Entries Tagged 'ethics' ↓
January 6th, 2009 — ethics
I recently heard that a Social Media Optimization competitor is selling blog comments and questions/answers online, masking who he is and who he’s working for. I almost fell over from shock….
He’s going in, on behalf of a paying client, and making up a comment at a prominent blog, with a link back to the client’s site. And he’s going to big sites like Yahoo! Answers and fabricating a “question” then “answering” it with a promotion of his client’s product/service, again with a link to the client’s site.
The motive: The more your company is mentioned on prominent social media sites (the bigger blogs, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Delicious, Yahoo! Answers, etc.) the more likely you will make Page 1 of Google search results, and therefore generate more site traffic and more leads. It’s SEO-driven Social Media.
(For an interesting, different perspective on link building via Q&A sites, see this article at Vertical Measures.)
The Code of Ethics
So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing is wrong with the goal of Search Results as ONE outcome of social media participation. Of course, SEO and Social Media go very well together…
But what my competitor is doing by FAKING comments/questions/answers online goes completely against the Code of Ethics in the Blogosphere - Transparency, Authenticity, Honesty at all times! It’s understood by everyone worth their salt online that you always full disclose who you are, who you work for, and any conflicts of interest.
Online Reputation Damage is a Steep Price to Pay
My competitor’s SMO practices will very likely damage the online reputation of his clients. The social media scene is full of savvy, cynical users who can smell a fake a mile away. (Remember the Walmart ’shoppers’ blog that was outed by the blogopshere as the company posing as Mr/Mrs. Average America?) That kind of rep damage can be extremely difficult to change, or indeed, irreversible). Ouch!
Google: “Beware Social Media Schemes”
Google warns against social media “schemes” to get good Google results in their Nov. ‘08 “Google-search-engine-optimization-starter-guide” (PDF), Google writes, on page 20:
Know about Social Media Sites… Avoid involving your sites in schemes where your content is artificially promoted to the top of these services.
Sounds like the local sham-SMO practitioner. Of course, he is inadvertently, helping me sell social media strategy and implementation; PROsocialmedia makes ethics an integral part of our services… really, it’s the only way to sell the real value of Social Media: gain the TRUST of your customers and prospects online.
‘Cause everyone knows that once trust is lost, it’s darn hard to regain…in any relationship, including those you forge online.
July 24th, 2008 — ethics
You’ve paid an SEO company to conduct deep research on which search terms your prospects are using to find your product/service online. Many hours of keyword research that go onto your bill.
Then that same vendor turns around and signs one of your competitors as a client. Why is this a problem? Doesn’t a hard-working search engine optimizer have the right to carve a niche market for him/herself - becoming specialized in, say, your industry?
At least, that’s what I believe; it’s a Wild West out there in terms of what SEO suppliers in general will do, but I don’t like the practice of what I’ll call “double dipping.” Let me explain.
The most effective keywords/phrases are the lifeblood of every SEO strategy. Keywords with the highest search volumes plus lower competitiveness by other websites are worth their weight in gold.
No fondue allowed: keep your fork out of my goodies!
These golden keywords are your pot at rainbow’s end. You don’t want that turning into a fondue - with competitors dipping into it and enjoying the gains!
Not to mention the other strategies (design, social media, email marketing, etc.) that my team develops to have your company kick butt online… Do you want that shared with competitors?
To set my clients at ease that this kind of conflict of interest won’t occur, I include a clause in each contract that goes like this:
“writingSEO will not conduct business of any size or duration with any competitor of CLIENT NAME during the period of service as stipulated in this contract. CLIENT and writingSEO have defined “competitors” as the following: xxxx…”
The last bit is where my client gets to spell out the specifics:
- Names of companies they compete with
- Types of vertical industries
- Geographic areas of service
It’s only fair: Your money, your keywords, your SEO success.
June 23rd, 2008 — ethics
At Search Engine Strategies last week, I heard the sad story of a small business owner who handed over his website to a shady SEO service company. He shared the following incidents that were warning signals of dealing with a “black hat” SEO provider:
- They wouldn’t reveal how they were building links for him.
- Said they would do SEO for his main competitor when he terminated the contract.
This small business owner clearly learned from this bad SEO experience, and he attended the “site clinic” workshop at SES to have his site analyzed live by real SEO experts - of the white-hat kind.
The proof in is the practice
For folks not in the SEO indusry, the whole “white hat/black hat” issue can be pretty confusing. In a nutsell, White Hats (good guys/gals) …
- Are completely transparent about all aspects of their work for the client
- Don’t make empty promises about “guarantees” of page rankings
- Integrate SEO strategy with your specific business goals and objectives
- Clearly outline client and service provider expectations
- Don’t buy, or trade for, bad links (from spam sites)
- Don’t reuse the SEO work they did for you on your competitor’s site
- Don’t get into keyword stuffing or other practices that Google no longer tolerates.
No SEO standards or certification
Lately the idea of having standards for SEO has come up - an idea that I personally favor. As Ron Jones writes in Search Engine Watch:
“If we have standards in place, we can knock out those folks who want to make a quick buck at the expense of the industry, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of every improperly-treated client, and every person they talk to, when they might actually benefit from a true and proper SEO campaign.”
With any luck, that website owner at I met at Search Engine Strategies will get himself a true and proper SEO provider and reap the benefits of ethical, methodical work: great page ranking and great customer service.
June 11th, 2008 — ethics
“P.S. - what ranking on the first page can you guarantee us?!”
That’s how one of my prospects ended his email to me yesterday… he is a savvy marketing VP of a mid-sized services firm, who actually understood Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before I met him (rarer than it should be in the business world).
I took my time drafting my response. Here’s what I wrote:
“It is common wisdom that ‘white hat’ SEOs (i.e. ones that use ethical practices and not spammy ones) never guarantee rankings, only the ‘black hat’ SEOs do that… The inability to guarantee specific rankings is, in part, because Google is focusing more and more on your online reputation measured by the number of inbound links to your site, a fairly subjective criterion.”
Found a way to guarantee organic rankings? Patent it, quick!
I like the way Mark Jackson at the Search Engine Watch blog calls it in his post, “Yes, Virgin SEO, There is No Guaranteed Search Engine Ranking”:
If a company ever finds a way to guarantee organic search engine rankings, that company will undoubtedly go public and have a market cap approaching that of Google’s…. Unlike Santa Claus, organic SEO is for real. You can get much more value out of SEO efforts than through just about any marketing vehicle that exists.”
Managing expectations about SEO benefits
Jackson, who has been doing SEO for major companies for many years, says a whole lot more about managing client expectations, but you get the jist.
My approach, as a SEO strategist and writer, is to be transparent with clients that search engine rankings are not an outcome that can be bought or manipulated or secured forever… no matter what a shady SEO firm may “guarantee” you.
What I do guarantee is that without SEO, your website is invisible and you’re missing out on the most powerful marketing channel around today.