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Old 08-08-2005   #1
traian
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punishment

Hi,

I know everybody talk about getting good positions, but what is interesting me now is how to get ugly ones.

I did a great job for a client of mine, the first place for the requested keyword, but now he doesn't want to pay me for the job.
What can I do now to undo the results? I am an ethical SEO and I do not know the techniques to make him fall form the top.
I still have access to his site

Thanks
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Old 08-08-2005   #2
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You could remove the changes you made to the pages, although he may have copies of the current pages. What you can't do is damage the site in any way other than removing your work and putting it back the way it was. The idea of "punishment" can be very tempting, but it's an absolute no-no, imo.

If you don't have a contract that you can legally enforce, you will probably have to grin and bear it. I can imagine how aggravating it must be, but it's always aggravating when somebody steals from us - it's life.
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Old 08-08-2005   #3
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I'd be very careful with this, Traian. Damaging your client's business could create a host of legal problems for you. Putting this in real-world terms, if you installed a new storefront for a retailer and they failed to pay, your legal recourse wouldn't include throwing a brick through their window.

Removing your work and restoring the site to its exact condition before your involvement MIGHT be an option, but I'd recommend consulting an attorney before taking even that step.

Good luck. I have a non-paying client who, luckily, has chosen to punish themselves - I looked at their site, and they have substituted a new home page stuffed with keywords hidden against an image background. Wonderful do-it-yourself effort with 1998 spamming technology. I figure they'll lose their top rankings sooner rather than later.
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Old 08-08-2005   #4
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This is why it is a good idea to collect your fees or at least a percentage before you do any work. For us, we collect 100% of the fees charged to develop the SEO strategy before it is ever implemented into the site.
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Old 08-08-2005   #5
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I will remove the changes, but I'm sure that they already have a copy of the modified site.
I do not have any contract with them, I am a freelancer so I do not have a good contract to give my clients to sign (where can I find some good samples?)
I do have some ideeas how to strike them and I will. Maybe then they'll have money to spend,... on trials.
I will change their home page, spamm it, maybe they will not notice. I hope it will work.
Since I do not have any contract with them I will do as more as I can to undo the effects of my job.

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Old 08-08-2005   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by traian
I will change their home page, spamm it, maybe they will not notice. I hope it will work.
That will make you every bit as bad as them, and it will almost certainly make you legally liable for the action.
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Old 08-08-2005   #7
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Quote:
I will change their home page, spamm it, maybe they will not notice. I hope it will work.
Quote:
I am an ethical SEO
Clearly.

Welcome to the business world. Get a contract next time.
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Old 08-08-2005   #8
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>> If you don't have a contract that you can legally enforce

That knife cuts both ways. If no contract is signed, then you aren't under any obligation to leave them with any work you've done. Since they haven't paid you, and there is no contractual relationship, they have in effect pirated your IP. How can they complain if you remove it?

>> and it will almost certainly make you legally liable for the action.

Hmmmm, since they must have supplied the server logon details to him, I think the "we got hacked!" defense would be tricky.... and since no-one (AFAIK) has a LEGAL right to free SE traffic, uploading some dodgy stuff to wreck their listings, and their traffic, wouldn't be illegal per se, IMO, so long as you weren't redirecting to a pr0n site etc. So long as the USER experience is not harmed, you may be able to do what you like.... I'd think VERY hard before doing anything like that though. Even a frivolous lawsuit might hurt

NB I am not a lawyer. This post is my opinion only. I do not necessarily advocate any of the above techniques
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Old 08-08-2005   #9
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You can always use the site exclusion tool

http://www.google.com/remove.html#exclude_website

Abosolutely nothing unethical about that. The second they pay their bill just delete the robot.txt file. Until then let them flounder around trying to find out what the problem is.

Last edited by seomike : 08-08-2005 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 08-08-2005   #10
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I am creating one right now. I will never work without a crystal clear contract and with some percentage in advance. I suggest every one to do so.
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Old 08-08-2005   #11
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Can anybody point me to a good contract that I may modify? Send it to my email, pls.
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Old 08-08-2005   #12
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Hi TallTroll. When I have workmen in my house, I usually give them a key to let themselves in because I don't rise until midday, but that doesn't give them any right to damage my house. It only gives them the right to do what I agreed they can do. In the same way, just because the client gave a person the FTP details to the site, it doesn't mean that the person is legally free to do whatever s/he wants to do in the site, including willfully damaging it. It only gives them the right to do what was agreed.

seomike, imo, changing the robots.txt file to exclude search engine spiders is willfully damaging the site, and I am sure that the client would have a sound and winnable legal case against the SEO who did it. Also, imo, it is absolutely unethical to willfully damage a client's site by excluding search engine spiders form it, whatever the motivation.
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Old 08-08-2005   #13
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>> It only gives them the right to do what is agreed.

Without a contract, nothing is agreed. If the site is using material / code you developed, without payment, that is IP theft. If you take the opportunity to remove such content, using the FTP details you "unaccountably" possess, how can that be wrong?

>> including willfully damaging the site.

If normal users only see what the site owners want them to see, I don't see how a charge of "wilful damage" would hold up. I'm not suggesting a defacement of the site.

Now, if spiders see other things.... that's different. If they see things that users don't see, the SE's are free to draw their own conclusions. You can't sue an SE for "loss of trade" if they junk your site.... so I don't see how you could sue someone else for the same, if your rankings / traffic drop through the floor. Since no right to the traffic exists, depriving someone of the trffic cannot be an offence.

Again, this is all IMO. Check with a REALLY good Internet lawyer before even considering such a course of action
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Old 08-08-2005   #14
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TallTroll.

I didn't say it is wrong to remove the work. If you go back up the thread, you'll see that that is exactly what I suggested doing.

Incidentally, he has a contract with the client. It's a verbal one, and is every bit as enforcable as a written one. The only difference is that a verbal one is harder to prove. And there *is* a contractual relationship, whether they've paid or not.

It is willful damage to a site when somebody working on it prevents search engine spiders from accessing it against the desires or the wishes of the owner, and without the owner's knowledge. In this case, the clear wishes of the owner is that search engine spiders crawl the site and rank the pages. That's why s/he hired an seo. "Defacing" something isn't the only way to damage it.

No you can't sue an engine for loss of trade, but you can certainly sue somebody who intentionally caused it.

It isn't necessary to check with a lawyer about any of that. It may be necessary to check with one before removing the work and putting the site back the way it was, but that's all.
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Old 08-08-2005   #15
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Phil thats all good and fine but excluding bots is not a permanent thing. They pay up and the bots come back. no harm in that.

Not paying up for work is more unethical IMHO. It's stealing and it's also a continuation of theft because the client is banking on someone elses work especially when your site page 1 rank 1 for a searchable term as traian says he delivered.

You'd get your hand cut off for that in some countries so consider the temporary loss of rankings as a blessing


Its the seo equivolent to this

Last edited by seomike : 08-08-2005 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 08-08-2005   #16
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>> Incidentally, he has a contract with the client.

Since the client is refusing to pay, it seems they disagree. If there is a contract in place, verbal or not, then they owe the money and are in breach of that contract. Surely this cannot be their position.

The only defence that makes sense is the "no such contract" defence. In that case what I said hold true, I think

>> the clear wishes of the owner is that search engine spiders crawl the site and rank the pages. That's why s/he hired an seo.

If they hired him, they owe him. If they didn't then no such intention is established

>> It is willful damage to a site when somebody working on it prevents search engine spiders from accessing it against the desires or the wishes of the owner,

I don't believe that this has been legally established (although if anyone knows of any case law, or even statute law that DOES establish this, I am more than willing to be educated). AFAIK, the only extant laws on the topic cover defacement, and denial of service. Hacking someones site, and placing invisible links, adding a robots.txt etc doesn't stop ANY user who knows the site from accessing it. It does impact (potentially) on the SE rankings of a site, but I really don't think that you are going to get a search engineer testifying in open court about how SEs rank sites.....

Without that evidence, I find it hard to see how you can build a causal relationship from traians (potential) actions to a negative effect on the business. After all, if the site fails to rank it may have nothing to do with what may hypothetically be done to it.

I'm not sure which jurisdiction this would hypothetically be tried in, but I'll assume the UK for now.

In a criminal trial, traian would need only to establish "reasonable doubt" that his actions were the cause of any damage. I think that would be very easy, unless the SEs were forced to disclose details of their algorithms, and detail exactly how his actions had an effect. Even under our dodgy "expert witness" rules, I don't believe it would be adequate for a search engineer to tkae the stand and say "Yes, it was him, but no, I can't give any details at all"

Not exactly fair evidence, with the opportunity for rebuttal (since the core of it would be in the "any details" bit), is it?

In a civil trial it would be a bit easier, since the judge can find guilt or innocence on a balance of probability (ie "I find it 50% your fault"), and modify any fines, damages, costs etc accordingly (NB since the evidence would be highly technical, I think that a jury would be dispensed wih in our hypothetical civil trial - unless an attempt was made to classify any alleged offence as fraud - more dodgy ground, IMO)

However, as I still don't think the SEs would testify (possibly in camera, just to the judge they might), it'd still be hard to establish a causal link, and any degree of responsibility
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Old 08-08-2005   #17
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I'm not arguing that the client is in any way in the right. If he received what he ordered, and he won't pay, he's a thief, but it doesn't give the injured party any right to deprive him of anything such as rankings or traffic, which is what fixing the robots.txt file seeks to do. Wheel clampers can only clamp under certain conditions that are defined in the law - not whenever they think an injustice has been done.

The verbal contract exists regardless of whether or not one of them disagrees. A disagreement doesn't disolve a contract. On the contrary, it's when there is a disagreement that a contract comes into its own.

You're beating about the bush, TallTroll. I've given my opinions. As far as I'm concerned, changing the robots.txt file to exclude search engine spiders, in these circumstances, is clearly a willful attempt to damage the client's business, and, imo, it is not only grossly unethical, but it is highly likely to be illegal in whatever country has the jurisdiction.
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Old 08-08-2005   #18
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The real question isn't what's right, wrong, or morally justifiable. The sole question is, or should be, what's legal. No, it's not OK for the client to fail to pay for work you completed at his request - that's a breach of your verbal contract. But at the same time there are specific ways to remedy that under the law, and damaging the client's business probably isn't one of them. Hence, the advice from Phil & others to consult an attorney.

>>They pay up and the bots come back. no harm in that.

Well, if they lose two months of revenue, for example, there's harm. And if they have a good attorney and aggressively pursue the firm that caused the damage, they could win. (If you think that unlikely, imagine the client taking the position that they always intended to pay the bill. It's just that the original check, written a month ago and mailed, somehow never arrived. Or, they didn't pay because the were waiting for a minor coding error to be fixed... there are a million scenarios that could work in their favor.)

Finally, once you do something detrimental to the site or your work, the client may well be justified in not paying a dime.

One step you should take is to document the situation - when you were hired, what you were hired to do, the work you performed, and perhaps the before & after rankings (if payment was related to performance). Perhaps the client communicated by email with you about the project? You'll need good documentation whatever direction you go in from here.

One thought if you don't want to consult an attorney - either threaten to use, or actually hire, a collection agency. These agencies will collect debts for a piece of the action (e.g., 25 - 40%). Businesses don't like to be referred to a collection agency because it shows up on their credit report, and will often work something out to avoid it. (In this case, the threat might be more effective than the actual referral due to the lack of documentation.)

Last edited by rogerd : 08-08-2005 at 01:00 PM.
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Old 08-08-2005   #19
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>> The verbal contract exists regardless of whether or not one of them disagrees.

Not true. A verbal contract exists if the court decided that it does, regardless of whether the parties allegedly involved believe it to exist. Otherwise, I could simply say "Hey, a guy from [insert rich corporation here] promised me a fat contract at [insert event / conference / whatever here], I did all this work [produce spurious documents here], so they owe me muchly"

In this case, since the "client" apparently sent server logon details to traian, they may decide that a verbal contract must exist. Then again they may not, depending on the wording of any email communications

>> but it doesn't give the injured party any right to deprive him of anything such as rankings or traffic, which is what fixing the robots.txt file seeks to d

You've missed the point. I maintain that the "client" has no such right, and therefore CANNOT be deprived of it. If anyone knows different, again, please pipe up.

>> is clearly a willful attempt to damage the client's business,

See above. Maybe, maybe not. That's for a court, somewhere, somewhen to decide

>> it is not only grossly unethical, but it is highly likely to be illegal in whatever country has the jurisdiction.

Unethical? Probably. Illegal? I doubt it. The precedent would be troublesome, to say the least
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Old 08-08-2005   #20
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Phil you know as well as I do some cheap @$$ American/Canadian/Brit hired our Romanian friend to do his seo because he didn't want to spend big bucks with a local firm. Traian delievers the results and from that point I'm sure the client ran into 1 of the following senarios.

1. He built the site himself in front page and the site is a mess which is leading to no conversions (remember the guy is probably a cheap skate) so the client doesn't think he's obligated to pay the seo.

2. He hired a Romanian seo for the sole purpose of exploitation because he never intended to pay him in the first place.

3. His product, service or main keyword doesn't even register in word tracker or has a crappy search volume which would give him no traffic at the end of the day so once again he does't pay up.

4. Or none of the above the guy found a loophole because no contract was signed and is just being a jerk.

So that leaves us with a few options. 1. He can write the search engines show proof of ownership for the copyrighted material and let the search engines deal with the situation which could range from nothing to a complete delisting and non inclusion (far more damaging in the long run than a robot.txt) , probably would never get paid if that were the case.

or you put the robot.txt file up, let the client discover his dropped rankings, then just imply that search engines don't index sites that infringe on copyrighted material and he was reported. Then he thinks he should pay up and clear things up.

I say play the foreign card Traian no western government is going to extradite a romanian seo from blasting a mom and pop shops site out of google ROFL especially when the guy didn't pay his bill.

Lots of assumptions and a ton of what if's in the this post. I could be totally wrong or I could be right on the money either way a robot.txt is far better than complaining to the se's about copy infringement and getting a complete site anhilation.
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