First, we will define both ethical and unethical SEO and give examples of each.
The following SEO practices and techniques are considered ethical:
- Different links for separate website pages can be created
- Keywords and content that is used is information that is relevant to a website visitor
- Inbound links (links within a website) can be created. These can be useful if advertising through a social media website.
- Websites can be updated regularly with relevant information. These can take the form of press releases, articles and/or blogs.
- Keeping up to date with the types of keywords a target audience is consistently using. This way, keywords within content are built to cater for a customer or client, achieving better rankings, as well as giving a website more credibility. Using keywords properly and sufficiently encourages a target audience to regard and remember a website as being reliable for the information that they seek.
- Links are not exchanged with other websites of a low quality or containing information that is not relevant to a targeted audience.
- Adding a sitemap to a website can be easily found by search engine spiders and helps to better index the entire site.
Unethical SEO Practices
The following SEO practices and techniques are considered unethical anyone of them alone or a combination of them:
- Text is hidden – e.g.: white text is “hidden” on a white background, text can be “hidden” behind images or a size zero font can be used.
- Links are hidden or made to appear less obvious so to a website visitor – e.g.: links can be made into the same font color as the main content.
- Making use of automated queries without the permission from search engines.
- A method of “cloaking” is used whereby content is submitted to search engines in such a way that some text is not clearly obvious or apparent to a targeted audience.
- Too many keywords and hidden text are used on a website. This is known as keyword stuffing. Online users are generally not appreciative of this.
- Using duplicated content or spun content.
- Exploiting security whereby viruses or malware can be installed the moment a website or page is opened by a user.
- Trading links – many websites have a habit of trading links. This can be very misleading and disruptive to an online user.
- Creating false doorway passages to direct users to other websites that may contain irrelevant content or a collection of more links.
- Plagiarizing or using auto-generated content with a high keyword density
- Spammy backlinks that have no relationship to the subject matter of the website it’s linking too.
A case study of SEO/SEM Gone Bad
The following is an excerpt from a post made by the website’s owner;
I recently hired an SEO company who I thought looked fairly reputable and had pretty good testimonials and knew the language. About two months in, I noticed my traffic decreasing. Now my website is almost gone from any keyword I have tried searching for that is relevant. I checked for manual web spam and there is nothing, so my guess is I have hit some grey area of Panda, or Penguin. This really sucks because I took a risk and used my retirement account to hire the SEO. So now I am broke and have a broken website. What really sucks is even my new content isn’t ranking well. We have had over 70 new listings added to the website and we don’t rank well for any of them. It is like Google just ignores the listing part of our website. The website is: www.cabcot.com
At a glance, it looks like someone built a bunch of really spammy links. There’s a lot of comment links and exact match anchor texts. You need to remove as many of the spammy links as you can and disavow the ones that you can’t get removed. When analyzing each link – ask yourself “is this ‘earned’?” and “does it provide the user value?” – If the answer is no, remove the link or disavow it.
There is keyword stuffing on your site for one. There is a HUGE lack of content but a ton of keywords. The word ‘sale’ comes up 42 times on the home page alone. I would ask for them to redo the SEO on your site and chill out a lot on the keyword stuffing.
Another case study involves one of the ways Google determines where a given site will rank for a specific search is the number and quality of inbound links to a website. The theory is that very interesting pages will be linked to by many other websites and blogs. A page or website with a lot of links, therefore has a lot of authority (Google measures authority on a 1-10 logarithmic scale called PageRank)
Taking it one step further, a link from a high PageRank site (like CNN or FindLaw) is more valuable than a link from a low PageRank site. The more links to your website from sites with a high PageRank, especially from relevant subject sites (links from FindLaw to lawyer websites), the higher your website may appear in Google search results(O’Keefe, 2008).
- FindLaw sent unsolicited emails to lawyers and SEO experts selling a search engine marketing (SEM) program service.
- FindLaw’s service sells a law firm up to 3 hard coded links to be placed on editorially relevant pages of content for $12,000 ($1,000 per month for a 12 month contract).
- FindLaw’s service educates lawyers how to write the best text for their links (anchor text) so as to achieve higher search results for the lawyer’s website.
- A law firm is ‘allowed to submit up to 5 articles to be placed’ in relevant areas of the FindLaw, with 5 additional links.
Though I don’t monitor the PageRank of websites, I’m told FindLaw had a PageRank of 7 as little as a week ago. By Friday night, FindLaw’s PageRank was a 5, and remains so today.
A PageRank move is more than just a proportionate thing, it’s geometric in nature ala the Richter scale for an earthquake. A drop of 2 on PageRank is a very significant move, something that significantly diminishes the value of links from FindLaw to lawyer websites.
Another problem for FindLaw is whether Google would penalize the websites which bought links. Imagine being a law firm paying FindLaw $12,000 per year for search engine optimization and having your website adversely effected in search results as a result doing so(O’Keefe, 2008).
Ethical SEO gives good and reliable rank and placement of your website on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Ethical SEO always pays more than a fair return-on-investment in the long run. It is easy to implement and delivers consistent results for a long time. Your biggest return on investment is lots of free organic traffic to your website.
O’Keefe, K. (2008, August), FindLaw gaming Google, and possibly scamming lawyer customers? Retrieved from https://kevin.lexblog.com/2008/08/17/findlaw-gaming-google-and-possibly-scamming-lawyer-customers/