow "secret" techniques. For one thing, if I did write about a particular technique, the exposure wouldn't let it last long.
Much more important is the fact that such loopholes generally aren't long-lasting. Those who've built SEO work around such techniques also understand this. They'll move on to the next technique and ride it for as long as it lasts.
In contrast, if you haven't used such secrets, you might actually have a better foundation for longer-lasting success. Remember, even the most closely held secrets eventually get detected. And when a big algorithm change rolls along that wipes out a number of secrets, you may be largely immune to this.
It's also important to remember there plenty of "good stuff" out there that's not so secret, helpful tips that you can employ that will bring about improvements. It's still the case today that simple title tag changes bring people better rankings.
In the end, I think it helps to understand what style of SEO you follow. I've got a bicycle race metaphor I like to roll out to explain this more.
Those who go after really specific SEO techniques, "secret" style efforts, can be like sprinters. Those focusing on content, tried and true things like good page titles -- they're riding along at a standard pace.
The steady rider may watch a sprinter overtake them and may think, "Well, I ought to do the same." But at some point, the sprinter can't keep up the pace. They fall back, and the steady rider pulls ahead. Then the sprinter catches their breath, digs deep and sprints ahead again -- only to fall back, letting the cycle repeat.
OK, maybe it's just the tortoise and the hare on bikes! But the difference is that I'm not saying there's a particular "winner" in the story. Rather, the emphasis is more on the style of racer you want to be.
If you want to go to SEO secrets route, you've got to understand that your life will involve a lot of flux. If you go the steady riding route, you've got to understand that yes, sometimes people may shoot ahead of you or that you may never crack a particular term. However, the time you put in overall may be much less, and the consistency of your traffic might be more assured.