PDA

View Full Version : Ethical Standards and The Search Engine Marketing Industry


doppelganger
10-18-2004, 09:02 AM
I'd be interested in getting some reactions about this article on establishing ethical guidelines for the search engine marketing industry. This is the first of a series of articles that will offer suggestions for actions that can be taken to get our industry closer to establishing ethical guidelines. The first article focuses on what the search engines can do. The next article will be geared towards what we can do as SEOs.

I'm going to be working responses and new suggestions that come out of this discussion into a summary at the end of the series and would love to hear everyone's feedback and ideas...

Part 1: What the search engines can do (http://www.organic-rankings.com/articles/john-keehler/seo-ethical-standards.php)

I think one of the ideas I'd love to hear from everyone about is the idea towards the end of the article, about a search engine ombudsman. Is this a viable option?

Chris_D
10-18-2004, 09:33 AM
The search engines need to establish clearer guidelines and make them publicly available.

<removes mod hat, steps onto soapbox>

Sorry - lost me at that point - FAILURE TO ENFORCE is the REAL issue.

The published guidelines are actually clear. And available. Enforcement is what is lacking. And, no enforcement = no compliance.

Compliance is easily achieved. Just ask the room full of PHD's.

e.g. Send out bots from new IP addresses, with new user agent strings. Parse the odd suspect CSS file and clobber anyone with negative positioning off the left hand side of the page. Enlist 10 SEO companies globally on a retainer to help you. Act on the mountain of spam reports you already have. Yaddah yaddah.

The list is endless - clean serps are easy achieved. Easy. But where is the revenue model in that process??

The revenue model doesn't require clean serps. So clean serps aren't actually a priority. This is business - its not religion.

Imagine if the local police force stopped issuing speeding tickets as from tomorow. Would you be driving at 35 miles per hour all the way to work next month if you knew there was no enforcement of the speed limit?

No enforcement = no compliance.

Enforcement = compliance.

Pretty simple really. This isn't religious. Search engines need to enforce their own published guidelines. And this isn't a hat colour debate.

Forget ethics for a minute - compliance often requires that some people, who otherwise won't comply - actually need to be beaten with a big stick occassionally. Thats what needs to be happening.

</steps off soapbox, replaces mod hat>

Nick W
10-18-2004, 09:38 AM
Hmm... whereas the article is well written, and from your personal standpoint, well thought out, i (naturally) have to disagree with almost the enire thing.

Not so much the individual points but rather the 'standpoint' as a whole. There was a lot I could quote and comment on, but rather than bore everyone to tears i'll just pick a couple of the more interesting ones in order to air my own views on the SE vs SEO situation in it's entirety.


At this point in time, the search engines are the only party that has a clear set of guidelines for ethical behavior that they can reference. We know they have these guidelines, because they’re banning some sites and letting others stay in their indexes.

Those guidelines have nothing to do with ethics. They are there because the SE's worst nightmare is the SEO. The SE's have a far more mature business attitude than do a significant portion of the SEO/SEM industry. They know it's about making money, and they will make that money in whatever way makes most sense to them.

If people can rank easily, then there is little point for adwords and other such programs.

Shrouding the algo in secrecy makes perfect sense as does keeping the "guidelines" as ambiguous as possible. By planting the seed of "thou shalt not spam" in a large segment of the sometimes naive and gullible infant seo industry they create an environment where the seo/sem industry is in perpetual turmoil. We're all far to busy with "ethics" to be damaging SE revenue streams (ie. getting our sites listed high in the normal SERPS). What happens when the public and the seo industry itself starts to question seo ethics? We/they buy advertising on the se's of course becuase half the industry is so terrified of getting their site banned and they just cant rank without breaking guidlines.

Google in particular do a very good job of enforcing this paranoia - Ever read one of Matt Cutts "please report spam posts"? - Genius.

If anyone doubts the above, just go take a look at the section on seos (http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html) - If you read that and still cant see it...


4.) Open up the lines of communication with the organic search engine marketing community.

The search engines have gotten better at talking to the search engine marketing community in the last few years. We see their representatives at major industry events, and participating in our online discussions. However, most of our lines of communication have been opened in concert with the PPC search engine advertising side of the business. We can get answers about bidding strategies and the like, but the search engine marketer’s organic questions and concerns seem to have no outlet.

I rest my case.


In short, we aren’t seeing rewards for ethical behavior.

Then get with the program, it's not a pink fluffy world out there. It's a dirty, scheming money making world, always has been.

The SE's do not love you and they could care less about whether you are "ethical" or not, they care about revenue...


Having said all of that, it really was rather a good read, and should make for an interesting debate, thankyou :)

Nick

sugarrae
10-18-2004, 10:36 AM
"Then get with the program, it's not a pink fluffy world out there. It's a dirty, scheming money making world, always has been."

Someone please give the man some rep please. I can't give him any and he deserves it. Nice post Nick.

MrMackin
10-18-2004, 11:00 AM
****done****

Incubator
10-18-2004, 11:07 AM
*****Done as well******

Great post Nick

Wc

doppelganger
10-18-2004, 11:18 AM
Nick_W - Great points...

I particularly think the idea that the search engines benefit from the secrecy of their algo is a good one. That this secrecy makes the PPC offerings more attractive is something worth exploring more. You're right, it is essentially about revenue and not ethics.

But I'd say that most search engines don't want their organic results mucked up with spam. The integrity of those results is still important to the consumer, so the integrity of those results will also be important to the search engines, no matter how much revenue they're getting.

I'd love to get a point of view from the search engines on this. But like most of us have experienced, we only get access to conversation when it has something to do with their paid products, not organic search.

Nick W
10-18-2004, 11:22 AM
But I'd say that most search engines don't want their organic results mucked up with spam. The integrity of those results is still important to the consumer, so the integrity of those results will also be important to the search engines, no matter how much revenue they're getting.

Absolutely. This is why we see a shift towards heavy content sites with little commercialism... (at least i do..)

Ideally, they'd like "organic" search results to be purely informational sites and well known established corps like M$ etc (you cant leave everythng out it'd be an even bigger farce than it is now) and the regular ecom sites to be buying add space/ppc..

I dont blame them one little bit either..

Nick

doppelganger
10-18-2004, 12:38 PM
I think we'd all agree it's a "dirty, scheming money making world." While it may be on the pessimistic side of things, I think most people would understand the sentiment behind that statement.

But that position doesn't offer up any suggestions on how address the real threats facing our industry right now, such as:

- SEOs are increasingly being seen as shady witchdoctors
- How do companies know their SEO is ethical?
- Reports that 50% of PPC clicks are fraudulent

These are all major ethical issues that need to be addressed. I believe that there are changes that can be made by the search engines, our industry and others that can address these issues. I don't believe that this is just the way it is and we have to deal with it.

So what are some of the other changes that everyone would suggest? Or is everyone here of the opinion that nothing can be done????

MrMackin
10-18-2004, 12:49 PM
shady witchdoctors - I like it

Even I could rank for that term.
Results 1 - 10 of about 298 for shady witchdoctors

sugarrae
10-18-2004, 01:21 PM
"SEOs are increasingly being seen as shady witchdoctors"

Because people don't understand it. Then again, if SEO was something anyone could pick up and be hugely successful with, we'd all be out of work.

"How do companies know their SEO is ethical?"

I think the more important question is do they care. I see more complaints about non results when it comes to hiring an SEO than I do that an SEO got someone a top spot by putting 50 keywords in an alt tag. Companies care about results. Thats why 98% of merchants don't care if their affiliates SEO spam. Sure, when it comes to their company site, they may not want to take a big risk - which is probably why some institute affiliate programs in the first place.

And "acceptable" guidelines in this business can change like night and day. What happens when the engines decide a tactic that has been used for years is suddenly unethical? A report goes out to the we're better than the rest seo ethics association who then tells the members, who in turn must go change the clients #1 ranking site simply because the SE decided that the tactic in question is easier made "unethical" than them having to develop a way to combat it? As long as they (the engines) stand to profit from a "code of ethics" there is no way that they should be in charge of creating one.

In addition, creating a code of ethics isn't going to stop spam. It simply is going to give a piece of paper for every fanatical white hat to wave around and finally have "proof" that search engine spammers are the "scum of the earth" they've always proclaimed them to be.

"Reports that 50% of PPC clicks are fraudulent"

Thats a PPC issue, and not an SEO issue.

bakedjake
10-18-2004, 01:34 PM
>> How do companies know their SEO is ethical?

Because they put it there. Unless an unauthorized party changed their pages without their permission, it's ethical. Webmasters determine what goes on their webpages, not search engines.

Here goes again:

Where do we draw the line?

Is it "unethical" to buy advertising on a non-profit nature portal to support them, if you're an enviornmental company that focuses on cleaning the air?

Is it "unethical" to buy a text link if you're a personal injury attorney on a portal that lists injury lawyers?

Is it "unethical" to buy 40 text links across the Yahoo! network if you're a fortune 500 trying to promote a new toy?

Is it "unethical" to buy 100 text links across the MSN network if you're a small business owner with a really cool invention getting a lot of positive press?

Is it "unethical" to buy 1000 text links if you're hawking viagra through an affiliate program?

Where does your "ethical" madness end?

Danny made a comment to me in San Jose, and to be honest, I don't remember the context. We were talking about search engines being more open with users about reasons for bans, etc.

My response was "Sure, the Fortune 500s will be 'ethical'. They won't cloak, buy links, yadda... but you can bet they'll start an affiliate program."

So do you de-list Fortune 500s for promoting spam? Of course not; the majority of people are looking for Fortune 500s!

The ethics argument is really quite stupid. Most people arguing it have no basic understanding of how the search world really works.

I, Brian
10-18-2004, 02:11 PM
"SEOs are increasingly being seen as shady witchdoctors"
I've been seriously thinking of getting a white mohecan and covering my eyes with black make-up.

I might even do that before the next roadshow.

Will it make me a SEO, though? :)

Great post, Chris D - if such methods didn't work, I doubt they would be used anywhere as much. (And you hang on the left, do you? ;) )

fathom
10-18-2004, 03:12 PM
I don't see ethics as anything to do with search engine... it's with the consultant to paying client relationship - that it.

But I do like Chris_D's suggestion here...! ;)

Enlist 10 SEO companies globally on a retainer to help you. Act on the mountain of spam reports you already have. Yaddah yaddah.

doppelganger
10-18-2004, 03:49 PM
"SEOs are increasingly being seen as shady witchdoctors"

Because people don't understand it.

This is a great point... Education as a solution you to combat the perception of SEOs.

I think chrisnrae is also bringing up a good point about companies caring more about results than tactics, but I have been seeing more and more clients become concerned lately with the ethics of their SEO after having bad experiences. Education is key. Perhaps the client has unreal expectations because as SEOs we haven't done our job educating them properly.

If my client was pushing me to use shady tactics, then they wouldn't be my client anymore.

sugarrae
10-18-2004, 04:30 PM
"Education as a solution"

Education provided by me to my potential clients, sure. But, I'm not out to educate the world as a whole on SEO. If a company doesn't see the benefit of SEM, then it will be their mistake and eventually they'll realize it. If I want a specific client, then its up to me to educate that client on why they need me.

"become concerned lately with the ethics of their SEO after having bad experiences"

As fathom said, an SEO has a responsibility to the client. As such, I think any SEO should explain risk levels to their clients and do what they can to get rankings within the level of risk the client is comfortable with taking. To risk the clients business without their consent is wrong. But, so is taking money from a client and only using "above board and acceptable" tactics and not improving their traffic one iota.

doppelganger
10-18-2004, 04:39 PM
To risk the clients business without their consent is wrong. But, so is taking money from a client and only using "above board and acceptable" tactics and not improving their traffic one iota.

I see a problem with this statement. This is the prime argument why ethical guidelines are needed in our industry.

You are saying it's wrong to use only above the board tactics if it's not improving their traffic.... This essentially means that you would knowingly participating in "below the board" and unacceptable tactics in order to get results. This is what I am saying, and many others are saying is wrong with our industry, and why having stronger ethical guidelines is necessary. This is why clients have a hard time determining if their SEO is engaging them in shady practices. This is why many SEOs are being viewed as "witch doctors."

Doesn't anyone else see anything wrong with this attitude?

I'm starting to get the feeling that people are putting more energy into defending bad tactics and blaming the state of things rather than trying to make them better.

Nick W
10-18-2004, 04:41 PM
I think this conversation is getting somewhere now.

It's not about seo/se ethics, it's about normal everyday ethics, if it feels wrong, it most likely is. - nothing to do with search engines at all.

THey have their thing to do, we site builders have our thing to do. For some site builders/seos there is a third entity, the client, as far as im concerened if you garuntee your client no.1 listing and no penalites "just leave all the details to me" your a bad person, AND a bad seo.

If you explain everything, agree the risk level, and potential consequences of your strategy and it all fails, you've got no 'ethical' issues to worry about have you?

Nick

sugarrae
10-18-2004, 04:50 PM
"This essentially means that you would knowingly participating in "below the board" and unacceptable tactics in order to get results"

No, that is not what I said. I would never, ever do something like that on a clients site without first explaining the risks to said client and making sure that they fully and completely understood the potential consequences and were requesting to take that route. Most won't take that type of risk with a merchant site, so, instead, the create an affiliate program and allow affiliates to assume that risk.

Nick W
10-18-2004, 04:55 PM
There was a guy over at HighRankings on saturday who'd taken $16K and from a client and not even made a little bit of progress over 3mts....

That, is just wrong.

He's now going to take another $16K of theirs and spend it on ppc... that, in my book is the very definition of unethical.. he might be using fluffy WH tactics but he's still a crook by my reckoning...

Nick

doppelganger
10-18-2004, 05:06 PM
There was a guy over at HighRankings on saturday who'd taken $16K and from a client and not even made a little bit of progress over 3mts....

Right Nick... This is definitely wrong. The client obviously should see some results. But isn't an SEO who can only get results from "below the board" activities a bad SEO?

chrisnrae - I'd like to hear some more from you on affiliate activity. This is something I'd like to address in the subsequent article I'm putting together... You've mentioned that many clients don't want to take any direct risks with these tactics so they allow affiliates to participate in the underhanded tactics... and of course, they see the benefit from it.

How do affiliates fit into the ethical question? And should companies be held responsible for their affiliate's behavior?

sugarrae
10-18-2004, 05:21 PM
"But isn't an SEO who can only get results from "below the board" activities a bad SEO?"

Why would they be? As long as the client made the decision to do it and it was one with full understanding of the risks, etc - by whose standards would they be unethical? By the search engines? If the engines don't like something a site is doing, they have the ability to penalize it or not include the site in their index. It's that simple.

"How do affiliates fit into the ethical question?"

In my mind, there is no ethical equation in the way in which you see one. Affiliates decide the same as merchants what risk levels they are willing to take. If the engines don't like the affiliates methods, they again can penalize or remove the site.

"And should companies be held responsible for their affiliate's behavior?"

Certainly not. Affiliates are independent contractors. If merchants want someone they can control they can get one - its called an employee. Email spam is 100% non tolerated by almost all programs. It is illegal and is not acceptable. SE spam is the responsbility of the search engine. Its their responsbility to deal with it, not the merchants.

What should the merchants do? Visit every affiliate site and axe the guy using three H1 tags because it might be considered below board by some? Should the check all the backlinks of every affiliate and research possible cross linking? And wait, what about the guy providing duplicate content in the form of reprinted articles? Oh and what about the affiliates who build doorway pages specifically to market for PPC that then happen to be included in the engines - should they be axed too?

Webmasters provide the engines with a tangible product - a webpage. It's up to the search engines to decide whether or not they choose to use that product or choose not to. I'm not forcing them to show my page. They make the choice to include it in their index.

NFFC
10-18-2004, 05:29 PM
>suggestions for actions that can be taken to get our industry

Point one there is no "industry".

Point two, if there was it isn't "ours".

The www belongs to the users imho, give them what they want and try and ignore what the SE Ju Jour says they want. The search engines are just transient, users are anything but.

Kali
10-18-2004, 07:41 PM
Give the man some rep. -- cutting the ethics bull**** to pieces deserves real credit.

Optimise to the algorithm not to the TOS - after all how long does it take to move the content somewhere else.

The only people interested in ethical behaviour from SEOs are probably working for big companies who can't afford for their main company site to be burned.

Affiliate Program Manager
10-18-2004, 09:02 PM
I rarely open a thread with Ethics & SE in the topic subject but this one
went semi off topic and was pointed out to me.

bakedjake wrote:
"The ethics argument is really quite stupid. Most people arguing it have no
basic understanding of how the search world really works."

chrisnrae wrote:
"Most won't take that type of risk with a merchant site, so, instead, they
create an affiliate program and allow affiliates to assume that risk."

Which prompted doppelganger to write:
chrisnrae - I'd like to hear some more from you on affiliate activity. This
is something I'd like to address in the subsequent article I'm putting
together...

I'll not get into the affiliate/SEM [search engine manipulation] issue in a
public forum but take a look at this list of affiliate NO NO's put together
by Chris in Asia.

"Consumers who click through to Merchant's site through a Qualifying Link
shall experience Merchant's site exactly as presented by Merchant. Without
limiting the foregoing, Affiliate shall not "frame" users' access of
Merchant's site in any manner, including without limitation, with
advertisements, branding or other material. Additionally, Affiliate shall
not transmit any so-called "interstitials," "ParasiteWare," "Parasitic
Marketing," "Shopping Assistance Application," "Toolbar Installations/Add
ons," "Shopping Wallets" or "deceptive pop ups/unders" to Consumers from the
time the Consumer clicks on a Qualifying Link until such time as the
Consumer has fully exited Merchant's site (i.e., no page from Merchant's
site or any Merchant content or branding is visible on the Consumer's
screen).

"ParasiteWare" and "Parasitic Marketing" shall mean an application that (a)
through accidental or direct intent causes the overwriting of affiliate and
non affiliate commission tracking cookies through any other means than a
customer initiated click on a Qualifying Link on a web page or email; (b)
intercepts searches to redirect traffic through an installed software,
thereby causing, pop ups, commission tracking cookies to be put in place or
other commission tracking cookies to be overwritten where a user would under
normal circumstances have arrived at the same destination through the
results given by the search (search engines being, but not limited to,
Google, MSN, Yahoo, Overture, AltaVista, Hotbot, LookSmart and similar
search or directory engines); (c) set commission tracking cookies through
loading of Merchant site in IFrames, hidden links and automatic pop ups that
open the Merchant site; (d) targets text on web sites, other than those web
sites 100% owned by the application owner, for the purpose of contextual
marketing; (e) removes, replaces or blocks the visibility of Affiliate
banners with any other banners, other than those that are on web sites 100%
owned by the owner of the application. "

In summary:
Affiliates can and do manipulate the SERPs far beyond the SEs reach.

projectphp
10-18-2004, 11:07 PM
There was a guy over at HighRankings on saturday who'd taken $16K and from a client and not even made a little bit of progress over 3mts....

Right Nick... This is definitely wrong. The client obviously should see some results
This is an extremely common situation. 18 months is how long it takes some organisations (especially large ones) to make any SEO changes. The job of an SEO in such cases is cultural change, not results. What does it matter if the site does well tomorrow, if the next week legal replaces all the changes, or content writers go back to putting all keywords in images, or don't use keywords at all?

Optimise to the algorithm not to the TOS - after all how long does it take to move the content somewhere else.
And thus my ethical problem with some SEOs: no Brand vision. If the client is to be the ethical beacon, which I am still not convinced of, then destroying a brand for admitted transient rankings seems crazy.

Would getting Ferrari instantly and permanently banned be a good decision because it won't take long "..to move the content somewhere else"?

Why would they be? As long as the client made the decision to do it and it was one with full understanding of the risks, etc - by whose standards would they be unethical?
Ah, the old pass the buck argument. Where does that stop? Professionals are, and should be, held to a higher standard than others. Is it an SEOs job to simply to inform of risks and then do whatever, or is it the SEO's job to know what is best? I don't know te answer, but it is somewhat trite to assume that being informed of risks is enough to stop people doing dumb things (just look @ drugs!!!)

Kali
10-19-2004, 04:09 AM
And thus my ethical problem with some SEOs: no Brand vision. If the client is to be the ethical beacon, which I am still not convinced of, then destroying a brand for admitted transient rankings seems crazy.

Would getting Ferrari instantly and permanently banned be a good decision because it won't take long "..to move the content somewhere else"?

I totally agree that an SEO optimising other peoples sites should take things like brand into consideration.

The SEO optimising for Ferrari will just have to accept that they will have a much tougher time of optimising than the SEO of Bloggs & Co Motors who sell and export used Ferraris and can quite happily put up a new site whenever they want to and will be totally ecstatic about seling an extra 30 cars per year.

Its about finding a solution suitable for the problem that you have at hand.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 09:17 AM
The only people interested in ethical behaviour from SEOs are probably working for big companies who can't afford for their main company site to be burned.

I think this is a pretty far fetched statement. Small companies can get burned too, and I'd wager that many of them don't want to get burned.

-----------

Just to recap a bit. The premise of the article I put together was that ethical standards would be a good thing for our industry. At the very least, things can be better than they are now. That's not naive, I understand the realities, but it is an optimistic viewpoint. The focus of this first article was some ideas on steps the search engines might take that could at least get us closer to establishing those standards. The next one will focus on what we can do as SEOs.

But what I'm hearing from many of the responses to this post is a general disdain for ethics or ethical standards. That's pretty scary to me.

If I'm wrong about that general disdain, I'm not hearing anyone speak up to the contrary.

Nick W
10-19-2004, 09:26 AM
There is a place for ethics, I just dont feel it has any relevance in ranking websites. Optimize for the algo and for the customers needs.

Your ethical considerations are owed to your client. Not to the SE's - they show us none....

It really isnt a question of ethics, not in the context your article puts in anyway.. not that you shouldnt have any, just that they are misplaced.

Nick

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 10:17 AM
There is a place for ethics, I just dont feel it has any relevance in ranking websites. Optimize for the algo and for the customers needs.

Your ethical considerations are owed to your client. Not to the SE's - they show us none....

Agreed that the SEs are showing us little ethical consideration in their lack of definitions about ethical guidelines, etc... And that's one of the issues that I'm trying to address in this article... How they can.

Ethics is already a huge part of ranking websites. Search engines are making an ethical determination about what side of the line your site falls on. This is not likely to change, as search engines have to protect the relevancy of their results. So ethics will continue to play a prominent role in ranking websites.

That there's no transparency in how these ethical decisions are made is bad for us. I've seen so many posts in these forums about people wondering why they been banned. Some were taking risks, others had no idea. In order to best serve our clients, we need to know when we're putting them at risk. And the search engines need to take steps to help us determine that.

Nick W
10-19-2004, 10:27 AM
>>about ethical guidelines

You are missing the point. Those 'guidelines' have nothing to do with ethics, it is not a set of ethical guidelines, just a set of guidelines.

It is what they would like webmasters to do (pretty much nothing) NOT what they consider ethical.

Nick

Brad
10-19-2004, 11:07 AM
Your ethical considerations are owed to your client. Not to the SE's - they show us none....

I agree Nick, but an ethical consideration is owed to the public too ... particularly in misrepresentation (eg. the old bait and switch) It's not done as much anymore but it used to be. That truely is an ethical consideration.

Optimizing a widget site for searchers looking to buy widgets, by any means is not an ethical problem in my opinion.

Nick W
10-19-2004, 11:12 AM
The same as optimizing p*rn sites for safe kw's - that children might find. There are always exceptions to the rule ;)

Nick

DaveN
10-19-2004, 11:14 AM
I only have one ethic "protect the client" everthing else goes out the window...

Daven

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 11:22 AM
Those 'guidelines' have nothing to do with ethics, it is not a set of ethical guidelines, just a set of guidelines.

Those guidelines are all about ethics. They are guidelines search engines use to determine what constitutes search engine spam. By all definitions, spam is unethical. In fact, in cases like email spam, illegal...

What's more... there's a reason that Google, for example, uses in these guidelines terms such as "deceptive", "tricks", "schemes", "sneaky"... This is the terminology of unethical behavior.

Nick W
10-19-2004, 11:27 AM
What's more... there's a reason that Google, for example, uses in these guidelines terms such as "deceptive", "tricks", "schemes", "sneaky"... This is the terminology of unethical behavior

Yes, there is a reason, but quite frankly, im fed up repeating it over and over again. Enough of this nonsense for me now...

You can lead a horse to water....

Nick

massa
10-19-2004, 11:30 AM
No one reading this forum could possibly have a greater respect for Nick W. than I do. I truly appreciate his intelligent, level-headed approach laced with a not-so-subtle twist of humor. Due to that appreciation I am very nervous about using one of his quotes to illustrate what I think is THE problem in regards to this seemingly unending debate. Nick, please forgive if I offend. That is NOT my intent.

Nick W said:
>It's a dirty, scheming money making world, always has been. <

It is this kind of sentiment that is altering our perception of ourselves. Somehow the idea gets fostered that what Google does is OK and what we do is part of a dirty, scheming money making world. It makes it sound like WE making money is bad but THEM making money is OK.

If we were all somehow able to alter our perceptions to something more like:
"E-commerce is going to change every single aspect of the human condition, just as it is doing now, and we are extremely fortunate to be able to play a major role in that change"

And
"Business can not survive without profit and profit is borne out of identifying opportunites and allocating resources to capitalize on those opportunites."

Or:
"Operating a profitable business deserves respect. Learning how to identify markets, compose a sustainable business model and be successful is not easy. It takes comittment, intestinal fortitude and no small degree of ingenuity. Those qualities deserve respect."

If we can ever start seeing this situation from the standpoint of those kind of statements, no one will have to argue. No one will get heated trying to judge another. The entire issue will resolve itself automatically.

Nick W. did sum up the ethics issue for us all very succinctly when he proposed one simple concept. He said something along the lines off
>If you think something is wrong - you are probably right<

The essence of ethics is not whether you use IP delivery or put too many keywords in your meta tags. The essence, (in my opinion of course), is to consider something wrong but do it anyway.

If we could all accept that not a single one of us intends to make money from SEM and then use that money for supporting criminals, terrorists or traffic law breakers, it would be huge step in establishing self-respect. Once we have self-respect we can start demanding it from others. BUT, we can never expect the search engines or the public to give us respect until we can have it for ourselves. Does that make sense?

Every person I have ever read a post from in this forum I believe intends to make money from SEM and spend that money on hiring competent people to help them build a better service. That creates jobs and strengthens the economy. That is good thing. They intend to provide for their families with a better life filled with more opportunities. That is good thing. They intend to invest their money in other technologies that serve the common good. That is a good thing.

Those are the same things that Google is trying to do. In fact that is what just about EVERY business is trying to do. To do those things mean you have to either lose money to support the endeavor or generate a profit. That is business. Yet we, even in a forum that exists solely to promote marketing, we look at it as if making money is a dirty, scheming proposition.

I say it is not. We work hard for our clients. We pay our taxes. We contribute to the collective knowledge. We raise the bar on the quality of user experience on the net. Someone, somewhere should give us a little credit for some of those things and that someone should start with us.

That credit starts from our own perception of ourselves.

Nick W
10-19-2004, 11:36 AM
Im not in the least offended.

Thanks for an eloquent and thought provoking post massa...

Nick

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 12:30 PM
If we can ever start seeing this situation from the standpoint of those kind of statements, no one will have to argue. No one will get heated trying to judge another. The entire issue will resolve itself automatically.

Nick W. did sum up the ethics issue for us all very succinctly when he proposed one simple concept. He said something along the lines off
>If you think something is wrong - you are probably right<

The essence of ethics is not whether you using IP delivery or put too many keywords in your meta tags. The essence, (in my opinion of course), is to consider something wrong but do it anyway.

While I agree that perceptions need to change, and that many people in our industry are building reputable companies and are passionate about search, the entire issue will not resolve itself automatically. Ethical guidelines are needed.

The most poignant example that keeps popping up is how a company chooses an ethical SEO? "Gut" feeling is certainly not the way to do it. Shouldn't a client have some guidance in this choice? Without ethical standards, it's literally one SEO's opinion against another. While education is a step in the right direction. The education an SEO gives to their client is influenced by their subjective opinion... because there are no ethical guidelines from the engines, or from a industry association or the like.

Simply "knowing" is not enough. It's not enough for ourselves, not enough for potential clients, and it's not enough for the legitimacy of the industry.

---------

...I wanted to add that I appreciate seeing all these differing opinions being aired. I know this can be a pretty heated topic, but worth talking about...

So let's get back to the talking...

mcanerin
10-19-2004, 12:57 PM
<Takes Moderator hat off>

Let me throw this out, since it's something I've been struggling to define for a while, and I'd appreciate feedback.

I'm well aware that there are things that I might not do that others would, and that just because of that they are not automatically "unethical", anymore than my actions are "ethical" regardless to intent. The road to hell, and all that.

Some things just are not my bag. Likewise, there may be things that fall well within a search engines guidlines and yet would leave most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

I'm involved with helping found the Internet Marketing Association of Canada. It's in the very startup stages and I, of course, am interested in making sure that all the paperwork is in order and that communications, etc are very clear. ;)

One thing all the founders agree on is the need for some sort of ethical standards. But rather than talk about specific techniques, it appears to be boiling down to acting in a professional manner and not bringing the industry into disrepute.

I think that if you are making everyone look bad in the eyes of the public, it's a pretty good indication you are not someone I'd like to associate with.

So rather than talk about ethics, we are considering something like:

Members are responsible to the profession. They shall not engage in actions that are likely to bring the profession into disrepute in the eyes of the public.I like this definition better since it can be applied to lots of different areas rather than SEO or SEM, and can deal with unknown techniques that may come up in the future.

I know it sounds vague, but in practice more professional organizations have something like this (ie lawyers) and it seems to work pretty well, mostly along the lines of "just because I can't define it perfectly, doesn't mean it doesn't exist". It also would allow the use of certain techniques for legitimate research and testing, which other definitions do not.

That's why I like it, but naturally I'd like to hear why I should NOT like it, as well. The goal here is that none of us want to be associated with people we could not, in good faith, refer a client or friend to.

We intend compete with each other ruthlessly, but professionally, and this is aimed at allowing us to kick out (by member vote) companies that make the other members look bad.

Does it work? Suggestions? Improvements? General flames?

Ian

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 02:45 PM
One thing all the founders agree on is the need for some sort of ethical standards. But rather than talk about specific techniques, it appears to be boiling down to acting in a professional manner and not bringing the industry into disrepute.

I think that if you are making everyone look bad in the eyes of the public, it's a pretty good indication you are not someone I'd like to associate with.

So rather than talk about ethics, we are considering something like:

"Members are responsible to the profession. They shall not engage in actions that are likely to bring the profession into disrepute in the eyes of the public."

I like this definition better since it can be applied to lots of different areas rather than SEO or SEM, and can deal with unknown techniques that may come up in the future.

I know it sounds vague, but in practice more professional organizations have something like this (ie lawyers) and it seems to work pretty well, mostly along the lines of "just because I can't define it perfectly, doesn't mean it doesn't exist". It also would allow the use of certain techniques for legitimate research and testing, which other definitions do not.

I think you bring up some great points here. I plan on addressing the roles of industry organizations in the next installment, and one of the great points you brought up is that definitions should allow for legitimate research and testing... I think that's a great point.

"Members are responsible to the profession. They shall not engage in actions that are likely to bring the profession into disrepute in the eyes of the public."

In my opinion, this is too vague. Whether or not someone is complying can be an entirely subjective matter. Lawyers actually have very detailed ethical rules of conduct. For an example, here are the ethical rules of conduct for lawyers in the state of Texas: http://www.txethics.org/reference_rules.asp?view=conduct

Now, I don't think any of us would advocate something as complex as a lawyer code of ethics, but I do think that there need to be some tactics that are clearly defined as unethical.

Something akin to the next step up from the professional responsibility statement would be something like a Hippocratic oath. It may not be the best example as it's a little outdated. But it is about professional responsibility, and gets into some specific issues like privacy, etc... Take a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_oath#Traditional_text

Might a happy medium be somewhere between the hippocratic oath and Bruce Clay's code of ethics: http://www.bruceclay.com/web_ethics.htm ?

Interesting stuff... Anyone else have thoughts on industry associations and their role in this argument?

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 03:04 PM
Also thought this was a good related read from Andrew Goodman. It's not all about Seth Godin... I think it relates well to this discussion: http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=164

massa
10-19-2004, 03:08 PM
>Ethical guidelines are needed.<

You see, that's kind of the thing. No they are not. Let's assume for a moment that we all know right from wrong, or at least we all BELIEVE we do. If we know right from wrong then no guidelines are needed.

When I call for ethical guidelines, I am not asking to be told what I am doing wrong, rather I am looking for justification to tell OTHERS that they are doing wrong. If you think about it for a minute free of emotion, what person desiring ethics to be pronounced is believing they need the guidance? No one calling for ethcis to be prescribed would be expecting those ethics to point out the flaws in their own philosophy now would they? They would only be hoping OTHERS would see the flaws in THEIR actions. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. Everyone advocating ethics is NOT actually promoting ethical conduct. That already exists. They are actually promoting THEIR idea of ethics in an attempt to validate and justify their own actions.

You can have codes of conduct and a group can all agree to those codes or refuse to let those who don't join the group.. You can have policies and procedures. You can have mission statements, objectives, goals, strategies. All of those things can be agreed to and measured and actions taken based on what those measurements say. BUT, you can not force your idea of ethics on me, nor I you, unless they are exactly the same.

Maybe we can both agree on ethics when it concerns a specific topic. We would both probably have the same concept of ethics when the topic was child pornography fro example, but in the world of marketing at least, that possibility is very remote for the simple reason that we can not both be #1 for the same term at the same place at the same time. That creates competiton and if I could move me to #1 and you to #2 by doing the exact same thing you did, then you'd already be there. As soon as competition is acknowledged #2 has to either admit he made a mistake or could do better or that the other person did something wrong. Hence the "need" for ethical guidelines or in other words, some justifiaction that we are good and somehow got cheated out of our just rewards by someone less ethical than we are.

Again, for an unasked for opinion, we don't need ethcial guidelines. We need industry wide codes of conduct and possibly some stated objectives and then a trade association that provides education, motivation and support to it's members, NOT it's advertisers. Without the members, there would be no advertisers and I believe THAT should be stated somewhere in the association philosophy.

Codes of conduct we can agree to. Me trying to impose ethics on you is going to be a conflict everytime because of:

> When I call for ethical guidelines, I am not asking to be told what I am doing wrong, rather I am looking for justification to tell OTHERS that they are doing wrong.<

Kali
10-19-2004, 03:12 PM
There are two types of ethics being discussed in this thread.

1. The ethics of how you deal with your clients

If you deal unethically with your clients you will bring SEO as a 'profession' into disrepute.

2. The Ethics of using techniques which are frowned upon by the SE

This is the more complicated area, as from an ethical point of view you can build a website in any way you wish as long as the content of the site remains legal.

If the search engines then rank a site which is outside their terms of service it is a problem they should be dealing with by improving their algorithms and as far as I can see they are doing this constantly.

Whether SEO's should be helping the search engines improve the service they provide their customers by only creating sites that lie within the TOS is a very debateable point.

massa
10-19-2004, 03:19 PM
I just read the Goodman article. I have had a great deal of respect for AG for a long time now. He is definetly one of those people to whom I listen when they speak.

I realize it appears that I am taking an opposite position from a lot of highly regarded industry professionals. That is not really the case. I'm not trying to make this harded. I'm try9ing to make it easier. What I am trying to do is find a way we can all come to common ground and I believe that could come through something as simple as semantics. I honestly believe if we could find a way to stop calling for ethcis and instead call for codes of conduct, things could change for the better. Codes of conduct can be enforced, ethics can only be imposed.

mcanerin
10-19-2004, 03:33 PM
I think that one of the most important reasons for having a code of conduct or ethics is as training and guidance for someone who legitimately is having an issue with what to do.

Frankly, I don't need to be told that many things are right or wrong, I'm an adult and have spent a fair amount of my life working on that myself. But, sometimes you run into issues where it's not a case of "right" or "wrong" in a perfect sense, but rather two competing "rights".

Most very controversial issues revolve around this - I remember taking a philosophy course in ethics and the professor pointed out that it's common in the abortion debate for each side to talk about "pro-choice" and "pro-life".

In reality, he said, (and I agree) almost EVERYONE is in favor of "life" and "choice". Pro-lifers are not saying we should give up the freedom to choose or that we should live in detention camps, and pro-choicers are not saying it's ok to start indiscriminantly killing people. It's good to have choice AND life. That's actually not the issue. The labels are wrong.

On a more topical note, when I take a position that I should not be serving up p0rn to children in a mad bid to increase the "traffic", which is what the client wishes, I'm NOT saying that the client's wishes don't matter, or that I should not do my best to promote and work for my client. I think my clients should be an extremely high priority. But the attitude that the "customer is always right" does not actually make the customer right. It's an attitude, not a fact. I don't think a professional blindly does what they are told - we have an obligation to use our knowledge and skills to educate.

Blindly following orders without any thought for the consquences is work for idiots and machines. I really don't think an SEO should be in the middle of a "garbage in - garbage out" equation - we should bring some value to the equation.

I think that you can have two "right" things that disagree. Lawyers run into it all the time - that's why they have detailed codes of ethics. It's to provide a framework for decision making when "right" and "wrong" don't enter into the picture. Often it's a case of "more right" or "less wrong".

My opinion,

Ian

Nick W
10-19-2004, 03:41 PM
When I call for ethical guidelines, I am not asking to be told what I am doing wrong, rather I am looking for justification to tell OTHERS that they are doing wrong. If you think about it for a minute free of emotion, what person desiring ethics to be pronounced is believing they need the guidance? No one calling for ethcis to be prescribed would be expecting those ethics to point out the flaws in their own philosophy now would they? They would only be hoping OTHERS would see the flaws in THEIR actions. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. Everyone advocating ethics is NOT actually promoting ethical conduct. That already exists. They are actually promoting THEIR idea of ethics in an attempt to validate and justify their own actions.

If I could boost your rep for that massa I would, but i have already spammed it enough it appears :)

I think, unless you want to fight for the fun of it, it is useless arguing with these people beyond this point. It's a very human case of "ive taken my stand, and I cannot move from it, regardless of what you say"

The arguments massa and kali and myself and others have given you are solid. Rock solid. They not only go 'against' what you say, they destroy the basis of the entire argument.

The only thing left is to continue to repeat yourselves. To start at your original standpoint again and see if you can attract some like minded souls.

I've had enough, sorry, but as I said earlier: You can lead a horse to water....

I have to go play somewhere else now, have fun boys and girls ;)

Nick

<added>NICE post Ian, with regard to you personally i take a ilttle of that back lol - I can respect a man that can bend his thoughts a little to get over a sticky point</added>

mcanerin
10-19-2004, 03:41 PM
That post took so long to write a few people posted in the meantime. In some industries a code of ethics is semantically the same as a code of conduct, and that's how I was referring to it.

In this industry, there is currently a bunch of debates on the issue, so let me make it clear that my intent was to talk about what most people here would refer to as a code of conduct.

For me, it's almost one and the same, but I realize that's not true for others. When speaking publicly I think code of conduct is closer to what I'm talking about.

Ian

Nick W
10-19-2004, 03:45 PM
Personally i dont think even a code of conduct is a sensible idea, it just implies all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons.

Now im really out, dammit i gotta do some work! hehe..

Nick

Brad
10-19-2004, 04:05 PM
2. The Ethics of using techniques which are frowned upon by the SE

This is where I have trouble, when the word 'ethics' is being applied to SE manipulation techniques. It's a bit like asking someone if they have stopped beating their wife - it's a trick question.

I see no reason for industry standards -- the standards are, if you get caught by the SE's you get a penalty or banned. That simple. If the search engines loose the battle they go down to extinction just like Excite and AV did. SEO, search engines and marketing are Darwinian systems. Trying to regulate that system will just lock things into the status quo.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 04:16 PM
I honestly believe if we could find a way to stop calling for ethcis and instead call for codes of conduct, things could change for the better. Codes of conduct can be enforced, ethics can only be imposed.

In the example of lawyers in Texas, the rules of conduct are the ethical guidelines. There's no distinction. The ethics that a lawyer abides by are rules of conduct and the lawyers creed... http://www.txethics.org/reference_creed.asp

How is this creed different than rules of conduct? Is this something more akin to what SEOs would be open to?

I don't see a difference between ethical guidelines and a code of conduct, as I think they would be the same thing. This may be a semantic argument about all the underpinnings and connotations with the term "ethics"... but a similar model such as a "code of conduct" makes sense to me.

---------

I'd like to throw out that we shouldn't semantically confuse this discussion about ethical guidelines for personal moral guidelines... This isn't that type of an ethics discussion (pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc...). That's seperate from talking about professional ethics.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 04:28 PM
If the search engines loose the battle they go down to extinction just like Excite and AV did.

If that happens then our profession goes down with it.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 04:34 PM
Now im really out, dammit i gotta do some work! hehe..

For shame Nick... Posting while you're supposed to be doing work!!!!!!!
Sounds like unethical behavior to me...

Brad
10-19-2004, 04:35 PM
If that happens then our profession goes down with it.

Not at all. Other search engines will step in, or be invented to take their place. Nature abhores a vacuum.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 04:41 PM
Point taken Brad... The assumption would be, then, that someone would be able to handle it better... Better technology. Although I find it hard to believe that Google would go out like AltaVista... I guess anything's possible.

What if anything is MSN doing to address issues of search engine spam? Are they going to do things differently? Does anyone know?

sugarrae
10-19-2004, 05:17 PM
Get up from my nap and end up sitting here for an hour reading what I've missed. ;)

"If that happens then our profession goes down with it."

Ditto Brad.

"What if anything is MSN doing to address issues of search engine spam?"

I'd imagine their going to take the usual stance - them against "us" (meaning optimizers as a whole, regardless of our methods). It's their business to make themselves a good search engine. It is not the duty of SEO's to make them a good engine.

"but a similar model such as a "code of conduct" makes sense to me."

But here is what you're missing (which I think to be the same thing they missed when developing the can spam act) - people who are unethical (and I am not agreeing with what you believe is unethical, but we'll simply pretend there is not a debate on that for a second) are not going to care if they step over your piece of paper to do it. The only people who will respect this code of conduct are people who are already decent in the first place (and again, we have a different view on ethics and decency in regards to search engines).

"Everyone advocating ethics is NOT actually promoting ethical conduct. That already exists. They are actually promoting THEIR idea of ethics in an attempt to validate and justify their own actions."

Nice post massa - I gave you the rep you deserved that Nick was unable to give. I don't agree with everything you said, but that paragraph deserved some credit.

I don't believe "we" need a code of ethics and I don't believe "we" need a code of conduct. I have a serious issue with it being labeled as being for "us" though - its for you and for people who agree with you. "I" don't need a code of ethics to treat clients with respect and give clients the facts they need to make an informed decision. "I" don't need a code of ethics to tell me it is my responsibility to make Google shareholders more profitable.

Every person here is "unethical" according to your suggestion of ethics if they're gaining inbound links in an attempt to rank better according to Google (http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html) and other search engines. So, I suggest that before you create a code of conduct to strictly adhere to the engines guidelines that you first make sure that you actually are. And not just violating the guidelines in what you feel is a more "respectable" way than others.

And I agree with Nick. At this point, I think I've said all I can on this topic.

doppelganger
10-19-2004, 07:08 PM
Every person here is "unethical" according to your suggestion of ethics if they're gaining inbound links in an attempt to rank better according to Google (http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html) and other search engines.

I appreciate your comments chrisnrae, but I'm not trying to personally define what tactics are ethical and what are not. Remember that the search engines are already making these ethical judgements... and not letting you participate.

What I've suggested are some ideas in an article that might get us closer to having a more ethical industry. To start to shape those judgements... And I think everyone in our industry should be involved... Even you chrisnrae.

Besides, what SEO would be against having a more ethical industry?

The SEOs benefitting from an unethical one.

fathom
10-19-2004, 09:13 PM
Remember that the search engines are already making these ethical judgements... and not letting you participate.

Interest comment!

Search Engines ethics bound to search engine users "only".

SEO ethics bound to...? (search engines? paying client? fair play to competitors?)

I tend to believe if your ethics lie with the search engine approach e.g. search engine users "only" - you are letting the chips fall where they may and this approach often suggests you are a liablility to the client.

When my lawyer goes to court - I expect a vigorous handling of my case... not a waffler.

I can get a waffler for a $50 - I except performance from a professional.

Wail
10-20-2004, 07:19 AM
Ethics comes up a lot of these forums. Whenever it does people start talking (as they have here) about whether this form of SEO is ethical or whether that form of SEO is ethical. They talk about certain mechanics of SEO as being either ethical or unethical.

I don't think that's quite hitting the mark.

Ethics and algorithms aren't comparable.

Google and Yahoo *do* ban sites from their indices. I've seen large sites come to us because they've had a letter which (seems to) come from Google saying that their site doesn't confirm to their quality guidelines.

Ethics is about not putting a client's business or brand at risk. It's unethical to take someone's money and play double or nothing with their business without their consent.

I don't think search engines are ever going to say, "Don't mix h1 and anchor tags as it tricks our algorithm". They don't have to say anything like that for SEO firms to be ethical.

On the same note, Search Engines can't enforce ethics/compliance. Google could ban every suspect doorway page it finds each day and there will still be people who cold-call and sell doorway page ideas.

Search engines do algorithms.
Companies/Consultants/Freelancers do ethics.

Kali
10-20-2004, 07:29 AM
When my lawyer goes to court - I expect a vigorous handling of my case... not a waffler.

I can get a waffler for a $50 - I except performance from a professional.

And you would expect the same performance whether you were guilty or not guilty of the crime.

A lawyers ethics don't preclude him defending a guilty man to the hilt.

Brad
10-20-2004, 07:42 AM
When my lawyer goes to court - I expect a vigorous handling of my case... not a waffler.

Exactly fathom. This is how I view the relationship. If the client's best needs are served with a low risk SEO campaign for long term growth, then the SEO needs to know enough to so advise their client of that. Same with high risk options.

But ultimately it is the client who has to make the informed decisions.

fathom
10-20-2004, 08:48 AM
Exactly fathom. This is how I view the relationship. If the client's best needs are served with a low risk SEO campaign for long term growth, then the SEO needs to know enough to so advise their client of that. Same with high risk options.

But ultimately it is the client who has to make the informed decisions.

Amazingly this often wraps back around to "spam" and why this specific discussion goes so far off topic... that North Amercia could fit between the opposing sides.

Ethics and Spam are two separate issues - not one.

Remove "spam" from the table and the issue is perfectly clear.

Websites are not created equal nor are available budgets.

With the right website - ethics "never" needs to be compromised.

With the right budget - ethcis "never" needs to be compromised.

If WWW Virtual Library came to me and said we want our directory to rank on major category terms - that's an easy proposition - they've got the depth, breadth of topic and a good repository of existing links coming in.

If a company came to me with an unlimited budget and said I want to be #1 for >link development< I would turn to Brett Tabke and paid whatever the asking price was for WMW.

No problem - with either.

The problem lays in the gray area (most often) whether limited web presence and past investment to develop - didn't and client don't (or won't) pay the catch fee to hire 100 dedicated copywriters, interactive programmers, or the expense of all the PPI fees.

So the ethics involved when you look at the disconnect between existing presence & cost:

1. making the client pay per their lack of past investment, or

2. advising the client of the risks, or

3. flatly walking away.

If you take them on - and #1 and #2 are out and you don't do #3 - you're 100% unethical IMHO.

massa
10-20-2004, 02:49 PM
> advising the client of the risks,<

How do you advise the client or the risks when the #1 risk is that the engines can screw or reward anyone at anytime for any reason and while I may do everything you asked me to do in the fashion that I believe at the time would be totally compliant with ALL the search engine's guidelines, (that would take what -- 5 or 6 domains . OOPS wait a minute that would be dupe content and now I just increased the risk), the client could still be penalized or just not as rich as he thought I was going to make him and then what happens?

He goes to the forums and claims he was taken advantage of by an unethical, (really starting to hate that word), SEO, (whatever that is).

As a marketer, my question is, "how do you sell anything like that"? When you hired a lawn maintenance company, did the sales guy tell you that before you decide to go with his company you need to know that :
Your grass might die
weeds might grow
bugs might get in your yard
a lawnmower blade might come off and slice your young son's head off

What service has anyone ever bought that the salesman had to come up with every concievable risk that could possibly happen before he could sell something or he wasn't ethical.

Keep in mind that we are not selling tacos or t-shirts. We are selling promotional services to business people. I know that the popular perception of the white hat SEO is this handsome young knight with a heart of gold saving all the unsuspecting newbies from the evil clutches of the "bad guys" by putting more focus into educating these poor helpless people than running his own business, meeting expenses and finding capital to finance growth. The fact is that in spite of all the press Traffic Power got as our ethics scapegoat, very few people would ever spend hundreds or thousands of dollars buying a service they were completely unaware that there were risks involved.

Every now and then we get a call form someone asking us questions that indicate they actually have no idea of what we do. We do walk away from those people but it has nothing to do with ethcis. It has to do with business. Experience has taught us that our business is not educating clients on how the web works and when we tried in the past to help those few, we ended up spending a lot of time to have them thank us and promise to return later after they realize just how little they actually know compared to what they THOUGHT they knew. It costs me several hundred of dollars per hour to just unlock the doors, turn on the lights and pay the employees. I can not afford to save newbies from all the possible perils of the web. We have no choice, from a business standpoint, but to tell them as nicely as we know how, that we can't help them. We tell them they need to learn more about what they think they want and get off the phone as fast as possible. That we have a shot at actually selling something to the next person who calls because they understand we can get them organic traffic, maximize their ppc campaigns and increase profits through higher conversion ratios. We're not being white knights, we're being professional and keeping our eye on the numbers.

The part of this "inform the clients of all the risks" problem that is being left out is that it assumes there are two parties in this deal. The SEO, (whatever that is), and the poor unsuspecting mom-n-pop newbie who can't afford to lose more than $50 on a promotional campaign. There are three components to this deal with the search engine being the third.

All that needs to happen to end this debate is for the search engines to stop posting vague and self-serving guidelines, actually act in a fair manner to enforce those guidelines and admit their algorithms are not perfect. That if they don't want a certain kind of data, they won't take it and if they do take it, admit that they are not totally free from social accountability. That ain't gonna happen in my opinion unless they were forced to.

I don't have a problem with them being free to list their data on their website anyway they want. I DO have a problem with one person getting banned due to the actions of another and/or one person being manually penalized while another commits the same infraction and even thought the non-compliant act is well documented, it goes unpunished or even rewarded. That is not fair. That is restraint of trade and that is not ethical.

Please spare me all the "you shouldn't build your business on someone else's business" rhetoric. Think about it a minute. Almost every product or service is built on satisfying the demand created by another product or service. Would anyone have bought a pencil if there were no paper? Would there be a pone book if it were for Alexander Graham Bell? Would anyone be selling tires if Ford hadn't created a profitable market for them? And the most glaring example of all, what business would Google be in were it not for independent webmasters creating content that does not belong to Google

Maybe I'm the one that's crazy. Maybe there are all kinds of businesses that aren't dependent, or at least more desirable, due to another, independent business. To me it's about indentifying a market and satisfying a demand and not just who or what created the demand in the first place. Show me I'm wrong and I'm willing to listen and admit my mistakes.

fathom
10-20-2004, 03:57 PM
As a marketer, my question is, "how do you sell anything like that"?

How does a newspaper rep explain the risks? oh well this is quite logical and highly ethical...

Advertiser: How many potential customers can I receive?

REP: We have a circulation of 4 million daily readers.

Advertiser: Out of that how many newspapers remain sitting on the store racks

REP: We have a circulation of 4 million daily readers.

Advertiser: OK, well out of that many of the readers will see my classified ad on page 32? and if I paid that enormous page 1 fee what increase percentage can I expect?

REP:We have a circulation of 4 million daily readers so your potential is 4 million.

Advertiser: OK, so you're saying I should go on page 32 as it's cheaper and I get the same potential - correct?

REP: Well if you are on the front page - you have the potential of 4 million buyers because not everyone reads the classified.

Advertiser: Thanks - put me on the front page then! :D

Advertiser walks away 100% satisfied that he got a great deal for his investment.

There is no greater risk in search engine advertising as any other media... so how does the "real marketer explain it"?... well first they don't! However, because we don't control the output medium - we are held to higher authority - right?.

Be that as it may... if they haven't invested in years of informational archive - it's foolish for any SEO to accept them without "years for the deliverable" or enormous fees to fast track this "white hat style, if you will.

But if they can't afford #1 and you are not prepared to do #3... then you had better effectively explain #2. Ethics are about preceived professionalism.

But the rest of world does it "legit, ethical, and is a common marketing practice... pitch the up side, and hide the down side or tell them this! (http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?p=641062#post641062)

Jeremy_Goodrich
10-20-2004, 04:41 PM
Nice thread, good points all around. Fathom, that comparison with a newspaper is *priceless!*

>circulation

I always find those numbers to be the best example of spin in the marketing world. Between that & NNR style ratings, it's like people expect to be lied to so that they feel good about parting with their $$$.

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-21-2004, 03:41 AM
clean serps are easy achieved. Easy.

That I do not agree on. Not at all. Every single search engine and directory can and will be spammed no matter how much you enforce editorial guidelines. Show me one single engine or directory that have ever managed to combat spam completely. Every systems - well, even most humans, can be tricked. Even directories that are under full human control have been spammed.

Brad
10-21-2004, 06:35 AM
Every systems - well, even most humans, can be tricked. Even directories that are under full human control have been spammed.

Very true. Run any directory for a length of time and a certain amount of spam will attempt to get in and some will succeed.

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-21-2004, 06:41 AM
Very true. Run any directory for a length of time and a certain amount of spam will attempt to get in and some will succeed.

In fact, some years ago I actually met a hacker that got himself a backdoor to one of the major directories so he could put his own links in! I was quite shocked to see that allthough I am not really sure you can categorize it under "spam" :)

Brad
10-21-2004, 07:09 AM
How do you advise the client or the risks when the #1 risk is that the engines can screw or reward anyone at anytime for any reason and while I may do everything you asked me to do in the fashion that I believe at the time would be totally compliant with ALL the search engine's guidelines,

You tell them that. Just like you advise them when they would be better off with a long term approach or when they need to use multiple sites and approaches to sell a highly competative product. The client is relying not just on your labor, but also on your professional good judgement and advise. The client does not have to know minute details but they do need to know enough for informed consent.

There are three components to this deal with the search engine being the third.

True. But lawyers also have to contend with judges, juries and changing legal codes. Nobody is independant of outside influances. It is part of the environment so factor it in as best you can.

Please spare me all the "you shouldn't build your business on someone else's business" rhetoric.

Okay. Actually I agree with you on this. SEO's might be a parasite to search engines, but like Fantomaster mentioned, search engines are parasites to content providers. All serve a purpose even if they do irritate each other.

fathom
10-21-2004, 07:19 AM
hmmm... we are increasingly discussions "spam" as opposed to "ethics".

Should we not distinguish a difference here...

1. A company that promises to achieve a measure of something (and never uses any risk tactics) and never achieves anything that closely resembles what was promised but refused to resolve the lack of deliverables...

This is a question for ethics and not a question of spam.

2. A company that using a "100% unconditional money back guarantee" but later when the client act on that guarantee but the company doesn't stand behind the promise and returns funds...

This is a question for ethics and not a question of spam.

3. A company that accepts a client that wants results for the keyword >computers< or >software< or >windows< and based on the consultant's 90 day policy, and the consultant notes the client's 6 page website, and rather than explain the deficiencies of this strategy accepts their money...

This is a question for ethics and not a question of spam.

In many cases these upfront less than adequate ethical decisions leads to "spam" -- because the SEO risks the lost of reputation (and revenue) and it far easier to "look good" early than "look good in a year or two" and as unfortunate as it is, this leads many SEO to hide the decision of risk management from the client in subsequent contract because:

1. they won't get the contract if they explain the risk of shortcutting, or

2. they won't get the contract if the need to do everything white hat style, but in doing so need to increase the price to accommodate.

IMHO spam is NOT the issue - the way companies' entice clients (prior to any work being implemented) is.

fathom
10-21-2004, 08:10 AM
The Ethical Use of Tactics

This is a business "Mission Critical" decision... based on "who's web the tactics are used". A SEO has no right to madate this (to use or not to use) without informed knowledge & consent.

I often see tangible items used as analogy is this discussion e.g. a toaster... the manufacturer of a toaster has a "Mission Critical" decision to make - apply a warranty/guarantee for the toaster or not & the length of time that the warranty/guarantee is honored.

Buy a $10 toaster - I suspect there is one that has a lifetime guarantee - probably makes tons of sales, probably doesn't get too many returns either, since there are tons of conditions that the customer needs to do to return for a refund... like properly completing the form and send back in 14 days - if not the warranty/guarantee is void.

In SEO - this doesn't happen, and few SEOs actually spend an amount of time researhing out proper guarantees, condition, disclaimers, and void conditions.

As such the client which also buys the toaster see this as a big plus - "don't need to do anything" other than hire, and then complain - that's easy.

In this industry - there is but a single company (that I know) which has a 100% unconditional money back guarantee... and it has been acted on many times (but far less than their client list) and their word is their bond.

In most cases - it's a marketing pitch - and myself I refuse to use a marketing pitch.

I use this:

Admittedly, there are no guarantees to precise terms (keywords), rankings on such terms, visitation on such terms, on sales conversions on such terms. By acknowledging this you as the client may wonder why you should work with a company that guarantees nothing when so many other offer guarantees.
Sphericaˇ¦s only response to this is:
„« SEOs do not control search engines, we can only observe and react to the changes search engines make to provide the best search archive.
„« SEOs do not control your competition and their attempt to do precisely what you are attempting to do; rank higher, rank more and possibly be the dominate player online in your industry. SEOs can only react to changes in your competitors' strategies.
„« SEOs do not control the markets you are attempting to reach, their searching habits, or their precise needs. SEO can only observe these changes and recommend changes to your strategy to match that of your markets.

What Spherica does guarantee is that we will never negatively affect your business, and we will continue to work with you to develop your online success.

To use different measures to induce success (call it spam if you wish). The only person that can "decide" use is the web site owner - period.

And IMHO if you as the SEO decide to make this decision yourself including to "not use spam" rather than allowing the website owner to make "Mission Critical" decisions about their own business.. you are as unethical as the SEO that does the same by implementing said practices without their informed knowledge or consent.

Is it "desirable to use spam" certainly not - I know of no one that would prefer shortcutting if shortcutting isn't needed. But it is not your decision.

To conclude - put yourself in the same position - you are a client/customer of another company... Internet access for example.

How would you feel if the ISP decided to change back dail-up without notifying - such actions (or maybe the other way switch to broadband) have an affect (positvely or negatively) and because the change costs them money - they unilaterally pass this on to you.

Is this a "Mission Critical" decision for you? Or are you quite happy for others to control & mandate how your business functions?

McFox
10-21-2004, 08:33 AM
Ethics in SEO is chasing a rainbow. There will never be a pot of agreement at the end of it since it comes down to marketing to the customer. For some, the main thrust of the sales pitch to the customer is 'ethics', for others it will be 'risk management' and for others still, it will be 'placement'.

If two customers, seperated by a period of weeks, both ask for the same results in the same field with the same keywords, is it ethical to take on the second customer? Should they be referred to another SEO? What if your mortgage is late?

If a 'Code of Conduct' is to be applied, then a professional or governmental body must oversee and police it. Interpol perhaps? For every professional body which comes into being, a break-away will also form when disagreements occur. Which will be the 'ethical' body and which 'code of conduct' should be followed? More confusion to the customer.

The nature of the 'search-engine' in general is changing. Each may, at any time, impose its own 'rules of engagement' in what will become a dirty business given the massive spoils which will go to the winner. The SE which dominates will dictate the 'ethics', not the SEO community.

fathom
10-21-2004, 08:47 AM
The SE which dominates will dictate the 'ethics', not the SEO community.

Most of which I agree - SE's however dictate their own guidelines and not 'ethics'.

The Google 'unconditional money back guarantee' is one suggestive guideline that implies they follow this... I see no evidence that a negative PPC campaign receives 'unconditional money back guarantee'.

Until they back their own guidance by example, I truly can't see them dictating 'ethics'.

Nick W
10-21-2004, 08:59 AM
If a 'Code of Conduct' is to be applied, then a professional or governmental body must oversee and police it.

If only there was a professional org like that eh?

That was a great post McFox, check your rep ;-)

I have a question:
For those that follow the "the search engines define the 'ethics'" train of thought, what would your code of ethics do when the SE's change their guidelines?

Nick

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 11:03 AM
I don't buy the SE guidlines = ethics train of thought.

But I do think that if you decide to play a game, then you should obey the rules. Or why bother playing?

If you don't care what your Google ranking is, then there is absolutely no reason, ethical or not, to follow their guidelines. None.

But there are guidelines and then there are "guidelines". For example, if Google changed it's guidelines to say that racist or hate sites would be ranked better than ones that are not, I'd cheerfully ignore them (or more likely, do my best to make them miserable....). The guideline has little to do the desire to provide relevant results to people.

On another note (I'm philosphical this morning):

Has anyone here ever read Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons (http://dieoff.org/page95.htm)? It's one of the best, most famous essays you've probably never read ;)

I really feel it applies strongly to SEO's and the search engine realm, though it was written from a different perspective, as it was written during the height of the cold war.

The essay isn't too long and I strongly recommend anyone interested in search engines as more than just a means to an end to read it.

IMO, most of the arguments I read about SEO ethics, professionalism, SE guidelines, etc are addressed in it.

Imagine that a search engine is a "commons" - a central resource that many people use for their own purposes. Naturally, each particular individual wishes to maximize the benifit they receive. No single individual can destroy or even significantly damage it themselves. Therein lies the problem, with the result being the nearly inevitable destruction of the commons itself.

Here is an exerpt:


The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly + 1.

2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of - 1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Source:The Tragedy of the Commons Garrett Hardin (1968) http://dieoff.org/page95.htm (http://dieoff.org/page95.htm)

I see a lot of parallels to this in the whole guidelines debate. It's not that one person not following them will cause a problem. Some "non-guideline" tactics actually increase the relevance of particular SERPs.

It's that because some individuals can manipulate sites around the relevance algos it becomes more and more important for everyone to, which in turn destroys the relevancy of the SE in question, which means people abandon it in favor of competitors, and everyone loses. Some argue this is happening with Google right now. I know I use other engines a lot more often now than I used to.

Yet since no one person can be blamed, and since the effect that only one person has is extremely small compared to their personal benifits, the result is inevitable, unless an outside force changes the rules.

Food for thought,

Ian

fathom
10-21-2004, 11:19 AM
Ian - that is an exceptional paralleling analogy & scores the best post I have read here to date!

Superb, Outstanding! ;)

Brad
10-21-2004, 11:29 AM
It's that because some individuals can manipulate sites around the relevance algos it becomes more and more important for everyone to, which in turn destroys the relevancy of the SE in question, which means people abandon it in favor of competitors, and everyone loses.

It's going to happen. People race just to get a parking spot 10 feet closer to the doors of the supermarket. That is human nature. Somebody is always going to try to game the system - some people will try it just because it's there. ;)

A lot of this debate about ethics gained sway out of scarcity of unique SERP's after most of the SE's fell on their swords and left one SE providing the results everywhere one turned. If we had 6 to 8 viable major "competitors" in the SE market a lot of this would die away.

DaveN
10-21-2004, 12:00 PM
Rules and Guidelines ....lol In life how many people can put there hands up and say they have never broke a rule....

your late for work do you break the speed limit by 5 miles an hour or say to hell with it i'm late another 5 minutes will not make a difference... But hey getting to work on time is pretty much non competitive.. what about using company phones for personal usage, fiddleing mileage and expense accounts, booking down a weekend with the wife has a busniess trip

hmmmm what about Sport??

In boxing you can not hold the other boxer, but i see that happening all the time, in football i have seen players hacked down just to stop them from scoring a goal... life is full of people breaking rules..

what about in business..

You run a small coffee shop and then a large chainstore of coffee shops opens up next door to you they have more money and advertise everywhere, they sticker flyers on cars, offer 2 for 1 making a loss for the first 2 weeks just to put you out of business... life is not fair, the search engine game is not fair

it's not about ethics or standards .... it's about human nature, some will do whatever it takes to win, and the losers will complain about the winners cheating... it life move on...

DaveN

By the way I win more than I lose so by default I CHEAT ;)

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 12:39 PM
An excellent example of a herdsman in action..... :rolleyes:

Ian

DaveN
10-21-2004, 01:44 PM
Ian, You have the white sheep i'll just take the black ones ;)

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 02:24 PM
LOL - Baaaaaaa....

Be careful how you say that, I'm part Scot/part Welsh, you know - people might get ideas... ;)

Ian

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-21-2004, 02:26 PM
Ian, allthough indeed a very interesting text I don't think it really applies here - to SEO. One thing that makes it very different is that Google is not our "pasture" - search may be, or the Internet as a whole, but not Google, MSN or Yahoo or any other individual company. If my loyalty is anywhere it's with the users of the Internet. If Google go down because we spam it too much so be it - it will only create room for better engines. In fact, to some degree Google and the other large engines have become as good as they are partly because they have been attacked by spammers like us. Just like hackers this has forced them to improve their systems for the better of all.

fathom
10-21-2004, 02:56 PM
Ian, allthough indeed a very interesting text I don't think it really applies here - to SEO. One thing that makes it very different is that Google is not our "pasture" - search may be, or the Internet as a whole, but not Google, MSN or Yahoo or any other individual company. If my loyalty is anywhere it's with the users of the Internet. If Google go down because we spam it too much so be it - it will only create room for better engines. In fact, to some degree Google and the other large engines have become as good as they are partly because they have been attacked by spammers like us. Just like hackers this has forced them to improve their systems for the better of all.

I don't know Google 56.1% = a pretty big pasture that aggregates the sheep in one place

Search or Internet (as a whole and without Google) I'm sure you would be hard press to match let alone exceed.

I doubt very much they will fall either - as long as the sheep are there! ;)

I do get an occassional bite from from Ask, Dogpile, Excite, HotBot, etc. but not because I do anything different to capture them.

How would you attempt to feasibly capture "all Internet traffic" if that is the "perverbal" pasture and your "cash cow"? :D

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 03:11 PM
I dunno, Mikkel,

Here is an example - I used to play an online game called Ultima Online. Lots of fun, very in depth, etc. They frequently brought out improvements and so forth. Sounds fine, right?

The problem was that they also had a big issue with cheaters. Not only would these guys (and gals) cheat and ruin game balance, but they also made it really hard for legitimate players who followed the rules to have any fun. So UO began to bring out more and more "patches" that addressed cheater behavior.

Naturally, the cheaters adapted just as quickly, thus creating a bit of an arms race. Sound familiar? At first, it wasn't a problem, but eventually all the restrictions began to severely affect normal gameplay. Things that were fun and interesting were now stopped because they could be hacked, thus making the whole system less fun and interesting, even when there wasn't a cheater around.

Finally, I stopped playing. At a certain point you get tired of all the restrictions due to the security and just give up. How many people have stopped flying not because they are worried about terrorist attacks but because the travel restrictions are so onerous that it's just too much trouble?

It would be hard for me to believe that the attacks on the integrity of a system resulting in extremely restrictive and often useless enviroments is an "improvement" regardless of how secure it is.

If I unplug my computer from the internet I have great security, but at the cost of usefulness. Security is the opposite of useful - it's the tradeoff you take when compared to people taking advantage of a lack of security.

I think that Google and other very large players become a "commons" by default, simply because of their ubiquity. Witness people feeling that the public and government should have input who Microsoft buys or what it implements. There is absolutely no reason to do so unless MS was being treated as a commons.

I think the major search engines are a commons from the results standpoint. Obviously they are not owned by the public, but their results are used and relied upon by the public.

Bottom line, IMO, pure self-interest eventually self-destructs. You need either enlightened self interest (http://www.learningtogive.org/papers/concepts/enlightenself-interest.html) (which in practice is in very short supply) or controls of some sort.

I also think that one of the most important points is that there is never a technological answer to an arms race. If the search engines keep focussing on more and more anti-spam controls rather than dealing with the core issue of it being profitable to do so, the I suspect they are doomed.

Ian

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-21-2004, 03:31 PM
Ian, I think where we disagree is that I do not think search engines are something that important. If they are not good enough to survive life will go on with other means and techologies to make our lives better. Live was great before Google and it will be great too even if they should go down (which, by the way, I very much doubt they will) I bet you are not personally having a terrible life now that you don't game anymore - it's just different, right :)

When it comes to IT security I think it also has a lot to do with dfxing stupid holes and lazy programming. For example, a lot of the security holes in Windows has been exactly that - sloppy programming and holes that should not have been there in the first place. In some cases I think hackers have speeded up the fixing of such holes. And, the same could be said for certain improvements on search.

When I started to work with search, and managed a large Scandinavian search engine, the engineers did not even know there was any spam issues to deal with (that was the 90's). I promise you, they learned a lot from studying just that. They may have learned those things over time, and improved search, anyway, but spammers definately speeded many improvemts up - for the better of all.


An to bring it all back to point zero, I actually think the whole debate of spam is very questionable. To me it's beginning to look more and more like a cleaver PR stunt from the engines to hide the fact that they can not (always) produce as good results as users might expect. But, thats a topic for another thread, I think :)

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 04:00 PM
I'll agree that different is not always bad (or good) - sometimes it's just different... :)

And I'll also agree that some people and companies will push out utter garbage unless someone pushes back and forces them to clean it up. And that's a good thing.

I do believe that there is a point where the testing stops and the destruction begins, however. Forcing someone to lift wieghts will make them stronger, but dropping heavy wieghts on their head is going a bit far, I think ;)

I think the point about SE's using spammers as a catch-all excuse is certainly ducking their own obligations. Perhaps sometimes it's true, but I see enough "clean" but useless SERPs that I think it *would* be a good topic for another day.

Cheers,

Ian

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-21-2004, 05:47 PM
I do believe that there is a point where the testing stops and the destruction begins

In the extreme I do not disagee with that :)
However, I think we are lightyears away from that point when it comes to search. We are not even close. On a scale to 100% relevancy I do not think they are even at 30%. Searh engines will become so much better in the next 5-10 years that none of us will believe we could live with what we have now.

In an ideal world everyone would limit themself from selfish actions and do whats best for everyone. However, personally I do not see that time come around very soon :)

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 07:27 PM
In an ideal world everyone would limit themself from selfish actions and do whats best for everyone. However, personally I do not see that time come around very soonNeither to I - it's a shame website owners can't be trusted, but it's a fact.

I'm actually finishing up a patent application that hopefully will address this - I'm just trying to make sure there is no prior art right now - and there are a LOT of patents to go through.

Ian

NFFC
10-21-2004, 07:56 PM
>but it's a fact.

Facts require proof, you have a link for that sweeping statement?

mcanerin
10-21-2004, 11:39 PM
Sure, several (from a search engine viewpoint) : ;)


http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?threadid=2224

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=1887

and, of course

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?threadid=2254 :D

More personally, there is a reason why the term SE spam even exists and is talked about - if it wasn't a problem (or was a very minor one) we wouldn't have all these threads about it.

It's not just webmasters, of course - anybody who advertises anything can't be fully trusted to provide fair and balanced information about themselves or their clients - I don't even trust most resumes. If you ask me who the best site to buy widgets from online is I'll probably give you the URL of a client of mine (unless they are horrible). Can't even trust that.

It's not necessarily evil, but I'm hoping you are not implying that no one online would ever manipulate the SERPS in their favor for profit - 'cause then I'd be expecting links from you ;)

When it's profitable to decieve, and not profitable to tell the truth, many people follow the profits. At least, that's what I've personally noticed. If you have a different experience, I'd be happy to hear it.

Cheers,

Ian

DaveN
10-22-2004, 06:19 AM
1) a spammer goes where the money is, a good spammer will always aim for the money shot and then every keyword that is related..

example : Viagra - buy, cheap, uk, online etc etc...

they should not target Cialis or Disney .. ok they will convert Cialis on a viagra site, but why both you can always sell that traffic to a cialis pharm site..

the problem is that people still think that spammers go for disney keywords and push people to porn sites... why bother, they go for the money keyword !!

2) If I Wanted to buy a "Real Leather Sofa" , me and NFFC found this ages ago and it has been cleaned up on, it had 2 porn sites ( spammers HAD NOT targetted these ) ebay ...amazon etc but not one ecomm site...

If there was money for AFF's in real leather sofa's i bet my bottom dollar that those results would have been a lot better... and there was and still is loads of areas in SE's where the results are just plain bad, because the spammers don't play in that area..

In area's where you find spammers .... you will find a lot of sites that just redirect you .... But they redirect you to what you are looking for, I guess the spammers are helping the se's out ;)

DaveN

NFFC
10-22-2004, 12:26 PM
>but I'm hoping you are not implying that no one online would ever manipulate the SERPS in their favor for profit - 'cause then I'd be expecting links from you

Not all. What I am saying is that in all my years in business I have yet to meet a group as honest as webmasters, met a few bad apples for sure too.

I'm not overly happy with your sweeping assertion that all web site owners can't be trusted, in truth I find it insulting.

I'll leave it there, with an agreement to disagree.

Nick W
10-22-2004, 12:42 PM
>> there is a reason why the term SE spam even exists and is talked about

Yes, very clever marketing spin

Nick

fathom
10-22-2004, 09:56 PM
hmmm...

So "ethics" is only about spamming?

Filing a FTC complaint on Monday for a company - their situation goes like this:

A client hired a respected SEO firm "A" and "A" guaranteed their work,

Company "A" farmed work to SEO "B" but "A" was sole contact to the client and the client was asked to pay "B" directly (3 months ago).

Company "B" after receiving moneys decided to close down.

Company "A" informed the client that (on being advised of this shutdown) that their guarantee and refund was void as "B" was the hired company. Company "B" was Ltd.

Now here is were it gets interesting:

Company "C" (Ltd) which happened to be defunct "B" under new management & name and "B" was actually managed with shareholders that originally both "A" and the new "C".

...not one once of spam involved.

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
10-22-2004, 10:03 PM
I think what confuses the discussion is that you are talking about "business ethics" and others are talking about "production ethics". No matter what you chose to call the two they are not the same.

I think in fact that more of us would be able to agree on business ethics than production ethics. I don't see many, if any, people in here that seems to build there entire business on pure scams. I believe most of us just want to treat clients decent and be treated decent too - and then do our jobs the best we can.

fathom
10-23-2004, 12:11 AM
I think what confuses the discussion is that you are talking about "business ethics" and others are talking about "production ethics". No matter what you chose to call the two they are not the same.

I think in fact that more of us would be able to agree on business ethics than production ethics. I don't see many, if any, people in here that seems to build there entire business on pure scams. I believe most of us just want to treat clients decent and be treated decent too - and then do our jobs the best we can.

Well ok "production ethics" e.g. a client hires a SEO and regardless of the implemented strategy the outcome deliverables are lacking and not as promised...

The client wants what was promised - is it "ethical to not provide this by whatever means are at your disposal"?

Or is it ethical to "not inform" the client in advance of hiring that your production of returns has limits for which you freely choose yet the client is never afforded choice?

Is it ethical to consult for a company and limit that company's potential by another company's ideals simply because the second company said so?

mcanerin
10-23-2004, 12:20 AM
I'm not overly happy with your sweeping assertion that all web site owners can't be trusted, in truth I find it insulting.

I'll leave it there, with an agreement to disagree.I'd find it insulting too, put that way. No need to leave it - if I'm not being clear please feel free to call me out on it. :)

I'll be as clear as possible - there is a difference in the types of things people (and companies) can be trusted on. There are people I would trust my life with, but not my money, for example. Most of my old friends in the military come to mind. There are NOT 2 aces of spades in a card deck.....

I know for a fact that many of the most "dishonest" people from a search engine standpoint (ie successful spammers) are nonetheless very honest and professional in their dealings with clients and in their personal lives.

Likewise, I know at least 2 people who are "white-hat's" who have such poor business sense that I would not trust them with my money. Not because they are intentionally dishonest, but because they just don't seem to be able to handle the business world.

So whether someone is trustworthy from a search engine interested in people obeying their guidelines or not exaggerating the importance of their site is not related to whether someone is trustworthy from a business or personal standpoint.

I was under the impression I was being clear on that in context of the thread and post, but since I was not I'd like to make it clear.

IT professionals in general are at least as honest, trustworthy, and professional as those in other industries, and possibly more so in many cases, due to the stronger focus on logic and results, and the type of people that attracts.

Ian

DaveN
10-23-2004, 05:22 AM
I know for a fact that many of the most "dishonest" people from a search engine standpoint (ie successful spammers) are nonetheless very honest and professional in their dealings with clients and in their personal live

whoa, stand down.... I would class myself a friend of Tim (Yahoo) , Andy (Yahoo UK) and Googleguy and they all know what I do... Dishonest People would say that they run a small website with adsense on it when they are actually autogenerating 1000's of page a Day,

I have been Accused of working for Google and Yahoo then the next week outted has a Blackhat spammer...

things i have been blamed For

Google updating PR and link: data once a quarter or so

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.htm

Google discounting Guestbook links


For the Record

I don't work of Google
I don't work of Yahoo
I do Spam
I do have a Several Whitehat businesses
I run a Whitehat SEO company
I speak at Conferences

and I'm Honest

DaveN

mcanerin
10-23-2004, 12:46 PM
I don't work of Google
I don't work of Yahoo
I do Spam
I do have a Several Whitehat businesses
I run a Whitehat SEO company
I speak at Conferences

and I'm Honest
Point taken :)

Though I think you are an exceptional example ;)

Ian