Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short is what people are asking about when they tell me they 'want to get to the top on Google', even if they don't use those words.
There are tried and true processes to achieve good search engine visibility in a way that the search engines sanction, but there are also 'tricks' that some SEO 'experts' will use to try and achieve the same results without really following the rules that Google (and the other search engines) have in place. These 'tricks' are called Black Hat SEO after the old iconic image of the bad guy always wears black.
So why do I refer to them as 'tricks' and why do the search engines care?
Remember why people go to a search engine--they are looking for information they don't have, but need. People end up with a favorite search engine because they tend to find what they're looking for on with that search engine. If they find it is getting harder to find what they are looking for, they vote with their feet and find a new search engine. So the search engines want to keep you coming back by being as good as they can be at getting what you are looking for.
When you use Black Hat SEO tricks, you are not improving the quality of your information, nor are you improving the credibility of it. You're just trying to take advantage of the current search algorithm to get ahead of the competition. It's like taking a short cut in a race. In other words, it's cheating!
What happens when someone gets up high on Google for a search term that they are not really relavent or credible on? You, the searcher, are disappointed and look elsewhere, maybe usig a different search engine in the process.
That's why Google cares. It's in their self interest to get you to the most relevant and credible information available for your search. That's good goal alignment!
But, sometimes people do use these Black Hat SEO 'tricks'. What can Google do about it anyway? Quite a lot actually. They can remove you from their index altogether if they like. Now you don't show up at all, let alone at the top! Sometimes they are not as harsh and just force you down until you prove yourself worthy. Don't believe it happens? Read the article in the following link on the NY Times to see how they removed BMW's German site completely from the index and are more recently pushing JC Penney down from number 1 to below number 50 for millions of search terms. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me
So, what do you do to 'get to the top of Google' without falling into this trap? Work with a credible and ethical SEO firm. If they promise to get you to the top quickly, run away! They should tell you that it is a lot of work and will take time. Remember, you're trying to be the most relevant and credible source of information on the Internet for a particular search phrase. Across the entire world! Needless to say, you need to be careful when picking your topic!