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What Is Ethical Search Engine Optimization?

Apr 4, 2008
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a vital component of ensuring your website is successful. This is because SEO focuses around optimizing your site for the Internet Search Engines (such as Google, Yahoo! or MSN) and in creating web presence for you through link popularity, PPC (Pay per Click) Management and many other specialized services.

This is a fast-changing, dynamic and growing business. Because SEO has become critical in conducting an effective web business, some "shady" practices have crept in to cheat the system. These methods are often referred to as "Black Hat SEO." They are highly unethical and create a disreputable image for those who have employed the services of companies that practice them. Black Hat SEO is also penalized quite actively and fervently by the Internet Search Engines.

In other words, if you (mistakenly) hire the services of a Black Hat company, your own image will be affected as well as (eventually) your placement on the Search Engines. This damage can often be permanent. Also, the changing algorithms and methods of the search engines also ensure that any "loopholes" are soon closed. Black Hat SEO is simply not worth the money and the resultant consequences.

But how do you know that the company you are dealing with is going to employ ethical techniques?

Here are a few things you can look out for:

1) Link Building

Ask questions as to how they intend to build links for you. Link Farms used to be a very popular Black Hat technique. Basically, Link Farms contain spurious content with scores of links thrown in. These links are not even related, so that a person would not even be able to use the site to surf a particular topic. Link Farms are now severely penalised by the Search Engines and having your website on them will be detrimental for your placement.

2) Keyword Stuffing

If the company in question offers to 'hide' relevant keywords in the actual content of your site, beware. They may also suggest content on your site that is "stuffed" with keywords. (Note: this is not the same as Metadata.) What this means is that the content is bad, false, or irrelevant; they simply try and put as many search keywords and phrases that they can into the content of your site. This is in hope that the more keywords you have, the higher your search engine ranking. Search Engines have grown aware of this method, and have employed various methods to curb the problem. Google, in particular, has begun to focus their algorithm in a way that it checks the coherence of the content and places better quality content on better ranking.

3) PPC Advertising

PPC (Pay per Click) is a very effective method of advertising, both in cost and value. PPC basically is paid advertising on other websites that link to your site. You only pay for the advertising if the advert brings in a lead. Black Hat SEO employs various methods to basically force web-users to click on the advertising through pop-ups at various sites (or link farms) or even employing the use of Spyware (installing software on web-users machines without their consent that displays the advertising in various ways.) Some may also offer an "e-mail campaign" which is nothing less than a "Spam Fest." We all know what e-mail Spam is, and what it's like; don't let your company be brought down through this unethical practice.

4) More Spam

Blogs have become increasingly popular, and are very helpful when it comes to SEO. There are ethical ways of using them, and - of course - unethical ways. Black Hat SEO focuses on spamming internet blogs that are irrelevant to the product advertised, through using "robots" that basically post false content (and links to your website) on blogs all over the internet. Sometimes, they may even create "Spam Sites" which are entire websites or blogs with false content to direct people to your website. This can be very damaging for your reputation amongst the community and once someone reports you to a Spam-Preventive company you are guaranteed to lose placement on the Search Engines (who collect this information.)

The above gives you an overview, and various Black Hat techniques may come in various disguises. It is good to check the strategy the SEO Company wishes to employ and do some research to make sure these are not "Black Hat" techniques which will, in the long run be detrimental to your brand, company, and website.
About the Author
Derek Rogers is a freelance writer who represents many UK businesses. For Ethical Search Engine Optimisation, he recommends Impact Media Ltd, one of the UK's leading specialists of Search Engine Optimisation .
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