SEO Ethics – Why I Live & Breath SEO

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The SEO industry has taken a lot of hits lately. Surprisingly, it’s even gone primetime on Law & Order. Even with all of the bad press and “scammy” nature of the trade, I still stand strong in my resolve to help clients increase search visibility by ensuring they provide unique, relevant content to their audience. I sincerely believe that in an increasingly crowded market of SEO “experts”, “gurus”, and “visionaries”, the few actual SEOs that provide value to their clients will rise to the top and lead the industry to a new height, void of the scammers, exact-match domainers, and content thieves that hack and reverse engineer the very algorithm that 80% of all searchers have  come to know and trust.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an article cleverly-crafted for link bait – hell, half of the folks in the industry I know and respect can be considered “competitors“. This post is merely meant to be a call for those in our industry to stop the BS and start thinking big picture. Do we really want to be the group of people that are hesitant to divulge our trade at networking events and cocktail parties because people like this pollute the SERPs and give us a bad name? No – that’s not who I am and that’s not what I do. I help companies, big and small, from Fortune 100′s to startups, large budgets and small budgets, get their website inline and truly compete with the scammers that pollute the internet with garbage and useless content.

For the record, I’m not delusional in the sense that I believe I know everything there is to know about the industry. Honestly, I don’t believe any single person does. I’m 26 with three years of experience in the industry. In some circles, I’m still considered a rookie. One skill that I do possess, however, is the ability to say “no”. Even in this stage of my life, having paid for both my wedding and my first house on freelance SEO gigs alone, I’ve been able to steer clear of distasteful clients and either say “no” to prospects or flat out fire clients that want me to break the rules. If a 24-7 self-acknowledged workaholic can do it, I think anyone can.

Ok, ok. Enough babbling – allow me to get to the point. I’d like to propose an industry-wide “sniff test” to aid in weeding through the scam clients and allowing them to drown in the ever-increasing cesspool of spam. The SEO client “sniff test” includes asking yourself:

  • Does the client have an exact-match domain name? Chances are, this client has “read a little about SEO” and believes that having an exact match domain with a keyword density of 42.434% will get them #1 placement.
  • Is the potential client asking for a “guarantee”? Wow, don’t even get me started! Any client that insists on “pay for #1 placement” or agency that offers “guaranteed #1 ranking” should seriously be sent straight to your SPAM folder. Note: SEO firms that offer guarantees have another thing coming.
  • Does the potential client have “thousands of positive reviews” AKA self-written? Honestly, I was first exposed to SEO while working at an agency known for astroturfing, or, littering the internet with fake reviews. I’d steer clear of these types of clients, especially since it’s 100% illegal.
  • Is the potential client asking for 100 PR6+ backlinks in one month? First off, a true SEO knows that good links are acquired over time – not in bulk. You’d be surprised how often I see this in RFQs or random cold emails.
  • Does the potential client “spin” content, i.e. steal from popular sites or take advantage of people new to digital marketing? The catalyst for this post was the SERoundtable article on the Webmaster Help thread with the content spinner that was “smart enough” to post his concerns with the Google Panda update. Clients that spin articles and rip other’s content have a significant flaw in their business model that all the links in the can’t help. Stay far, far away.

I only stress avoiding these types of clients because I’ve encountered them in the past. They may offer lucrative, on-going contracts, but in the long-run, it’s just not worth it. It’s a waste of resources and will make you look (and feel) like a slimeball.

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