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Old 02-23-2005   #1
DarkMatter
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Sued for Blackhat SEO?

http://www.safemachines.com/seo.htm

I stumbled upon this link while searching robotics related topics.....this guy has a PHD in robotics and provides services as an expert witness in SEO litigation cases. Basically, if you pay someone to perform seo services on your site and they use blackhat techniques that might get your site penalized, he will gather the evidence and present it as an expert witness in your litigation.

Since all search engines have different tolerances for seo techniques, can someone really sue over this? What if the seo optimizes for MSN and Yahoo and inadvertently gets his client banned from google?
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Old 02-23-2005   #2
Michael Martinez
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Anyone can sue for compensation of loss of business. If you are in the SEO business, you need to include indemnity clauses in your contract, don't offer guarantees, and make sure you know what you are getting into.
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Old 02-23-2005   #3
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All the more reason to make the core site squeeky clean and COA with indemnity clauses like Michael said.

From the article
Quote:
multiple doorway pages, link farming, deceptive redirects and cloaking.
These can only hurt you if you link to them (ie participate in the bad neighborhood) You can have a 1000 cloaked doorway pages linking to you and the SE's couldn't do a thing about it. If they did we could simply push competition out of the way by just creating a few cloaks per site above us.

If anything this guy will clean out the Traffic Powers from the industry. I just hope a slip and fall lawyer market doesn't opens up for people whos sites drop cause Google updated their algo.
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Old 02-23-2005   #4
St0n3y
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Anybody got an example of an indemnity clause?
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Old 02-23-2005   #5
telNform
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Yes

Yes ... you definitely can or could sue an SEO for blackhat techniques, but only if you were unaware ... if you were aware, then it is your call and you suffer if you are banned. Full disclosure is a must ... any ethical blackhat (oxymoron ... j/k) will disclose the methods for optimization on your site.
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Old 02-23-2005   #6
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Sometimes I am happy to be doing business in Denmark. With laws we have in that area it is VERY unlikely we will ever see cases like that here
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Old 02-23-2005   #7
Jill Whalen
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Speaking of indemnity clauses, yes, they are good to have in your contract, but never, ever sign one that your client has put into a contract that they want YOU to sign. (A client or any contract that you sign.) Cross it out immediately if it says that you indemnify them in anyway, unless it's somehow mutual.

Just a little trick I learned being married to an attorney. (I've turned down work if they won't let me delete that clause as it's simply that dangerous, according to my attorney at least!) Always get your clients to sign YOUR contracts, not vice-versa. And never, ever do any work without a contract.

Regarding the topic in this thread, I actually have added a clause to my contract that says I won't do anything to the client's site that would be construed as spam or get it penalized/banned by the search engines. I don't know if most companies have something like that in their contract, but I have no qualms about putting it into mine.
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Old 02-23-2005   #8
Michael Martinez
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I wonder why Dr. Hooper feels qualified to be an expert witness in this area. His qualifications (as listed on the Web site) don't include any specific work on Web design and promotion.
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Old 02-23-2005   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
I wonder why Dr. Hooper feels qualified to be an expert witness in this area. His qualifications (as listed on the Web site) don't include any specific work on Web design and promotion.
Better hourly rate?

Either way, I'm thinking of hiring myself out as an expert witness on robotics.
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Old 02-23-2005   #10
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As an Expert SEO witness (in no less than 15 different fields) I wonder what a defense attorney would make of the fact that his SEO Expert witness page is targeting the search term Expert Witness Search Engine Optimization. When you search Google for that term in quotes there are only three results returned, yet for the unquoted search in Google he ranks only #6 !
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Old 02-23-2005   #11
Anthony Parsons
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Check your PM Bruce.

Quote:
Originally Posted by St0n3y
Anybody got an example of an indemnity clause?
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Old 02-23-2005   #12
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Better hourly rate?
No, actually I don't think so. I have been offered forensic work in this field and it was going to pay just about half of what I charge for SEO
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Old 02-23-2005   #13
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anyone reading here for a month or two knows more than he does.

"Choosing the wrong key words is a critical mistake."
he wants to use the SEOs for choosing the wrong keyword.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
I wonder why Dr. Hooper feels qualified to be an expert witness in this area. His qualifications (as listed on the Web site) don't include any specific work on Web design and promotion.
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Old 02-24-2005   #14
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I think Jill and others say it all - your own contracts need to be signed to protect you from this absurd litigation.

I wish this would fall under frivolous lawsuits but I dont think so. It could be argued that "bad" SEO work resulted in loss of business.

I would personally be very on guard for this kind of thing. This guy is smart. He's staking a claim in this type of litigation. He sniffed it with the Traffic Power thing, and he probably sniffed it more reading all the tech news saying search engine marketing/advertising industry is getting bigger.

This guy is such a dog. He may not realize it though, but his "service" could be harmful to a lot of good SEOs. Some here think it'll get rid of ones like Traffic Power. Please. Don't be ignorant.

Traffic Power finds lots of ways to get around this kind of stuff. The real victims are genuine SEOs, independent consultants who may not have the litigation wherewithal to protect him/herself, may offer it as a sidebar to web-design services, and.. probably others.

I find this quite dangerous. I also find "search engine spamming" entirely subjective and relative. It's subjective to loopholes in an SE algo, and relative to the valueation of a particular SE. And not all SEs are the same or equal.

Furthermore, this guy is staking his claim now as some expert - even though he has NO clear experience in this field. The fact that he's staking a claim as an expert will lend him a greater audience as this issue becomes more regulated (and I think we all agree it will be as the industry matures).

What's disturbing is the lack of knowledge this guy actually has. His copy is full of relative or subjective information on the industry. Witness:

"Choosing the key words is generally an interactive process between the search engine expert and the domain expert (often the owner of the website). There are tools available to help with this process. Choosing the wrong key words is a critical mistake. Optimizing a site for key words no one uses is of no benefit and may even damage the site's rankings on key words that people do use.... A qualified expert witness can help you determine whether the key words were chosen ethically."

- my question is, by what standards? It can be argued that to mention your competitors' products/services on your own site, optimizing it for the competitor but actually aiming to do a direct comparison - it can be argued as unethical. And also, by what research does he have that shows choosing the "wrong" key words is a "critical mistake"?

The only thing I can say is that this guy is setting himself up as an "expert witness" not a lawyer. However, even as an expert witness, I suspect any SEO expert - the big dogs here.. Aaron Wall, Jill Whalen, etc... would be more of an expert than this guy, with clients, sites, and published material to boot. I mean, this guy has no SEO experience, no SE algo/CS/HCI (Human Computer Interaction) programming ... so this guy knows squat about SEO and SEs.

But again, danger is in him elevating himself up as an expert at a time when there are no other expert witnesses.
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Old 02-24-2005   #15
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Quote:
A qualified expert witness can help you determine whether the key words were chosen ethically
I don't think "ethical" is a word I would use in selecting keywords - I would call them "relevant" or "not relevant" (and even what that exactly is can, and do indeed, get debated).

There are no winners in selecting the wrong (not relevant) keywords - the users can't use it, the engines don't like it and the business owners don't benefit from it. It's like sending your press release to the wrong medias - medias that do not write about your industry or advertising in magazines that don't have any readers in your target group. It's just not good marketing. It's not, in my mind "un-ethical" or illegal - it's just not good work. A bad carpenter is not necessarily a criminal scam-artist - he is probably just a bad carpenter.
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Old 03-03-2005   #16
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wow, now this is an alert.

I've never signed a contract with a client for SEO.
Wonder what is the logical procedure of events that
one must follow to direct his/her lawyer.

Last edited by invader : 03-03-2005 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 03-03-2005   #17
Jill Whalen
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Without a contract, it's going to be your word against the clients and that will make things very tricky.

Hopefully anyone in this situation has all the emails and documentation that went between the client and themselves, which should help to prove what they agreed to do and what they didn't.
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Old 03-03-2005   #18
ThouShaltSeo
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you need one. What if they get banned by Google for
something (even if it's related to your SEO) and blame you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by invader
wow, now this is an alert.

I never signed an contract with a client for SEO.
Wonder what is the logical procedure of events that
one must follow to direct his/her lawyer.
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Old 03-03-2005   #19
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Does anyone have an example of a legal contract that SEOs can use. Particularly those of us who really do SEO more as consultants on the side than full-fledged services.

I personally do this in my professional life and my agency has a contract - that is usually part of a whole bid.

But I moonlight as an SEO for small businesses. I personally would like to protect myself. Anyone have any resource, guidelines, tips, etc.?
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