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Ethical SEO XVII

18 April 2005

I am Not a Chicken. I am a Chicken Hawk! $#@&?

In our own minds we are all ethical. Meaning each morning we have to justify our own actions to ourselves.

I have a friend who sends out a ton of email spam. I think it is a horrible business practice, but he of course sees no problem with it.

Email spam sucks, but filters do get better as time goes on. Search engine spam is not the same as email spam or blog comment spam as you are not directly immediately wasting some persons time.

Ethical Engines

If you spend big money you can market just about anything you like in the engines. If you are willing to pay per click they will let you advertise sites they would otherwise deem as spam, just because they get money out of it.

Google funds a large portion of the spam web pages by placing AdSense ads on them. Ethical.

Some search companies, such as Yahoo!, even buy a ton of links which manipulate their own relevancy algorithms. Ethical.

More Ethical Engines

Search engines make a ton of money by displaying ads next to scraped content from your site. They probably do not pay you for this. The Google Toolbar has went so far as to add links to webmasters websites without asking them. If a person saw an ISBN number at Barnes and Nobels Google would link that to Amazon.com.

They index your site without you asking them to. They add links to competing merchant sites without you asking them to. They place ads next to snippets of your site without you giving them permission to. If you somehow show up in those results in places they do not want you to then suddenly you are some evil search spammer. What is that?

Marketing spin. Plain and simple.

Why don't they spend some of those billions of dollars of annual profit making better algorithms?


Some people are quick to point out the errors in others methods. To call names or to try to sound above the other person. If you are not original and have no clue how to market your goods or services why not try to nock down the competition?

The people who push the ethics concept, are by default, ethical.

Rhetorical blathering is usually good for oneself and bad for the industry as a whole.

The Real Motivator

There is no degree for SEO. There is low startup costs. Almost anyone can jump into the market and do well if they are willing to work hard. I am (at least to myself) proof this is true.

That presents a problem for people who have spent years and years raising their prices though. If there is almost no barrier to entry and you can undercut my prices I have to protect my livelihood by:

  • having a strong brand or
  • trying to diminish any competing service or
  • a combination of the above

Link Building = Spam

No longer is it much the case, but for a while some ethical SEOs stated that if you put in the effort to build a large number of links that it was spam. Why would they say this?

  • link building takes a ton of time
  • link building is expensive
  • they are lazy

Any useful SEO firm will encourage things like:

  • making sure search spiders are aware of the social connections you have
  • encourage you to make more social connections
  • build links to make your site appear authoritative to search engines

So long as your business model is legitimate it is generally much cheaper to do well in a social network (like the web) if you actually participate in the social network.

Content Spam

Write and write and write. The more articles you make the better. Or maybe not.

If you are just writing to hear youself click the keys it has little purpose or value. You may as well be using automated software to build your articles.

Well made sites add legitimate value and help move people along the sales cycle.

Hypocritical Content Spammers

Some bloggers were quick to comment about how I was a horrible person when I mentioned that there was a blog spamming script for sale. For example:

I detest comment spam as a blogger trying to make an honest living from blogging. Spam has the potential to cripple sites and destroy the quality of Search engine results.

That came from a self proclaimed Pro Blogger. He co own or helps run blogs about depression, Paris Hilton, printers, Britney Spears, debt , VOIP, credit cards, blogging, Jessica Simpson, etc etc etc

A single person can cover only so many topics. The best way to build honest value is to cover a topic better than anyone else is. Add new insights and commentary. Original thoughts that can't be found elsewhere.

I looked through the first hundred posts on his blog about depression and it looked as though all of them were just snippets from articles other people wrote.

What is professional, useful, or compelling about that? Nothing so far as I can see.

The Real Deal with Ethics

Any market worth being in is going to be competitive. Off the start you may need to be a bit creative and create multiple revenue streams.

I have made thousands of dollars from people misspelling a site that I was an affiliate for. There is nothing wrong with trying to acquire multiple small, random, and easy revenue streams. Long term it is usually best if you can back those up with also creating a more stable business model that continually builds value.

Just be careful when taking advice from others about how YOU should make a living. 9 times out of 10 their advice will usually include paying them or someone they know.

The truth of ethics is clearly articulated in this recent email I was sent:

I think when people talk about ethics in business they are concerned about someone cutting into their profits or threatening their profits. It has nothing to do with human rights or suffering (which is wrong). Either way, business people will continue to talk about ethics all day - even while they own sweat shops - because sweat shops have very little to do with ethics.

It is the exact same reason why ethical SEOs complain about other services. It is the exact same reason search engines try to frame an ethics and spam debate. They want $$$,$$$,$$$.$$.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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