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Old 04-09-2008   #41
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

Cool - as I said, this is a draft so people can see what I'm talking about in real terms with real examples.

Later, I'll try to post an example of a working standard and a guideline or two for comparison. I hope SEMPO won't take it personally if I decide to tackle some definitions for the example.

Ian
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Old 04-09-2008   #42
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin View Post
Cool - as I said, this is a draft so people can see what I'm talking about in real terms with real examples.

Later, I'll try to post an example of a working standard and a guideline or two for comparison. I hope SEMPO won't take it personally if I decide to tackle some definitions for the example.

Ian
I can assure you SEMPO wouldn't be that crass. This is a community thing, with the only way it could work coming through majority approval. You are a member anyway, so we'll have to make sure to keep the Metrics and Standards task Force apprised of this early development. In fact we need to get you involved with that TF tout de suite.
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Old 04-11-2008   #43
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

Is this a question of ethics or consumer protection or self preservation?

I seriously wonder - and just step back and play this out for a minute - what is the big deal? Granted, like porn (or what is obscene) we can't define it but we know when we see it - we know what is the proper treatment for a customer.

But "ethics guidelines" or "ethics standards" are worthless if there are no consequences. And as wonderful as Ian's work is (much appreciated for stepping it up), there are certainly legal loopholes and would require almost a "unionization" of SEOs to hire attorneys to draft such legal protection (not to mention politicians - oh my...).

But that aside, aren't we all really just concerned about consumer protection? Better yet, client protection since our clients are not consumers but businesses (whether they are sole proprietors or incorporated, it doesn't matter, no consumer wakes up and thinks "I want to buy SEO").

Our SEO work is to get a website to rank - but we can't guarantee that because we dont control the SEs. Our PPC work is a little easier to define - either we get results for them or we dont. There are already legal cases that have exposed SEO/SEM companies. And while we personally can find many of those companies to be vile in their practices, my question is, why are they exposed?

I ask because someone claiming to be a designer can create a design and be paid for it, be it graphic designer or web designer. Professional designers will get a retainer before starting the project - with the balance paid upon delivery. Why is an SEO held to a different standard? Is it purely based on the supposed "promise" of increased rankings?

Similarly, if an ad agency is hired to create an ad, is the ad agency legally held accountable for generating new sales? Even if the client liked the full page ad or the radio spot, is the ad agency held accountable for results - or for the work completed?

This makes me wonder if this ethics talk is not about "standards" or consumer protection, but more about self preservation. Has the industry done too much to market itself like a "lead generator" promising performance instead of like a marketing agency or advertising agency selling a service?

I suspect that until this perception is altered, there really can't be any "standards". And that could leave a lot of companies exposed to litigation in the future - including the good ones.
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Old 04-11-2008   #44
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

First, I'd like to point out that, in a very real sense, consumer protection IS self preservation, unless you are not intending to be in the industry long enough for a negative reputation to affect you (ie fly-by-night scams).

Second, there is a difference between a Standard (all fire exits in buildings must open outward and not be blocked), and a procedure (fire exits in my buildings should be painted red, be 4'x7', and be purchased from my brother-in-law using form 97A-3).

A Standard is usually the bare minimum acceptable level of protection or a fixed definition, whereas a procedure is usually something a company puts together for it's employees.

We're not advocating procedures (that's up to each individual SEO). Things like should you do a certain type of linking campaign, or how many characters a title should be, what goes in an SEO audit and so forth are often things that can change depending on the client and the current search environment. In many cases they are directly related to the competitive advantage each SEO has.

But if you define a linking campaign as "I submitted your site to dmoz" and your client defines it in a completely different manner, there will be issues unless you make these clear in the contract. Standard definitions help towards that, so if you internally use a different metric or definition of a phrase, you now know that you should define it in the contract.

Likewise, this would prevent a client from defining "SEO" as "getting all my keywords to #1 in all search engines" or something equally ridicuous in an effort to not pay you, which has happened to a great number of novice SEO's.

To answer your question on why an SEO should be treated differently from a designer - they shouldn't, unless they advertise themselves as doing things differently.

An SEO could sell their services based on any number of criteria:

1. As performance of a service, with no guarantee of effectiveness (want me to buy 200 links - ok).
2. As a report containing suggested changes to a site intended to increase rankings.
3 As a percentage increase of search engine traffic
4. As a percentage of the increased ROI
5. As hours worked
6. As hitting an agreed upon rankings target for agreed upon keywords.

...and many more. I would NEVER advocate telling SEO's (or their clients) to choose one of these as the "standard".

Clients (and SEO's) have different needs - if anything, I'd argue that recongnizing the need for flexibility should be a standard, but I think even that would be going too far. Maybe your company doesn't want to be flexible - that's their decision.

I'll reiterate - no Standard should interfere with an SEO using informed professional judgement.

As a matter of fact, that was one of the first draft Standards I wrote.

Ian
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Old 04-11-2008   #45
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

This just in.... FTC is getting involved
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Old 04-11-2008   #46
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

Anyone who thinks that a half-trillion dollar industry affecting almost everyone (including politicians, big business and children - the traditional "causes" behind most regulation), controlled by people who can act anonymously and without state-recognised or issued credentials, is not going to be regulated in some way is hopelessly naive, IMO.

The question is, self-regulation or state?

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Old 04-13-2008   #47
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

That's an impressive start, mcanerin. Thanks for working on it. I think your structure is logical and makes good sense in this environment.

It now makes me wonder how the next steps roll out. I can hear the grumblings of who is involved in creating the standards and who isn't.

Could a wiki be a potential platform for this? There would certainly guidelines as how to post standards and how to edit or contribute to them. But this would allow the entire seo community to participate in any degree they would like. I realize many of you are shaking your head at this unlikely technology for a "standards" site. However, this would allow for total contribution. Possibly each standard could include a poll where people could agree or disagree with the standard. It would also allow for additional contribution to a standard.

There could also be a Digg-like tie-in where people could push up standards with which they highly agree and possibly push down standards they don't agree with.
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Old 04-15-2008   #48
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Re: Is There A Need For Standards: The Discussion

Its hard to set standards when there is no basis of what standards should be like. In my experience there are many factors that can be important to some businesses but completely irrelavant to others. Same goes for consumers, it may even appear at the present moment that if there is nothing broken, why fix it? My personal opinion is that there should be a more standardized control and maybe basic line of regualtion, but anything that may prevent creative approach as well as subject industry way of doing business as a whole...well, that may be beneficial to certain individuals but for the most we'll have to use a 'wait and see' approach in this case.
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