Ethics in the internet world is a fuzzy topic–maybe nowhere fuzzier than in the small corner of the internet world called SEO. To a lot of people, the phrase “Ethical SEO” is a kind like talking about jumbo shrimp or war crimes–it just doesn’t make any sense. After all, isn’t the entire point of SEO to directly manipulate the search engines into awarding you a higher ranking? I mean, shouldn’t search engines be the ones deciding where to rank sites, not the sites themselves? Wouldn’t that make SEO inherently…unethical?
Well, yes and no. I do not believe that any form of SEO is unethical in the same sense as stealing is unethical. There are plenty of ways to damage other people online, but I wouldn’t classify any of them as SEO practices. However, some SEO companies are practicing unethical SEO in the sense that they’re putting their clients’ sites in danger of being penalized by Google by using shady SEO strategies.
Unethical ways to do SEO
Spamming the internet like it’s 1999
In the Wild West days of SEO (read: 2 years ago), spam used to work embarrassingly well. Grab an exact-match domain name, slap up a few thousand spammy links and you’d be in business almost immediately. Of course, this was beginning to become a problem, and in the past several years Google has taken measures to prevent SEOs from gaming the system so easily.
Not only does this method of SEO not even work anymore, it was never the most ethical SEO strategy because it involved trashing someone else’s site for the purpose of promoting your own. What’s more, your company can become the source of national ridicule for being caught doing it! Stick to white hat SEO by all means necessary.
Otherwise known as plagiarism, copying someone else’s content for the purpose of populating your own site is not just stupid, it’s potentially illegal under certain conditions. Long story short: don’t do it.
On top of all that, it doesn’t even work anymore, especially not after Google’s Panda update which cracked down on all sites that were stuffed with duplicate content.
Charging for 12 months, working for 1
Happens all the time, and because clients don’t know any better, these SEO companies actually get away with it.
What I’m talking about is a phenomenon that works something like this: You’re excited to rank your site and you’ve found an SEO company that really seems like it can get you to where you want to be. They offer you everything you think you need and even some stuff you don’t, and your rankings in the first month are improving like never before.
And then, nothing.
These SEO companies have got you right where they want you: they’ve shown you they know what they’re doing but they don’t get you to that next level, and so they keep you wanting more. Heck, you might even sign up for a more expensive package just to see if that shakes things up a bit.
As a client, you must demand monthly reporting from your SEO company. It’s the only way to know if you’re getting you’re money’s worth or not. Obviously, SEO firms won’t spill every little thing they do for your site(s) because that’s justly considered a trade secret, and every company does it a little differently. But you must know what kinds of services you’re being provided, or else you’re paying for nothing.
The Right Way to Practice Ethical SEO
Your SEO company shouldn’t be hiding anything that you need to know. After all, your monthly subscription is what keeps them in business, so the least they can do for you is tell you who they are and what they intend to do with your website. And of course, you should have full right to deny any services if you so wish. It’s your site!
At Emineer, we take ethical SEO seriously, and our SEO services are clearly transparent before, during, and after we work on your site. It’s the only way that works for all parties involved.
Besides being transparent, you should develop a relationship with your SEO company. As we state on our homepage, we don’t just see you as clients, but as business partners as well. You shouldn’t have to call your SEO company six times before you get an answer. You should feel that you can contact them anytime, and not just over the phone but through plenty of different ways depending on the circumstance. In other words, you should expect your SEO company to treat you like any other company you deal with.
You should expect your SEO company to treat you like any other company you deal with.
This last one is obvious, but it’s easy to “let slide.” Don’t let an SEO company tell you that a keyword is too difficult to rank for or that it will take too long. True, some keywords will take months (maybe years) to rank for, but if you are dead-set on ranking for them, your SEO company should accommodate to your demand.
Even if your keyword is relatively easy to rank for, some SEO companies will begin to slowly neglect your site after several months pass. As a client, you need to demand performance. Google is extremely forgiving and flexible to sites that follow the right SEO practices, so do your best to remain a priority to your SEO company, not just an income source. Don’t stop until you reach that #1 spot.