SEO has changed the way the Internet works, in ways that aren’t always so great.

Sure, if you’re an online marketer, you need to be engaged in search marketing to help visitors find your site. But for that same reason, you realize that the search results you see are mostly there because they’ve been marketed. 

That’s why “ethical SEO” is one of today’s marketing buzzwords. More and more people are becoming aware that negative SEO practices — such as spamming comments and copying content — not only create a negative reputation for your website, but also are often quickly deleted, meaning that there’s no SEO value at all.  

This has become such a concern that a handful of specialty companies have risen in recent years to help clients create a specifically “ethical SEO” foundation. 

These aren’t just the “black hat” SEO tactics that will get you blacklisted from Google. The reasons for avoiding those methods are obvious — a Google ban is death. There are other, “soft” unethical SEO practices to avoid:
Link Spam. Everyone hates this, and it isn’t going to win you any repeat traffic. It’s a constant plague on Digg, DZone, and other such sites. Don’t let your SEO rely on this kind of cheap spamming; it’s designed to fail.
Plagiarism. Don’t claim anyone else’s content as your own. Always use your own, unique content, even if you’re not 100% confident about its quality. Nobody ever gets away with copying content, anyway; it’s an easy scam to crack.  
Dishonesty. Don’t target keywords that aren’t related to your online marketing niche. If someone arrives on your site by a promise of something, your failure to deliver that will anger the visitor. Not all traffic is good traffic.
Get-Rich-Quick Mentality: Offering instant SEO success isn’t illegal or unethical, really, but it’s just as dumb: Except for in lucky cases, SEO takes time. Anyone offering you instant SEO gratification is probably doing something that he or she shouldn’t be. 

It’s got to be acknowledged: Competing with large, very well funded companies that have many times the marketing and operating budget of the typical affiliate can be daunting, and some affiliates may regard “ethical” SEO as an unaffordable luxury. That’s the wrong mentality.  

Even if you’re hiring someone to do your SEO for you, stay engaged. Know what they’re doing on your behalf. These unethical SEO practices aren’t just bad for your reputation; they can get your site blacklisted from search engines and even shut down. That’s just not worth the risk.

Nathan Denny
November 12, 2010

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