The business was always the survival of the fittest. Unlike the public domain, where it’s crucial to uphold the rule of law, these lines are blurred in the corporative world. And while such an aggressive stance has its advantages, such as spearheading technological innovation, it also has its fair share of drawbacks.

Specifically, the rampant entrepreneurial spirit often leads to unethical behavior. This can be seen in every aspect of business, from operational to financial and marketing practices. In this article, we’ll talk about ethics in SEO and how malpractice can affect your corporation in the short and long run.

What is SEO ethics?

When we talk about ethics in marketing, most people think of false advertising. It isn’t uncommon for brands to make promises they can’t keep and profit off of their customers. And while this strategy has become less prominent with the rise of the internet, we can still see it in numerous examples.

Ethics in SEO is a bit different. Aside from misleading practices, this term also refers to any behavior that goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines. For example, unethical SEO can refer to keyword stuffing, selling links, exploiting duplicate content, link schemes, and numerous other unethical SEO practices.

Aside from affecting your placement within the search engines, unethical SEO strategies can also have a negative impact on brand perception. Of course, this is only under the presumption that your followers figure out what you’re doing.

Unfortunately for companies that play by the book, it’s really hard for outsiders to determine if a brand has engaged in black hat SEO. In other words, even if major search engines penalize you for unethical SEO practices, your fans likely won’t be aware of it.

What are the benefits of an ethical SEO?

Based on everything said in the previous chapter, it might seem that unethical SEO practices could be worth it. However, you should always keep in mind that using such methods can ruin your site overnight. Furthermore, the Google search engine is becoming smarter by the year, reducing the room for manipulation.

So, if you’re serious about your business, you should always go with a white hat SEO strategy. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but it will also ensure that your brand doesn’t perish overnight. Anyway, here are a few specific reasons why you should only use ethical SEO practices:

1. Long-term sustainability

Search engine marketing always presumes certain risks. SEO consultants are forced to optimize the website’s articles, yet, they can’t overoptimize them. They need to build as many inbound links as possible, yet these links have to come from reputable sources.

All of these things make search engine optimization such a tricky profession, where one small misstep can cost you dearly. Regardless, it’s a process that will definitely provide results as long as you’re willing to invest lots of time and money.

Out of all the digital marketing approaches, search engine optimization is the best for growing businesses. Every small thing you do on your website has a cascading effect, boosting your SEO efforts and providing long-term value. Of course, this is only if we presume that the process was in accordance with the existing Google policies.

2. Increased transparency

Using the ethical SEO approach provides much more transparency to your business operations and marketing. A company that does everything the right way has nothing to hide, and you can easily access their internet data and assess performance with SEO tools.

And while this transparency might not be as important for average online users, who don’t know anything about ethical SEO, it’s crucial for other marketers. In other words, a savvy SEO consultant can easily check your backlinks profile to determine how you’ve been building your online presence. They can check for hidden text, hidden links, and other malpractices.

That being said, transparency is important for building trust among potential partners and even competitors. If you’re doing fishy stuff on the backend, you’ll lose the respect of other players within the industry. As a result, this will affect your partnership and collaboration opportunities.

In the worst-case scenario, this information might leak out to the general public. Even if an average online user doesn’t understand the importance of your actions, they will be revolted by immoral behavior.

3. Providing a better user experience

When Google created its guidelines, it did so to improve the experience of people using the search engine. They tried to limit all the nasty practices that interfere with users and the accessibility of information.

When you use ethical SEO, you don’t have to worry about poor user experience. Every web page on your site will be created with the user in mind, so you can rest assured they’ll have great time browsing. Among others, by following ethical SEO methodology, you’ll never have poor-quality content on your pages.

While this might not be important for brands that need to make money as soon as possible, it’s still crucial for long-term development. Slowly growing your reputation will have a cumulative effect, making it easier and easier to sell products or services online.

In other words, as long as you can survive the initial period, you’ll be able to create a really powerful online entity.

4. It costs less

On the surface, black hat SEO services are often cheaper than white hat SEO. However, as they don’t move the needle in the long run, people usually perceive them as unnecessary spending.

In fact, the only situation where you might benefit from unethical practices is when you want to make quick bucks. It might work for some expensive, novelty products, where you create a new website every year and squeeze as much money as possible before getting shut down.

In all other cases, dabbling in black hat usually only leads to unnecessary expenses. It’s much better to work on your brand and slowly develop it the right way than trying to make quick money or destroy competitors.

How to implement ethical SEO?

People who’ve been working in the SEO industry for a while know the differences between black and white hat methodologies. However, if you’re new to the topic, you might think that everything’s fair game. In fact, if you stumble on the wrong guy, they might persuade you to start buying paid links and creating auto-generated content.

So, if you wish to avoid nasty surprises and do search engine optimization the right way, you should first get educated:

1. Read search engine guidelines

Every search engine has its set of guidelines. For example, you have Bing webmaster guidelines, Google webmaster guidelines, and Yahoo! content quality guidelines. In a nutshell, they’re all similar, so adhering to one will most likely make you compliant with other guidelines.

Among others, these documents will show you how search engine crawlers index pages. As such, getting acquainted with guidelines is also important for improving your rankings. You can also learn what is considered acceptable content and what can get you penalized.

2. Consult SEO specialists

If you’re not certain whether a practice is allowed, it’s best to consult an SEO agency. Miromind is a company that can teach you about the basic concepts and things you should pay attention to. Even if you don’t wish to hire us in the long run, you can use this knowledge to vet future optimization agencies.

Alternatively, if you’re worried that a previous marketing company has done something fishy on your site, you can hire us to perform an audit. We’ll go through all the pages fixing the issues and providing a detailed report. That way, you can put your mind at ease and continue doing an ethical business.

3. Check other sites

You can also learn more about ethical practices by analyzing some of the top sites. Most of these companies are too big to mess around with cheap optimization strategies, so there’s a good chance they’re compliant.

You can learn a lot about them by checking their link profile. This will show you how many links they’re getting during a certain time span. You can also learn about link relevancy and quality and whether they’re participating in link schemes.

It also isn’t bad to go through their blog and check out their content. You can analyze the length of the average post, keyword frequency, and whether these articles are actually any good. Later on, you can implement this methodology for your blog posts in an attempt to improve performance.

Anyway, even if you notice some strange practices from other sites, you should stay away from them. If you don’t understand something, you can hire an SEO consultant to clarify the situation.

Tips for doing ethical SEO

If you have advanced knowledge of optimization and can differentiate between links, metadata, keywords, and other concepts, then you should implement these practices:

  • Title tags are crucial for explaining the topic of a page to search engines. This metadata should be relatively short, consisting of approximately 55 characters. It shouldn’t have any misleading information and should properly explain the topic.
  • We use meta descriptions in a similar way. They further explain the article, and you should always provide the best possible description.
  • Search engines are unable to decipher with 100% accuracy what’s on images and videos. This is why we use alt-tags and other descriptions to explain them to algorithms, which also helps their rankings. Like with other metadata, you should be truthful about their content.
  • While it’s common for writers to use articles from other sites as inspiration, you should never plagiarize content. If there’s any doubt in your might about the uniqueness of a piece, you should use tools such as CopyScape to check its authenticity.
  • Nowadays, AI is changing the content writing landscape. Although auto-generated content can be fantastic for saving time and resources, it can also get you in trouble with Google. So, make sure to check blog articles to see if they’re AI generated. Read my post on LinkedIn about challenges with AI content.
  • It’s common for web shops to have several copies of the same page on their sites. This can lead to an issue called duplicate content. Whatever the case, you might eliminate the duplicates so there’s only one version of a page on site.
  • You also need to avoid writing about similar or the same topics. This leads to an issue known as content cannibalization, where one article “disappears” from search engines, paving the way to the other one.
  • Back in the day, people would use hidden text to manipulate search engines. These pieces of text were invisible to users but would affect how algorithms interact with pages. Avoid this strategy at all costs. You might also be interested in our experiment on how content hidden under tabs and accordions affects SEO.
  • Keyword stuffing was another technique that was incredibly popular back in the day but has since become obsolete. It’s a tactic where you use numerous repetitions of a specific phrase to increase the likelihood that a post will rank for it. Ideally, you should create articles with humans in mind, focusing on better readability.
  • Cloaking is another black hat strategy that has lost its value, but some people still use it. Basically, it’s a process where you use misleading info to prompt people into clicking on your link.
  • There are so many different illegal link-building strategies that we could create a separate section just for them. Anyway, you should always try to acquire links from normal, organic relationships. Although things such as guest posting can be acceptable, is one of the numerous methods that can get you in trouble.

If you ever need assistance doing ethical SEO the right way, you should contact our SEO agency. Our team is well aware of ethical SEO practices that can get you in trouble and those that can help build a stable, lucrative brand.

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