| This 53 message thread spans 2 pages: 53 (  2 ) > > || |
|Is All SEO Unethical?|
Is WH SEO a myth?
Got involved in a discussion re: the ethics of BH vs WH SEO making the difference and it occurred to me that it's all nonsense.
Is Any SEO Ethical?
My point was that all SEO except the purest WH, is unethical as it deliberately causes harm to other sites.
For any SEO to work, the main goal is to knock someone out of their position in the search engine. In other words, the goal is to cause harm to some other site, by definition any SEO of that nature is negative SEO as it intends to unnaturally unseat another site.
What is the pure WH?
Build a site and do nothing but original on-site SEO, don't copy SEO from another site, maybe glean keywords from Google and auto-suggest but not a competitor.
Doing a little promotion is cool, even Google claims that's OK, still WH.
If you build it from scratch and let the masses decided if it should rank, then you're a truly ethical WH SEO.
What crosses the WH line?
However, any other form of link building or SEO specifically designed to knock others off their rankings is deliberately intending to harm other sites.
If search engines worked the way they were intended to work, as a pure vote of popularity, it would be like Billboard for music. The top 10 sites would be the actual popular top 10 and they would move up and down as people's interest waxed and waned.
Sadly, that isn't the case, and every site on the planet fights to knock the competition out of the search engine regardless of popularity.
Sure, everyone wants to make money but DO NOT try to convince yourself that beating someone out of their natural ranking position by link building and using the SEO of the competition to get their keywords isn't doing them any harm.
Therefore, my premise is that both BH and WH is unethical when it's purpose is to deliberately harm someone else's livelihood.
Sure, turning it around to say you're only trying to improve your livelihood makes it sound all sanitized but deep down, you know you knocked people off the top 10 and they'll soon be letting employees go, maybe closing shop.
Is your site more deserving than theirs?
What actually gives you the right to force your site in and their site out?
If it was all natural voting with real links the way it originally was, back in the beginning, then there would be nothing unethical about it whatsoever because the people voted and popularity is what we all strive to achieve.
The problem starts when it's unnatural popularity, which is what SEO creates.
This is just a philosophical discussion, not accusing anyone of anything, not telling anyone how to do your business. I do all these SEO things myself, just trying to make a point about the ethics of SEO and the fact that people try to delude themselves that their so-called WH methods are more ethical than BH methods when the end result is some site(s) being harmed.
Think about it.
What site(s) did you harm?
Just some food for thought.
|brotherhood of LAN|
It's definitely the philosophical question that everyone has to ask themself and ultimately I think we all reach the same or a very similar conclusion.
There's no authoritative decision maker in what's right and wrong other than the laws of the land and the arbitrary ranking rules set by Google... and maybe the wish of the user.
The definition of SEO seems subjective too. One way to see it is "methods to increase rankings by deliberate means" and another is "helping the search engine understand the website better" :)
|My point was that all SEO except the purest WH, is unethical as it deliberately causes harm to other sites. |
Forget the white hat part. If doing harm to other sites is "unethical" then ALL SEO is unethical. By definition, SEO is a zero-sum game: by moving your site up in the rankings, you are pushing one or more sites down. The more positions you improve, the more sites you hurt by moving their positions down one.
But I'd hardly use that as the definition of unethical. If you do, then most businesses, regardless of the industry, are unethical. If you open a new restaurant, you are taking customers away from existing restaurants- it's doubtful people will have lunch at your restaurant then go eat another lunch at their usual restaurant the same day.
I concur with LifeinAsia.
I'm unpersuaded that Competitive == Unethical.
Otherwise, musicians are unethical, sportsmen and sportswomen are unethical, Spelling Bee contestants are unethical...
Participation in a contest is a free choice. Where you come in that contest, relative to all other participants, depends partly on what you do, how well you do it and... how well the contest is adjudicated.
|I'm unpersuaded that Competitive == Unethical. |
I'm not saying competitive is unethical.
I'm saying manipulating the search results to get the position instead of letting the natural course of selection take place, like on Billboard, is unethical.
Competition is good.
Manipulation is bad.
Compete all you want, let the people decide and vote with their links and money.
I believe incrediBill has it right. I have always thought that SEO is basically a way of tricking people into visiting your site and is not fair competition. It is like having a diversion sign on the pavement (sidewalk) outside of a bricks and mortar shop saying pavement closed with a diversion arrow pointing into the shop. You get a big footfall but most of the visitors are disappointed.
To me a website should stand on its own merit and not rely on flim flam or trickery to obtain visitors. Advertising and normal PR activity to generate interest is fine because the customers can respond to it if they are interested. SEO tricks people who would not otherwise make the decision to visit the site. SEO wastes the time of most of the people affected by it, and there is a good ethical case for believing that it should be regarded as a criminal activity.
|Otherwise, musicians are unethical, sportsmen and sportswomen are unethical, Spelling Bee contestants are unethical... |
Bad analogy as none of the above are tricking a rating company to give them better "results". Each are in a specific industry where the best (or hardest working) will succeed. You don't hear your local/regional musicians (or their union) complaining about the "superstars" and their world tours... they aren't in the same market! Same with sports and spelling bees. In all of these, the best will ris3 to the top simply because they are the best (or conversely, the worst couldn't make the grade). :)
The term SEO explains its nature quite precisely.
My philosophy is to treat SEO simply as a tool of promotion: I can use the tool, but I can't dictate the way the tool maker decides to make the tool.
If my book gets published and my local library buys it and displays it on the third shelf, I can't ask the librarian to put it on the first shelf just because I want so-- if the librarian thought another author's book had to be on the first shelf, they'll have their reasons; another librarian will choose differently. But I can 'optimize' my book to make it stand out and peak readers' curiosity; for example, I can give it a compelling title that won't lead them to think I write about barbeques if what I wrote a romantic novel.
Search engines are like libraries and the raters and the algos are the librarians.
|Build a site and do nothing but original on-site SEO, don't copy SEO from another site, maybe glean keywords from Google and auto-suggest but not a competitor. |
I agree partially with this. Competitors can be like mentors and you can learn from their work, but keep in mind that "getting inspired" and "learning from" are a different thing than copycatting. The latter is harmful and it doesn't make your business look nicer in the eyes of people.
As for rankings... no matter the position in a search engine SERPs (which fluctuates, anyway, and someone will have to appear on that 10th page, whether it's yours or another's website), the only rank that really counts is in a customer/visitor/reader's heart-- if they trust you enough to buy/visit/read, then you won much more than a measly SERP position. :)
Search engines are sort of like sanctioning bodies for sports. They establish and enforce rules. Penalties occur when a violation of the rules is detected. Not sure why ethical v. unethical is even an issue.
|Not sure why ethical v. unethical is even an issue. |
I'm not sure either but the people that claim to be WH draw a line in the sand claiming that the tactics they use are ethical and the BH tactics aren't.
While I agree that some of the BH tactics are so extreme that they are beyond the pale and even criminal. Mostly they ruin the web with bogus links, comment spamming and then the criminal part by hacking sites to inject links in victim's home pages.
Of course there's the garden variety BH which is pretty harmless and then there's the organized crime BH associated with the hacking and typically pushing pills and pr0n.
I can understand why the so-called WH's rally against this extreme behavior but my objective was to point out that they're also hypocrites because their actions are equally as bad with copying the SEO of others, link building, etc.
There's not a big difference in my mind except one begs for or buys links, the other drops links without permission, like the spammers do daily on WebmasterWorld to no avail.
Myself, I don't try to copy the competition for onsite SEO as I assume the competition has made mistakes which I'd also make by doing what they did. What I do is find out what keywords and auto-suggestions sites like mine rank for and target those keywords in my own way.
From that point forward, I just announce the site and let nature take it's course, which in some instances has even gotten my sites mentioned in magazines gone viral in popular social sites WITHOUT spamming them, bugging the hell out of them, or buying PPC.
If you build something people actually want, they will come in droves as soon as you announce.
Just like a viral video, a hot site will spread by word of mouth and the next thing you know, you're in the top 10 and possibly above sites that have been there for decades if you hit the jackpot.
Just like Field of Dreams:
"If you build it, they will come"
Unless it sucks.
|"helping the search engine understand the website better" |
I agree with that for onsite SEO only, as long as it's not plagiarized.
But link building and comment spam certainly don't help the search engine understand the site whatsoever, it's fake voting, stuffing the ballot box to cause an unfair site selection.
My SEO ethics require that I do everything I know to get my client ranking well for relevant searches ... and stay ranking well.
Many jobs depend on the health of my client's business, and search engine traffic to the company website is a valuable part of the mix.
|SEO wastes the time of most of the people affected by it, |
Not if you're focused on relevance. If you're promoting a quality site selling quality products, then appearing prominently in relevant searches does searchers a favour.
|Not if you're focused on relevance. If you're promoting a quality site selling quality products, then appearing prominently in relevant searches does searchers a favour. |
While I agree with everything you've said, you didn't tell us what SEO steps you took to make them rank other than the obvious onsite SEO.
Was link building involved?
I'm just asking because I'd like to know if 10 other sites were already on the top 10 with a quality site and quality products, what gives another site the right to force themselves ahead of those sites?
I'd say the favor being done is for that business, not the searchers, with the exception where previously there was nothing of quality available except spam sites which happens.
|link building and comment spam certainly don't help the search engine understand |
The right kind of link building will reach well-targeted users, and I don't think it's accurate to lump link building together with comment spam.
I do not consider that comment spam deserves the name SEO.
13 years ago at 12:35 am on Oct 20, 2001, I wrote:
in thread: [webmasterworld.com...]
|Search Engine Optimization is: |
The adjustment of html page entities and content for the express purpose of ranking higher on search engines. eg: Search Engine Optimization is the manipulation of search engine rankings systems.
Those optimizers that have been barred or removed from various search engine advertising programs need to reread the previous two sentences. That is why you were denied. Search engine optimization is against the TOS of most major search engines.
I bring this up, because I've been reading a great deal lately from seo "experts" who are confused about what we do for a living.
I stand by that.
I'm sorry, I thought you knew.
|I don't think it's accurate to lump link building together with comment spam. |
I somewhat agree with the exception because spam is unwanted and link building is consensual, but both are intended to unduly influence the search engine results so they have the same net effect.
I'm not saying don't do link building, just don't kid yourself into thinking you're not doing the equivalent of throwing an election by stuffing the ballot box.
It would be like MaDonna buying a million of her own records just to get a platinum record.
|both are intended to unduly influence the search engine results |
Nope, not necessarily.
My client was cultivating links to promote his business before Google even existed. All consensual!.
The original reason for developing links was to reach users who'd have reason to be interested in your kind of widgets. The rise of the search engines does not make that invalid.
In fact, building links that reach well-targeted users is vital self-defence for a business that wants to protect itself against the undue influence of the search engines!
|what SEO steps you took to make them rank other than the obvious onsite SEO |
Lots of link building in the early years, and lots of good old-fashioned marketing hustle all along.
On-site SEO isn't always obvious, especially when the coders have tight deadlines and a lot to do. But yes, the on-page and on-site factors are a big focus. Several focuses actually (foci?) ... there's always some new detail that needs polishing.
|If you build something people actually want, they will come in droves as soon as you announce. |
Nope ... they will come when they hear about it.
That could happen in a variety of ways, of which viral word-of-mouth is a happy one but certainly not the only one. A savvy business will make a sustained investment in marketing because going viral is great when it happens but it certainly can't be counted on.
Also, note that "going viral" doesn't necessarily earn you any money. You'll sell more widgets from reaching your prospects when they're actually ready to buy.
|What actually gives you the right to force your site in and their site out? |
I don't know how to "force" search engines to do anything. But I'll claim as much "right" as anyone else to rank well for searches about our type of widgets.
|What site(s) did you harm? |
By this logic, the Olympic gold medallist harmed every other runner in the race by running faster. Yeesh!
|By this logic, the Olympic gold medallist harmed every other runner in the race by running faster. Yeesh! |
Not at all.
Bad example as the runner won because of skill, not tripping the other runners or untying their shoes before the race.
In your metaphor the second place runner would have to bribe a judge (buy links) to alter the results of the race after the race completed and get named first place after the actual winner was somehow "disqualified" on a technicality.
|I don't know how to "force" search engines to do anything. |
Sure you do. Building links is adding votes to make your site seem more popular than it is in reality, unless they're NOFOLLOW links just there to publicize the site. Thus link building is making your site artificially ranked higher in the search engine, above other sites that may not be trying to artificially alter their ranking.
I too remember link building before search engines came along and I made a few consensual deals myself, but mostly it was others adding my site to their links page which exposed it as a #1 ranked hub in all the original search engines for some killers keywords. ;)
Most everybody does link building, I have no problem with it, have done it, just be true to yourself that it's manipulating the outcome of the search because that's the only real purpose other than a little promotion here and there, which can be NOFOLLOW if you're not trying to use the promotion to rank the site.
<I know I put that flack jacket somewhere around here, maybe the Kevlar vest is sufficient...>
|link building is making your site artificially ranked higher in the search engine |
And the problem with that is .... what?
We have every right to promote our business in relevant places. In fact, we're nuts if we don't. What the search engines think about that is up to them.
|because that's the only real purpose other than a little promotion here and there, |
Bill, the sweeping generalization is a logical fallacy.
You're wrong to assert that hoping to please the search engines is "the only real purpose" for developing links. It's certainly the major motive in many cases but it's not something you can claim across the board as the only motive.
You're short-sighted to be so dismissive about "a little promotion here and there".
If you want to grow your traffic beyond what the search engines can deliver you need other ways to promote. Conversely, if you want your business to be able to weather a big algorithm change, you need other ways to promote.
It's a pleasant irony that working to break free from dependence on the search engines tends to please them all the more. I see nothing to apologize for in that.
|just be true to yourself that it's manipulating the outcome of the search |
Yeah, probably, but I honestly don't care. :) The links are not there *for* search engines, whether they're follow or nofollow. I see link building as a marketing practice, not an SEO practice, no matter what search engines (ehm, Google?) made it into.
Link building and exchange is so social in nature that I can't wait to see search engines count links less and less in their rankings. It's time this practice be freed of its chains and put back in the webmasters' and marketers' hands.
man there are a lot worse things in life than building a couple links or doing seo.
Plus is it ethical for google to be biased towards its own brands and huge brands such as amazon?
|I agree with that for onsite SEO only, as long as it's not plagiarized. |
That, to me, is WH SEO.
To me, somewhat gray. If the sites are truly relevant, then I see link building as just another tool of being competitive. (And if the relevance goes both ways, a reciprocal link make sense- despite what Google may feel.) If it's an issue where the other web master probably would have linked to your site anyway had he known about, and you're just letting him know about it- I don't see anything wrong with that. Paying someone for a link who wouldn't link otherwise- not WH.
To me, can be gray, but mostly black. If someone posts a question in a forum and a site can definitely help, then I feel the link is relevant and warranted. Doing tag-team questioning and linking to a site that just happens to answer that question- that's past the ethics line. "I have a solution to your problem- download the full Ninja turtles movie for free" comment spam- won't even bother commenting on that!
In sports, working out in the gym more than your competitors isn't unethical- it's WH and just being competitive. Taking steroids- BH and unethical.
|advance it institute|
what is wh use for//helping seo..?/
>>what is wh use for
WH = White Hat
BH = Black Hat
|Otherwise, musicians are unethical, sportsmen and sportswomen are unethical, Spelling Bee contestants are unethical... |
Bad analogy as none of the above are tricking a rating company to give them better "results".
It is a bad analogy if you think that trickery is at the core of SEO.
If you think that at the core of SEO is sending legitimate and accurate signals of theme and quality to search engines, then it's an entirely appropriate analogy.
Consider "Librarian Optimisation" (LO) for non-fiction books instead of SEO for websites. Here is some of the LO advice I would give to publishers seeking best practices:
1) Write the title and the author's name on the front cover, down the spine, at the top of the back cover and on the second inside page
2) Include the publication data on the first inside page
3) Write a summary of the book on the back cover
4) Include endorsements by well known third parties on the back cover - and possibly include a single one on the front cover
5) On a band across the bottom of the front cover, mention a best-seller accolade (eg. New York Times) the book has achieved
6) Include a brief contents list about 3 or 4 pages in
7) Include an expanded contents list after that, containing more detail
8) Include an Index at the back of the book
9) Use a legible typeface; print the book at a point size which is easy to read
10) Label sections of the book as readers might reasonably expect them to be labelled - eg. call the contents "Contents" (not Sections), call the index "Index" (not Referenced Items)
I'm sure we could all come up with another 30 or 40 best practice LO points.
Is any of this about "trickery"?
Or is it all about helping those who want to index the book - to categorise the book, to know which section of the library and which shelf to put the book on, to know who it's by, what it's about, how well it's been received - assess the book better?
Is any LO ethical?
I like this analogy.
|Or is it all about helping those who want to index the book - to categorise the book, to know which section of the library and which shelf to put the book on, to know who it's by, what it's about, how well it's been received - assess the book better? |
Which, in turn, allows the librarians to help users find the book they want.
WH LO would be following these practices with correct info.
Some examples of BH LO would be:
- writing a summary that has nothing to do with the book, but leads people to believe it is actually about some other popular target.
- paying the New York Times (and other publications) to write a positive review.
- having a group of overseas people write fake reviews on Amazon
Although some people might consider it unethical, paying a library to give your book prominent exposure (e.g., place a copy of the book in a "Highlighted Books" or "Recommended Books" section) is really no more than being competitive (and would be analogous to using AdWords).
|The links are not there *for* search engines, whether they're follow or nofollow. I see link building as a marketing practice, not an SEO practice, no matter what search engines (ehm, Google?) made it into. |
Good point but that's all a matter of intent now isn't it?
There's a lot of legit reasons and places to post links for promotion. Someone adding a link to DMOZ or Yahoo's directory could most certainly claim they did it for promotion without a doubt, and acceptance to those sites even legitimizes your site since it's been hand reviewed, so there is some SEO value too but this is good for everyone involved to know the site is as it claims and has been categorized appropriately.
However, the minute people start advertising to place your link on their PR 8 site or directory, we're off in the weeds of SEO for the purpose of gaining PR only as humans rarely, if ever, use those sites, they're just for SEO link building.
Someone paying a service to add your site to every directory on the planet, including niche directories where it's off topic, is flat out spamming.
Paying some service for 1K links spewed all over the web on a large network on shady sites built expressly for the purpose of selling links on their footer, can't claim that's for promotion, that's for rank manipulation.
Then again, I've described in detail how Google can detect and dismiss all of those purely SEO links because the sites drive no traffic anywhere therefore they have no value, regardless of the PR passing schemes that were initially used to make them rank.
I'd avoid them like the plague because as a programmer, I could find them, so I'm sure Google can and has done so. Don't forget, they have "seismic" monitors all over the web such as AdSense, Google Analytics, etc.. They know where all traffic comes from and if nobody comes from those sites used for link building, they know you're doing unethical things.
Instead of just dismissing those unnatural links, Google tries to change your behavior by penalizing your site and giving you an UNNATURAL LINKS DETECTED email. Then, just to spank you a little more, they force you to DISAVOW each and every link, one a time. After that you have to beg for forgiveness with a reinstatement requests.
Google kind of reminds me of a teacher making you right "I WILL NOT BUY LINKS" one thousands times as punishment.
So at a minimum, we know Google doesn't like link building whatsoever and it's a major risk doing it these days, so why continue?
You would think if people get burned often enough, we read about it daily, that they'd all stop doing something that is increasingly hazardous to the health of the site.
I think in the past it's been like speeding on the highway, that the cops can only pull over one care at a time so everyone else just keeps speeding.
Problem is Google now uses things like Panda and Penguin to now cast a very wide net and snare a bunch of speeders all at once.
My point is whether it's ethical or not, the odds of get caught are increasing by the day so why continue to risk it over short term gains?
|You're short-sighted to be so dismissive about "a little promotion here and there". |
Fine, pick on that wording as i stated it better elsewhere.
Link Build and promote all you want, just do it NOFOLLOW so it's not confused with legit links casting natural votes to your site.
I have to agree with lawman that ethical v. unethical isn't much of an issue.
If you know what SEO is, you are probably manipulating search results, it's just a matter of what degree.
I consider there to be three groups of practitioners:
Black Hats - Link injection, browser hijack, other unsavory stuff
Spammers - Annoying, misguided but mostly targeting un-moderated UGC
Everyone else - Shades of grey
SEO? Define SEO?
I would imagine there are as many individual answers as there are people directly, or indirectly involved in SEO. Personally, SEO to me since 1998, has merely been "making yourself visible" to search engines.
Paradoxically, and few will believe me - I've never written one page of new content since 2001. Nor have I made ANY changes to pages to follow the latest fads etc. etc. I'll bet myself that the majority of you weren't even into the internet as Webmasters in 2001.
I've made a hell of a lot of money since 1998, not so much in recent years. So I must have done something right.
I never wrote pages of quality content for search engines. Actually they were more directories those days. I wrote for an audience only, the audience was my genre. I only monetised my sites, as an affiliate of Amazon to help pay for my burgeoning hosting costs.
What has this to do with the price of fish?
Around 2002/2003 a colleague of mine retired as a lecturer, he had a massive amount of lectures on his hard drive. Truly brilliant stuff, nothing arcane or boring. Riveting "how to", "make the complicated seem so simple". My kind of stuff - but only better.
He literally dumped the contents of that hard drive onto a free hosted site, with barely an index. Only friends knew about it. There was absolutely NO WAY any search engine could remotely include it in their results.
Every page as named [no html at all]?
I begged, even pleaded with him, to allow me to convert the pages to html, proper titles, proper descriptions, proper use of keywords...
That to me, was and still remains, SEO. Like myself, nothing was ever written with search engines in mind. They largely didn't exist, but when Google came along, it needed the means to make sense of everything in an orderly manner for indexing.
I went for years largely at the top of the tree of our genre. I'm good, he was a magnitude better.
Today? If people couldn't monetise web sites, particularly by relentlessly pursuing SEO? Then the internet would shrink back to what it was in 2000 - where enthusiastic people simply shared their knowledge.
Just my own old humble opinion, youngsters would likely disagree with old curmudgeons.
BTW, some trivia: My first experience of the internet was back in 1979.
[Added] Bill and Brett might well disagree with me, but Brett, I still pass along to youngsters I think worth the time and trouble, your original Feb, 2002 lecture:
Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone
Brett was that SEO?
Or was it simply my "making yourself visible" to search engines?
A few lines from that article by Brett:
|M) Topic directories. |
Almost every keyword sector has an authority hub on it's topic. Go submit within the guidelines.
Look around your keyword sector in Googles version of the ODP. (this is best done AFTER getting an odp listing - or two). Find sites that have links pages or freely exchange links. Simply request a swap. Put a page of on topic, in context links up your self as a collection spot.
Don't freak if you can't get people to swap links - move on. Try to swap links with one fresh site a day. A simple personal email is enough. Stay low key about it and don't worry if site Z won't link with you - they will - eventually they will.
If that ain't link building, what is it? ;)
I built the original site as a way to lower our postage and printing costs of our catalog. That was 17 years ago. As time progressed the site was developed based on what our customers told us they would like to see. If it sounded logical we attempted it. SEO was more like advertising to us. There were the Yahoo banners, Overture etc. This gradually evolved into more pure SEO, page rank etc. To this day I still look at SEO as very close to advertising promotion etc. I only worried about my site and I only promoted my site.
Since 2012 this whole game changed and the way I look at it the game is still the same with all the search engine except one. Good ole Google. Is SEO unethical - NO. Is the game Google started unethical -- at this point I would say YES. Right now it is basically no holds barred, whatever goes. And there is nobody to blame but Google. I know Spam, BH etc when I see it. There is an epidemic out there now and the reason why is Google. I think Google has promoted unethical SEO. How many of us look at sites anymore and think wow there is no WH, no BH just everything grey. You have to learn BH methods just to understand how some of these sites are ranking. It is Darwinism now it is just survival of the fittest. Nice guys will finish last. Is it better - NO not at all but Google changed the game from simple site promotion. We went past ethical after all the Penguin, disavow (BS) and lack of a Penguin update a long time ago. Appears more like selective demotion anymore so forget ethics if you want to survive. Welcome to business 2014. A kinder gentler society - NOT. The sad part is if Google would just fix their mess I could focus on running my business and create jobs.
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