Ethical SEO has gotten a lot of attention recently. Opinions on this topic, have been surfacing all over the world. Some people have an “all of us” (SEOs) versus “all of them” (search engines) mentality. Other people try to point to a huge “grey” area. There are even a few people trying to claim Ethical SEO doesn’t exist, only SEO.
Ethical SEO & My Upbringing
I was raised in a Christian Church, by Christian parents. So, I grew up to have pretty strong ethics and beliefs. It is these ethics and beliefs that come into play when choosing which industries I will work in and websites I will work on. For instance, I will not work for much of the medical or financial industry and I do not work on gambling or pornography websites.
For me, Ethical SEO means I will follow the guidelines, set by Google and other search engines. Ethical SEO (or “white hat” SEO) is all I will practice and the only techniques I will promote. This is not a hard line for me to draw and I follow it, along with those who work for me.
Ethical SEO & My Choice
While it is my choice to practice and promote Ethical SEO, I am unaware of any legally definable right and wrong, differentiating between “white hat” SEO and “black hat” SEO. Even in the New York Times’ article The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, the author was careful to point out:
…black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google.
The author of this New York Times article continues on to say:
The company’s (Google’s) guidelines warn against using tricks to improve search engine rankings, including what it refers to as “link schemes.” The penalty for getting caught is a pair of virtual concrete shoes: the company sinks in Google’s results.
I for one, am glad Google continues to strive for quality in their ranking. I think Matt Cutts and the rest of the Google search team, do an excellent job managing this quality. While, I do have some sympathy, for the lost jobs and lost business, “outing” can cause, I do not think SEO “Outing” Is Immoral.
To me, the issue is pretty simple. If “black hat” SEO techniques and those using them, are not reported, the cheaters will continue to prosper, while those who follow the guidelines, continue to struggle. So, every time another link building scheme is singled out by Google, my personal belief in Ethical SEO is strengthened and my methods are endorsed.
One of my favorite “outings” was the outing of GoDaddy. Joost de Valk had this to say, about it:
GoDaddy was using its paying customers to strengthen their own SEO without consulting them, in fact, they were specifically hiding what they were doing in their editor. I don’t mind them “playing” Google’s algorithms. I mind them abusing their customers websites without their consent. The only way of making that stop is to ask Google to remove the value that abuse has.
GoDaddy’s link scheme had gone on long enough and needed to be reported, just as the J. C. Penney’s link scheme needed to be reported.
As long as external links have an influence on search results, there will be link schemes. They and other “black hat” SEO techniques will continue to be enticing, due to the quick rise effect they have on search results. However, a quick rise almost always leads to a quick fall and often, the fall is further than the rise. Ethical SEO or “white hat” SEO practices are capable of producing noticeable rank improvements and will help sustain the ranking over time.