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Webmaster Optimization and Ethics
Where is the gray area in your business ethics?
paynt



 
Msg#: 184 posted 6:29 pm on Jul 10, 2001 (gmt 0)

There's some discussion going on at [webmasterworld.com...] about "Search Engine Positioning Poll, what is your strategy?"
This is a great discussion and opportunity for us to share, in a poll format, where we stand. #4 of the poll offers "Super ethical, no "gray area" approach". I commented that I feel this is subjective. In other words, what is the gray area? How would you define this?
Some of the questions about ethics involve cloaking but I'm sure there are more areas that bring to mind questions of ethics. What might those be for you and how do you work around them?
I'll be very interested to see where this discussion evolves but caution restraint in flames please. That wouldn't be ethical to the board or it's members.

 

agerhart

WebmasterWorld Senior Member agerhart us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 1:16 pm on Jul 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

I think that in an ideal situation #3 would be correct, but I still do not agree with PPC. I don't think that this goes along with the original ideas of the internet and what it was supposed to be all about.

satanclaus



 
Msg#: 184 posted 3:29 pm on Jul 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Though my experience with PPC is very limited I'd have to go with #4 after hearing physics experience with a search for congress. PPC has never been worth what it cost to me so I'd rather just jockey for position in Yahoo and Google.

In this PPC situation an unethical case is created due to the position taken by the SE. Movie listings for Congress how do you justify that?

To me cloaking will always be glorified bait n switch.

Both these methods have alot of potential for good as in case #3 but again so do genetically engineered people.

JamesR

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 5:46 pm on Jul 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Who really defines what is ethical?

A subjective approach to ethics is chaotic, user defined, and often shifts even on an individual basis. A subjective argument on ethics seems pointless unless all you want to do is gather opinions.

The university I went to emphasized philosophy heavily with ethics as a core requirement. One of my professors stated that over 90% of his students come in with a subjective philosophy and leave holding on to that loosely or not at all because of its irrational foundation. I believe any productive discussion on ethics has to come from an absolute approach, one where the ethic would need to be applied across the board, otherwise there is no authority or meaning to an ethic.

Just a few things to think about.

Interesting discussion overall though and much needed in the business arena for obvious reasons.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 10:41 pm on Jul 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

I almost hate to say this, but I'm finding myself questioning, more and more, web designers who, when describing their process on their sites, say "After we've finished designing your site, we create custom meta tags so your site will rank well, and submit to xxx number of search engines so people will be able to find your site."

I see this all the time, and find myself wondering if this is simply a cliche that's used, if it's deliberately misleading, or if the people believe that's all it takes. Where is the ethics behind it if consistent results are not there to back up the claim?

This is going on in perpetuity, and has more of an influence on potential clients than I like to think about. Many think that's all there is to it - Do meta tags and submit.

With all the questioning about SEO ethics, maybe it's time to call into question whether inclusion of this "promise" is ethical on the part of web designers, who make the education process so much harder by perpetuating the meta tag/submission myth.

john316

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 11:54 pm on Jul 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

<With all the questioning about SEO ethics, maybe it's time to call into question whether inclusion of this "promise" is ethical on the part of web designers, who make the education process so much harder by perpetuating the meta tag/submission myth.<

Sometimes thats all that it takes. I recently did a site for a client who was not interested in SE traffic at all, his traffic is generated through an auction site that links to him, very targeted stuff. I must say that it was a pleasure to design a site with nary a thought of kw density, URL names, linking schemes, etc.. The funny thing about this site is that when it was finished, it was actually what many would call "optimized" due to the care that we put into creating a useful, informational site for his visitors.

Just for grins, I submitted it to ODP, and I am willing to bet that the site hits first page of google results for many relevant keywords. There are no meta tags, key word stuffing, invisible links or anything else, just a highly relevant site created without even a thought of SEO, but intense focus on the client.

I am going to suggest to Brett that at some point he create a way for folks to profile what they are optimizing for. I think we really miss the point sometimes when we are listening to folks who are out there optimizing for "mp3" when your average client is nowhere near that degree of competitiveness.

If my client is selling over sized paper cutters, or neon colored cardboard boxes, it may only take some meta tags and submissions to get some decent ranks. Now I could pitch him on the whole "you need "cardboard" and "box" optimized", but then again, that might be unethical.

paynt



 
Msg#: 184 posted 1:37 am on Jul 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

>…just a highly relevant site … intense focus on the client….>

That IS what I consider good SEO!

>…I am going to suggest to Brett that at some point he create a way for folks to profile what they are optimizing for….>

You can add that to your profile if you want and others can too. Or it could be a fun new topic to start and let folks share what that will.

I have to agree with Marcia though it’s not just designers and not just meta tags. It’s unreasonable promises that if go unfilled spill over to the rest of the industry. It’s the website owners who expect too much for very little in funds because they’ve seen all the hyped promises that don’t deliver. We should be working in concert to raise the industry standards and not cheapen them and that includes the promises we make to our clients.

JamesR – I think you’ve made a very interesting point. Do you have a suggestion for an absolute that we could start with?

>…many of these issues seem to enter into the realm of ethics only because the major SEs set the rules…>

Amen! When it comes to ethics if we’re talking about not following the rules than that’s a tough one because a) We’re guessing at the rules half the time and b) When we think we know the rules the SE change them. They trick us, we trick them, round and round it goes. Those seem to be the only rules of the game that I am at all sure of and if that’s the case than the ethics I’m suggesting we discuss, we might have to dig deeper to get to.

click watcher



 
Msg#: 184 posted 9:13 am on Jul 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>>>The funny thing about this site is that when it was finished, it was actually what many would call "optimized" due to the care that we put into creating a useful, informational site for his visitors.

good point john316, and here's my experience of the same. i do seo for my own websites, the first website i built when i first tried my business on the net (before i even bought my first domain name) was (and is still up) at the address myname.myisp.co.uk ...

there are no meta-tags, no intentional optimization, no links from external sites, just straight forward good information about the products.

on 2 of my products (searching on the logical 2-word phrase for that product) i come top in google (even beating my own optimised pages from another site), on another i come 1+2 in google again ... although nowhere to be seen on AV and not well placed on most other SE.

additionally there was no problem getting included in the main directories (although i'd now like to change my yahoo description)

google show 8-12k results for the above searches.

jeremy

jimbob

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 11:49 am on Jul 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

As a shopper I go to the yellow pages. PPCs, to me, are just
a yellow pages, and if that's all I need that's fine with
me. I know the advertiser paid to be there. To me it's an
ethical problem when this is misrepresented as anything
other than that. The new default MSIE browser is an example.
To me, this is dumbing down the whole system for a buck
(broadast TV comes to mind), and the average searcher has no
idea that they're being deceived. To some that's just
business as usual. To me it's an ethical problem.

As an information seeker I have a different set of criteria
and I actually prefer to discover some unexpected (but
reasonably relevant) results. It's less linear and it allows
me to be influenced from a number of directions that I would
not find in a PPC, at least until I get past the paid
listings.

I haven't used cloaking yet, but can see how I might find it
useful for what I might consider the right reasons, and
therefore ethical. Tedster had an excellent point. Sometimes
you might have information that's extremely relevant to a
subject being searched for, but the page just isn't
optimized for (or might not even contain) that specific
phrase.

I'm in the camp of those who feel that the best approach is
to provide relevant content. However I can see how that can
be carried to an absurd extreme as well if only done to snag
traffic. If I have a page that offers really useful content
and it occurs to me that someone searching for 'x' would
really find it relevant, cloaking might be a better solution
than tricking-out a non-cloaked page just to get the same
result.

Very grey area though, and totally dependent on the
ethics of the person doing the cloaking. Cloaking is
actually an unfortunate name because it can be applied just
as effectively in service to searchers as it can be to
deceive them.

physics

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 1:35 pm on Jul 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>As far as PPC being worse, I disagree. At least they are totally straightforward that someone paid for the listings. And the price is in plain view for every result. Not trying to hide ANYTHING!
>Really? Do you see the price paid for the ad listed at NBCi or in the AltaVista featured listings and so on?

Related post:

Consumer watchdog accuses search engines of deception [webmasterworld.com]

[Link format fixed ~ Marcia]

(edited by: Marcia at 1:07 am (gmt) on July 18, 2001)

Travoli

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 184 posted 6:45 pm on Jul 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>As far as PPC being worse, I disagree. At least they are totally straightforward that someone paid for the listings. And the price is in plain view for every result. Not trying to hide ANYTHING!

I was speaking of goto.com only, should have clarified on that.

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