Unfortunately, not every so-called “professional” holds themselves to high ethical standards. That means that much like any potential business partner, you should vet every SEO firm you consider working with and be sure that their practices are both effective and respectable.
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SEO, or search engine optimization, includes all of the efforts that will help your site rank higher for specific terms in search engines like Google. Many people think that it’s all about keyword optimization of pages.
Certainly, that’s a part of SEO, but it’s hardly the whole story. Effective SEO involves not only researching keywords, but creating content that helps potential customers, optimizing a site for the best possible user experience, and building your company’s overall reputation online.
It’s also important to understand that SEO is an ongoing process. The web is always changing, and rules of search engines are changing, too. In order to succeed, you need to stay on top of these trends and adapt accordingly.
In addition, you also have to be in the know about what is acceptable, and—perhaps most importantly—what is unacceptable. Enter the concept of ethics and ethical SEO…
Ethics & SEO
Without ethical practices, any benefits you see from SEO are temporary. Sure—those who “work” or “game” the system may see high rankings for a few days or weeks.
But as soon as search engines catch on, you’re guaranteed to lose those rankings—and possibly the opportunity to ever regain them.
Ethical SEO ensures that you’re keeping your company out of harm’s way, and can continue to reap the benefits of an optimized site for years to come.
Signs of an unethical SEO firm
Because SEO is an element of business that is often outsourced to marketing firms, it’s essential to be able to spot the identifiers of an unethical one. If you see any of the following signs, it’s time drop your agency and start looking for a new one:
Your content sounds like it was written by a robot and is stuffed with keywords.
This is huge no-no in the SEO world. Search engines expect quality content, and so do readers, meaning that if you want to succeed with either of them, you should invest in professional copywriters.
When the SEO industry was relatively new, the practice of keyword stuffing was common. Now, it can get you blacklisted from major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Being blacklisted is a major setback. Besides—don’t you want to have content that’s actually interesting to your prospects?
The SEO firm is “earning” you links from low-quality websites.
You want to have backlinks to your web pages to increase your page rankings, but you don’t want those links to be from just anywhere. Unethical SEO firms will pay bad websites to link to your site.
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This creates a nasty connection between your site and those websites. Again, you could wind up being blacklisted by search engines because of this association.
The good news is that an ethical SEO firm can help you get rid of those bad links and begin to replace them with links from reputable websites.
You’re encouraged to just use the same content on your website in a variety of places.
Search engines are confused by duplicate content, so they may just stop indexing your website altogether. If your website isn’t being crawled or indexed, your page rankings will plummet.
You need to make sure that your content is all original, which can be a challenge if you don’t have an internal copywriting team. However, once you get your site to this level, you can simply continue to create new content that isn’t plagiarized from your own site or, worse yet, from another business’s website.
The SEO firm sees no problem with cloaking.
Does the term “cloaking” sound suspicious to you? It should.
Cloaking is when human visitors on your website see one thing, and the web search engine crawlers see another. For instance, certain content might be included on your site in the same color as your background, so that content will never be noticed by the naked eye, but will be seen by bots.
Let’s face it—if you have to cloak something, it probably isn’t something that you want on your site in the first place.
You are urged to add links, links and more links.
Link stuffing is as bad as keyword stuffing. Basically, this poor practice is when you add keywords, and then you immediately link them to some other web page.
Don’t have too many links on one page, as it sends a red flag to search engines that there might be some unacceptable things happening in your SEO.
The headlines or page titles and content have nothing in common.
You’ve probably fallen for this bad SEO tactic yourself as a search engine user. You click on a link thinking that you’re going to read an article that interests you, and suddenly you’re taken to a landing page that has nothing to do with the headline that attracted you.
Not only is this annoying, but it can land your organization in hot water. Always make sure that you give your prospects and customers what they think they’re getting. Otherwise, you’re just doing a bait-and-switch, which doesn’t work to build your reputation.
Are you looking for an ethical SEO firm?
If you’re considering hiring an agency to manage your SEO and other Internet marketing strategies, WebFX can help. We have years of experience achieving results for our clients, and we’ll do the same for you.
Contact us today to speak with a strategist about how our team of SEO professionals can help you earn high rankings with ethical and proven methods.