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The search marketing industry, providing search engine ranking or search engine marketing type services to website owners, is, give or take a year or two, about 15 years old now.

There are several ways to define SEO Ethics, and it really depends on what your end goal is. Are we trying to define what is ethical SEO and what is not ethical SEO? Because let’s just take one look at that:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
  • Abusing rich snippets markup

But lately, let’s say in the last five years or so, there have been lots of SEO companies who have taken their clients’ money and participated in link schemes in an effort to get the client higher search engine rankings. Link schemes like this:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
  • Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites,
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature

As an SEO company or someone providing SEO services for hire, one needs to make sure that they are not deceiving the client or website owner. Deceiving a client or website owner could mean something along the lines of:

  • Not guaranteeing search engine rankings
  • Being transparent on the SEO methods used for higher search engine rankings
  • Taking the time to educate the client about SEO best practices
  • Not deceiving the client

Is it the basic “SEO Ethics” of performing search engine optimization for a website that we’re after when defining “SEO Ethics”? Because if that’s the case, then we need to look as far as the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Or is it much greater than that? Do “SEO Ethics” need to actually define the search marketing industry as a whole? Do we really need to put a “code of SEO ethics” in place so that search marketers (or SEOs, for that matter), get rid of the stigma that I despise: “SEOs are just selling snake oil”?

We absolutely do not need the SEO Police. If we were to define an SEO Code of Ethics, then frankly that code is only as good as the enforcement of those ethics. We all know what happens in a town when speed limit signs are put up: but as soon as word gets out that the police never pull people over for speeding, then what’s the point? People ignore those speed limits.

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