Are Ethical Talks Holding Back SEO?

67 comments

I recently got an anonymous feedback email about frustration brought on by the recent BMW fiasco. In the extended area is the anonymous email, which is well worth discussing.

Hi, I work for a top tier 'ethical' SEO company and have been in the SEO industry for over 6 years. This recent hooha about BMW has finally pushed me over the edge due to the hypocrisy of some well known people in our community and the search engines. While I can never publish these comments under my company name this is how I (and a lot of other people working in this industry judging by some of the conversations I've had) feel about 'spam' and 'ethics' in SEO. In the interests of provoking debate and giving the other side of the story I would be greatful if you'd think about publishing it for me on TW. (love the site btw).

So yet again the question of spam rears its ugly head in the SEO community. This time it’s the regional domain of a major blue chip site that has used evil SEO to fool people into going to the site.

Hardly. My definition of spam is twofold: 1) sites unrelated to a search query that effectively hijack traffic or dominate listings within a SERP and 2) Sites Positioned Above Mine.

In today's SEO environment people who can't beat others in the SERPs (for whatever reason) usually refer to the second category when they preach about "spammers".

In the headlong rush to prove how 'ethical' and 'white hat' we all are people forget we are in the business of driving qualified traffic. If a search engine user does a keyword search and arrives at a site that is qualified for that search the method used to achieve that listing is completely and utterly immaterial.

Before the SEO police jump on that statement, look again at the reason we are in this business. To drive traffic through good search engine positioning. As long as the destination website is representative of the users keyword search this goal is served, and that’s where the debate about ethics should end.

We are working in a business environment here, the question of "good" and "bad" SEO is so pointless that it becomes funny, an anachronism that SEO companies and individual SEOs stick to as if its some sort of badge of honour. Do our cousins in the advertising industry worry about what is 'right' and 'wrong'? (regardless of the fact that how can there be a 'right' and 'wrong' when what we are doing is as the most basic level promotion, offering users the option to click on a search engine listing.)

I do not deny the fact that spam exists. However, my definition of spam is websites that drive deceptive traffic (i.e. non-adult keyword searches to porn sites) or sites that have positions 1-10 on the front page of an engine, thus stopping the user having a choice in the results of their keyword search (this example is much less common than
it was a few years ago).

However, the ubiquitous kowtowing to the search engines is the sign of a naive industry. We are not going to go away, we will continue to manipulate the rankings (and if you ever put a keyword in an tag or change the page title you are trying to manipulate the rankings) but we do not spam, we provide users the option to click on our websites. They have the choice not to click, and the method we use to give them that choice is completely and utterly irrelevant.

So, keep cloaking, keep keyword stuffing, keep hiding content and buying links because as long as you are providing the user with a relevant result you are doing the search engine's job for them. This on-going debate about "ethics" is childish and holding this industry back. Forget about what the search engines say, they are happy to provide results based on how much money people can afford but as soon as the same rules are applied to their "natural" results they cry spam.

Search engines are not your friends and don't care if you are the best behaved SEO in the industry. Forget about complying with their un-enforceable rules and concentrate on doing your job. Spam on.

I do sometimes wonder if the desire to be original and to be read ends up causing many of the bloggers (including me) to hurt the industry.

Because controversy is so linkworthy do we as a whole hurt the industry a bit by pointing out things we think are newsworthy, even if they will be negative for the industry as a whole? Where should the line be drawn?

Comments

Hear Hear Mr Anonymous

Hear Hear Mr Anonymous Brit!

(The spelling of the email says it was a Brit to me)

Was that hear hear or here

Was that hear hear or here here ;)

I pretty much agree with

I pretty much agree with that statement by the original poster. The other line I draw is Trackback/Comment/Registration/Directory Submission spam, which I consider pure vandalism.

There is also a disturbing trend of big name veteran SEO's "outing" other websites. I don't care if it is a blue chip site that is doing it, I don't see why it has to be outed. To me, there is no difference between DH and the Pointy WH Brigade outing some site and some black-hat-SEO-with-a-blog outing a site, it all smacks of spite. The fact that famous SEO's are willing to do that tells me that the Google propaganda machine has won.

IMO, too many SEO's have either been co-opted by the search engines and/or have begun feeding on each other.

The correct term is, "hear,

Quote:
The correct term is, "hear, hear!" It is an abbreviation for "hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!"

at least according to http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mhear.html

Why do we call it ethics?

Is it not: thou shalt not get caught

If the s/e do not like it, they do not list it. Their decision.

BMW did not have to do what they did to get listed. They could have rebuilt the site to be more useful.

Only ethics talk is in this thread

Quote:
So, keep cloaking, keep keyword stuffing, keep hiding content and buying links because as long as you are providing the user with a relevant result you are doing the search engine's job for them.

Who's stopping you? Do whatever works for you. Obviously in this case it's not working though, is it?

I don't understand this poster's post in that it was Matt Cutts from Google who brought this one to the forefront, as far as I know. I don't think I saw anything about ethics in regards to this event either other than this thread, although I certainly may have missed something as I haven't been following it all that close.

Quote:
Forget about complying with their un-enforceable rules and concentrate on doing your job. Spam on.

I don't think that BMW would appreciate that advice if you were their SEO since it would make the difference between them showing up in Google and not. You got anything better than that?

it was Matt Cutts from

it was Matt Cutts from Google who brought this one to the forefront, as far as I know.

I think Philipp did.

but i'm a shallow opportunist

>my definition of spam is websites that drive deceptive traffic

When he runs a search engine that makes it into the top 3 let me know.

>too many SEO's have either been co-opted by the search engines

co-opted is such an ugly word. "sated" sounds better.

Haven't you heard? White is the new black.

other industries

This will sound unfamiliar to some readers. It's not your usual "hat" yadda-yadda, as that isn't the real problem, and never was.

Do our cousins in the advertising industry worry about what is 'right' and 'wrong'?

As far as I know, yes they do. And a lot. The exact same goes for any other established industry, including insurance and used car dealers.

In any industry, the "good guys" can demand a price premium because their work meets certain standards (typically as defined and controlled by relevant industry bodies, or by law).

FWIW the SEO "industry" is far behind on this issue. And it can't really be considered a real mature industry until ethical or other standards emerge. I'm not saying that the SE´s should define those standards, though - but some standards must emerge, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In the absense of industry agreement and joint industry action pressure will come from the outside, including, but not limited to pressure from SE's.

Until some standards emerge it's not an industry that CEOs of large firms can take seriously, or even want to touch. The BMW case proves that, as if top management had ben involved this risk of bad press would never had been accepted. Right now people reading about this incident in papers will think "wild west" and that's not something an established brand wants to be associated with.

as long as you are providing the user with a relevant result you are doing the search engine's job for them.

Yeah, one should think that with all those highly skilled people in the SE firms there would be no need for SEO. IMHO the need for SEO is a reflection of how bad these engines really are at doing their work.

OTOH, quite possibly it's a self enforcing circle, so that the SEO effort makes it even harder for the SE's to work properly leading to even greater demand for SEO services.

wild west analogy is pretty good

We're now in the 'Judge' Roy Bean phase.

>> FWIW the SEO "industry"

>> FWIW the SEO "industry" is far behind on this issue. And it can't really be considered a real mature industry until ethical or other standards emerge. I'm not saying that the SE´s should define those standards, though - but some standards must emerge, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I agree, but I think such standards should address behavior and ethical duties towards CLIENTS -- not SEs. For instance, I think such a standard wouldn't read "An ethical SEO will never intentionally violate an SE's guidelines" but instead "An ethical SEO will only intentionally violate an SE's guidelines if they have fully disclosed to the client that they are doing such, and likewise have fully explained the risks involved."

Is anyone really complaining though? Yea it's the Wild Wild West and things get sticky sometimes but generally there is a lot of money to be made and you can write any rules for yourself that lay within your comfort zone. I for one am not in any hurry to get a local "SEO board" like the real estate guys.

IMHO what's needed is an

IMHO what's needed is an intermediary that will come along and do the following:

-- help customers get informed enough to make the right decision
-- help customers find SEOs well-suited for them
-- help establish a clearer market value/pricing scheme that faciliates comparison shopping
-- enforce contracts between SEOs and clients
-- help SEOs find their right audience
-- help SEOs build credibility

by focusing on the above, this intermediary would in essence create the standards that legitimize the market, which in turn would expand the market's value exponentially.

voluntary and legal codes of conduct

the difference between the advertising/marketing industry and the SEM industry is that there are absolutely no general codes of conduct and therefore everyone has their own.

I would find it perfectly easy to write a voluntary code of conduct which 90% of the SEO/SEM world would be happy to sign up to - however it wouldn't stop the bickering because the remaining 10% would dismiss it immediately as being worthless because I would write it as a code of conduct towards the client rather than the SE's. This is a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth on voluntary guidelines and whether, as an industry, a 'reasonable' course of action would be to create guidelines which any 'reasonable' person would find acceptable and if peoeple find them unacceptable then they don't have to sign up to them, do they?

Worse than that though, because the SE's guidelines (NOT laws) change as they wish it's hard to be specific, as you can in advertising, about exactly what that code of conduct specifies, because it will clearly have reference to those guidelines and so the goalposts could change at any time.

I don't know any SEO's - including BH's - who I'm aware break laws (in their country of business). Despite BMW's reference to 'illegal' in their press release there are laws in place which could easily be said to cover the SEM world. Perhaps SEMPO could spend some time and collate them for us? That would be pretty useful I would say.

that "C" word is part of the problem, Gurtie

>I would write it as a code of conduct towards the Client rather than the SE's.

Many, perhaps even most, of the web0.2 seos I know have moved away from the client-representative model to performance-based. They just don't have clients in the usual sense ...or at all, in some cases.

They should have known better

It's not a case of ethics at hand here. It's a case of risk/reward analysis, risk tolerance, and probably misguided advise on the part of the SEO firm 'netbuster'. You have an obligation to be straight forward and honest with your clients. Explain the risks in a manner they will understand. These are the same basic ethics that apply to any business. The fact that search engines have a set of rules to play by has nothing to do with ethics.

risk analysis

Quote:
You have an obligation to be straight forward and honest with your clients. Explain the risks in a manner they will understand. These are the same basic ethics that apply to any business.

Agree. So this begs the "New Coke" question; Given Google's past performances providing a strong precedent that ~IF CAUGHT~ there would be [A] a slap on the wrist, [B] possibly some short-term flash of (there-is-no-such-thing-as-) bad press, and [C] rapid reinstatement ...was there much risk? Personally, I think there is a significant chance that the risk was appraised.

Ethics, Standards, Spam, White Hat, Black Hat, Gray/Grey Hat...

Great topic and a lot of good comments being thrown about. I like kidmercury's intermediary approach. It is one that has been tried and it hasn't worked up to this point. There are too many "cliques" in this industry at the moment and it is very difficult to get the majority to agree on anything. ;)

Ethics? There are really no agreed upon rules of practice for the SEO/SEM industry other than your basics.

Standards? That's a tough one. It all comes down to getting the majority to agree to a set of standards that are recognized by a governing body. We don't have the governing body nor do we have the written standards. This has been tried too and hasn't worked yet.

Spam? I stopped using that term years ago unless it is in relation to UCE. All of you people that do use it regularly have driven the sales of SPAM off the charts. :) Want to start cleaning up the industry? Drop the word spam from the vocab unless of course you are referring to UCE or you like Monty and a little spread every now and then.

White/Gray/Grey/Black Hat? I'd like to know who started that naming classification. There are no hats in our industry other than those that you end up wearing while fulfilling your daily responsibilities. Do I wear a white hat because I follow standards based on the W3C and what the published guidelines suggest? Do I wear a black hat because I modified a Title Element to manipulate the influence of a page? Let's drop the whole hat naming classification scheme as it only fuels the "Wild West" theme.

By focusing on the above, this intermediary would in essence create the standards that legitimize the market, which in turn would expand the market's value exponentially.

It all comes down to the consumer and their level of knowledge when choosing an SEO/SEM Provider. In the instance of the company being discussed in this topic, someone in a position of authority made a mistake. Unless of course that person was clearly advised on the risks associated with what they were doing. And, you know what? They could have easily slid by with this if they would have done it a little bit differently. ;)

Is this the issue?

I thought we were done with white vs. black, what is spam, ethics, etc. As I see it, it's a question of whether the client is looking for long-term, low-risk site improvements or something faster and potentially riskier. If it's the latter, they don't want someone who works the way I do.

I thought the relevant issues of the bmw.de site were
1. Until it was pointed out to Google, it was a case of a big company getting away with JS redirects;

2. Matt jumped on it when he found out, but I think it's notable that this is a big company's non-English site. If this were the English language site of a US company, it would mean much more to me.

3. I may be wrong, but I don't believe Matt made it clear that this was pointed out by a blog. It was not discovered algorithmically.

4. The site is already reincluded. Is this how it works with a site owned by a smaller company?

If I wanted a job where I

If I wanted a job where I had to follow someone else's rules all day I'd be an accountant. I'm much happier helping people spend more money on more crap that they don't need, but that they really really want.

follow someone else's rules all day

You need a better accountant, graywolf. But the example confirms the point about rules and professionalism ...the firm I use (a highly regarded super-pro firm) advises me of the various interpretations of the tax laws and what the risks and consequences might be. They charge for their expertise and guidance --filling in the forms is secondary.

IMO, the anon email is full of horse manure

The SEO industry is full of spammers who don't wanna be called spammers.

I don't care what MC or G or Y define as spam. Here's my personal definition of what does and does not constitute SPAM:

Not SPAM: Optimizing visible elements like page titles to read well and take advantage of multiple kw's and kw forms. That is just smart marketing.

SPAM: To take a simple example - stuffing pages with invisible (off the page) kw's that never show on the actual page seen by the reader, is SPAM. It is sneaky and misleading, designed not to optimize a page, but to trick a SE. Doh!

Now, if one explains the two techniques above (title optimization and hidden text) to a friend or family member not knowledgeable about the ways of the Web, the title optimization example is likely to draw an "I didn't know that" sort of response, while the hidden kw example is likely to draw a far more negative response. Why? Because the title stuff seems reasonable, whereas the hidden kw stuff is clearly sneaky. IMO, this is why MC and TM and others use the word "sneaky" so often when discussing what is and is not SPAM: It is an easy way to define SPAM, and also a way that the average man on the street might agree with.

Me ... I ... am ... a spammer. Not a very good one, admittedly. My strengths are NOT in cranking out MFA sites by the thousands. I succeed with (hopefully) sound marketing, and SEO strategies that people commonly associate with "white" and "gray" techniques. Nonetheless, by the SE's definitions and more importantly by my own, I do spam at times.

I justify it when I do it because my spam falls into the gray area that many of us like to reference: It always drives users to relevant results. My click thru rates prove that. But at least when I SPAM, I know I'm doing it and don't try to convince myself otherwise.

Here's what I admire: I have sat in on more than one conference session where DaveN or oilman or WG or others in their league have proudly defined themselves as spammers. IMO that's admirable. Proud of it there are. Here's to 'em. Hey, one of those luminaries was once good enough to share a secret or two with me, and boom, I made some good money on it (thanks again, you know who you are and of what I speak, and your beers are always free at my table).

But what gets me are those who try to defend the position that SPAM is just 'people ranking above me'. Hey, kids, call it what it is, instead of trying to play word games. If you're ashamed of it, don't do it. Or, be good at it, and proud of it.

The thing is, IF you have clients, whatever approach you take, be straight with your clients.

So often, what gets our industry in trouble is that SEO's do sneakier stuff than what they're telling their clients. I get the sense that is less true than it used to be, but it's still a problem. Me personally, I don't do sneaky stuff for clients. I keep the few dark tricks I know for personal projects (and if a site goes down in flames, no one frets but me). But if I were to do sneaky stuff for clients, you can be damned sure I'd tell 'em what I was up to in advance, and get their approval, rather than hope they never find out the hard way.

Personally, I'd rather hang out with black hat spammers that call it what it is, than with people who do lame BMW doorways and cry bloody foul when they're caught out.

Time to duck and run now. Hehehe. ;-)

Blame Mike for the Hats

Quote:
White/Gray/Grey/Black Hat? I'd like to know who started that naming classification.

Mike Grehan

SPAM

Gotta be careful when using that term in ALL CAPS. That is trademarked caveman. ;)

Thanks Jill.

In old Wild West movies, the good guy wore a tall, distinctive white hat - the villain's, of course, was black - and both hats were Stetsons.

NO FAVORITISM & BETTER COMMUNICATION NEEDED BY GOOGLE!

I have the greatest respect for Matt Cutts as I believe that as much as he represents Google, he is also a great intermediary to the Search Marketing Industry. This "ham in the sandwich" role is very difficult for anyone, especially when he is trying his best, IMHO, to help both Google and SEO-SEM's, while helping the advertisers and search users.

That said, I really wish the "appearance of" or the reality of actual favoritism to BMW and Ricoh did not happen (as noted by the comments on Matt's last post - http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/recent-reinclusions/ ). This indeed sends the wrong message to SEO's, and even more importantly to the big brand client-advertisers. These may now say that since I probably will get preferential treatment, why not do "Black Hat" techniques and get as much "distance" out of it as I can. After all, Google thinks my web site to be so important to the search users, that they don't want it banned for the usual longer time it takes to get reinstated. So "Big Brand" has got everything to gain and little or nothing to lose!

I personally have seen what "favoritism" can do within a company, or to a company. It is a "cancer", IMO, that is as bad as a parent who picks one of his children to be his "favorite" while his other children suffer. Therefore, I feel that Google should treat everyone one the same for the exact, specific violation(s) of their guidelines. I also believe that Google should publish a list of SEO companies that have been caught getting their client's web sites banned (as "Dave" in the comments said). But, have a notation of all the dates that each banning occured, so that these SEO companies can be given a chance to change their strategies. SEO prospects can at least be able to see if it has been a long time since the "Black Hat" tactics were used, or since they were caught.

As far as Matt saying "Our main goal has to be to give the most relevant results to our users; there is currently a trade-off between
taking action to remove spam from our index vs. removing sites that lots of users look for with navigational queries.", my suggestion is for Google to put up an "explanation page" when a site is banned explaining to the search users that the "banning" will hopefully be temporary, and that it was done for the search user's long term benefit. Giving "tools" to webmasters, SEO's and mom & pop web site owners is good, but doing that alone is handing over too much of the responsibility away from Google, IMO.

I believe that last part, since my premise is that the more all SEO people use, or are forced to use (by their client's competitiveness), programming and analytics directed at the search engines only ("Black Hat") vs. "Doing everything necessary to improve a website's performance for it's target audience." (Stony deGeyter's quote from: http://forums.searchenginewatch.com...17&postcount=16 ), the chances of the overall online search user's experience being good most of the time gets reduced, IMO." By that I mean that if what Stoney says is true: "White: Honor SE guidelines; Black: "trick" search engines" and "White: Site marketability is important; Black: Top rankings at any cost", and finally "White: Content driven; Black: Technology driven", then the sometimes "forgotten", but most important part of the whole Search Marketing equation (the online search user) MAY (not necessarily) be served something other than the best quality content on the top of the 1st SERP because of programming and analytic techniques."

Lastly, Google needs to communicate more clearly, conspicuously, comprehensively, and comprehendably in their "Webmaster Guidelines", in my opinion, without giving away too much detail of the specifics of their algorithm. For example, this forum thread explains many "White Hat" search engine optimizer's frustrations = http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=9765 .

The Rule

The takeaway on this one should be that poor man's cloaking is a crappy system to choose. I bet if BMW had gone with IP-delivery (or even user-agent cloaking), we wouldn't be having this little chat.

Spam On

This attitude alone is enough to make me puke.

The SEO games of cloaking, stuffing keywords and spamming links just to make clients happy is gaming the system pure and simple so don't whine when you get caught.

It's obvious why you do it, it's the same reason people drive 70MPH in a 55MPH zone to get further faster, because if they don't the results take longer, weak SERPs if any, and you may not get paid well or get paid at all.

To make matters worse, along comes affiliate programs and AdSense and every little money grubber crawls out from under a rock and tries to duplicate what they've seen SEO's do to game the system and suddenly the genie is out of the bottle and the problem is an epidemic and the SE's can no longer turn a blind eye to the situation.

OK, so now you've been speeding and got caught when you knew it was wrong and against the guidelines, and now the internet cops are setting up speed traps to stop this practice.

Oh wah.

There can only be 10 sites in the top 10 so what gives your site the right over thousands of other sites jockeying for the same position other than you have a paying client demanding you get them there?

Sorry, I don't buy that "my client needs to rank" reason as an excuse to behave badly and violate guidelines.

Maybe the next poster will be more sympathetic but in my dictionary you'll find sympathy right between shit and syphillis.

Consensual SEO

I think that the better division should not be Black, Gray, White, but rather consensual / non-consensual SEO. Of course, for the purposes of SEO, we do not consider the Search Engine itself as having to consent to the action.

Consensuality requires a few things...

(1) The affected party be correctly informed
(2) The affected party consent to the terms

This covers a lot of bases, for example...

Cloaking is not consensual. If the snippet, title, cache, etc. is substantially, and intentionally, different from that which the user (affected party) encounters, it was non-consensual.

Content hiding is not consensual.

Link spam is not consensual as the owner of the site would not consent.

Content generation IS consensual.

I find that this is a much easier framework with which to discuss the ethics of SEO.

can we please reserve "black hat"

for the Texas Hold'em Guy who tries to kill every blog, the 'fat trannies f---ing' guy who tried to bomb my directory this morning, the kiddies who exploit insecure scripts to steal links, and whatever remaining morons are out there trying to make their porn sites show up when my kid searches for Spongebob?

Ethics Shmethics

I've said this for a long time. Ethics have nothing to do with SEO, it is all about cause and effect.

>White is the new black.

More cause and effect :-). For most SEOs it is easier and more profitable to play it safe.

The reason Google is making

The reason Google is making an example of the BMW website is right now they cant stop simple spam like this unless it is found by hand. It is obvious (we all know) that spam in many forms still exists and works very well in all three search engines. I am not saying you should use these "black hat" techniques. I don't. No reason for me to do it, but until the search engines create a system to not allow these techniques to rank you, will have those that advise to do use them. Google's approach here is one of fear mongering, "Don't do it, because we will catch you". Yeah right.

I'd expect G...

I'd expect Google to reinstate their page scores after they corrected the problem, the same way they reinstated the rankings to their Cloaked Adwords FAQ pages that were discovered a year ago.

When it just comes down to it. As long as their are terms set by the Engines then the debate on whether cloak or not is pretty much over on the client level. Unless they specifically asked for it.

Can you afford to be the SEO or Developer that just got BMW wiped? Could you be the in-house SEO or Developer that said to himself, "No one will find this!"

reinstated It's a mixed

reinstated

It's a mixed message, Matt.

It's a mixed message,

It's a mixed message, Matt.

Agreed. Did the costs really offset the benefits? Is this really going to discourage other corps from following suit?

Are Ethical Talks Holding Back SEO?

nope

To quote a real estate

To quote a real estate developer I know; Hell, I can stand all the nasty letters that agency wants to send.

Boy, here we go again. But

Boy, here we go again. But I'm sure THIS time, we'll get this issue resolved. (Yeah right !)

I really wish I could understand why this is so important to so many people. The only thing I can think of is that as humans we all want validation. In reagrds to this issue, no matter which side I am on, it is not a question of am I one or not, it is a question of WHICH one am I. So either way, I am validated as being one.

I would only like to point out again that it doesn't have to be this way. It is only this way due to perception and perception can change. Of course one problem with changing perception is that along with wanting validation, humans do not like being wrong. So for all those who have so proudly proclaimed they are ethical SEO's, to admit there really is no such thing would make them to have been wrong and some will fight to the death to avoid such an admission.

I have two simple suggestions for what I would like leaders in the industry to consider implementing themselves so as to start to alter perception and hopefully resolve this issue.
(yeah right !)

#1. Stop using the term SEO to refer to any part of internet marketing. It is misleading and false. We do not optimize search engines and to tell a prospect, (or your mother for that matter), that is what you do when in fact you do not, is that not unethcial?

#2. Stop publically judging others. Trying to make yourself look good by trying to convince your target market someone else is bad is self-defeating. It makes you look unreasonable, unfair, unable to compete in a reasoned, logical, professional manner and often it makes you look emotionally unstable.

Bob, I can stand all the

Bob, I can stand all the nasty letters your agency wants to send. hhh.

Politician

If there was a SE Congress it would seem Bob is running for the TW district.

Paraphrasing what I think he said:

"It's ok to have an opinion but just don't voice it publicly and the perception of the problem will go away. If you do voice it publicly then you're an unprofessional whiner, should be stoned and run out of town on a rail, and should be barred from SES and PubCon."

Did I get that right?

BTW, do you validate parking?

Reinstated heh

The speed with which BMW got back in is a bit surprising to me. We all knew it was in G's interest to get BMW back in fast (people are gonna want to see that result when they do certain searches) ... but I was guessing 4-6 weeks. Just goes to show how much G understands which side its bread is buttered on, to the point that they barely even care how a move like this looks. :/

It has become an old story. The bigger u are, on and off the Web, the more free passes you get with the SE's.

I think Massa's got it

I think Massa's got it right. The idea that we will resolve this -- in this thread, in meetings of SMA-NA or SEMP0, or in any other manner -- is laughable.

But, it's a debate that must be duly held every six months! (just like black hat v white hat, paid text links, etc. etc.)

I like this...

Rand's comment...

Quote:
I bet if BMW had gone with IP-delivery (or even user-agent cloaking), we wouldn't be having this little chat.

Hehe...

In other words, if you're gonna be deceptive, at least be smart. Which is actually very good advice.

jumping in a bit late...

Throwing in a bit late due to travel, but this has been on my mind quite a bit.

I'm not sure which is more distasteful... the outing of sites by otherwise respected persons in the SEO community, the childish arguments between SEO camps that wear different colored uniforms (maybe we need to read more Dr. Suess), or the opportunistic comments-closed post from a Google representative, claiming an other-language victory for something that fell in their lap (and wasn't even handled well, imho).

Anonymous poster expresses a real thought-out position, but one we have heard for ages. Talking it out might make you feel better, but doesn't help the issue.

The fact is that SEO is being "branded" by one of the biggest brands in the world - Google. It is being branded as EVIL, because that is in the best interests of Google. It is that simple (and that complex).

Talk about "BMW getting caught" and you contribute to the branding of SEO as questionable, dangerous, risky, "wrong" etc. Why isn't anyone talking about how effective and commercially valuable/profitable js redirecting doorway pages are? The data is staring us in the face.

Perhaps to understand the power of branding, and the impact the "black hat" branding has on SEO, imagine if everyone everywhere was blogging and writing about how well BMW's site had done in the SERPs for the past X months (using the js doorway pages), how many other sites are doing well with them, and how easy and painless it was to get re-included once caught. With dollar figures, ROI calculations.. the whole works. WHAT IF people like Mr. Anonymous here, instead of secretly harboring his beliefs about SEO not being equivalent to spam, wrote a White paper about how effective technques like JS doorway pages are, using the BMW business case sudy with expert financial estimations? In order to assist and advise his clients on competing on the web?

Based on my witness, many clients know this is true, and just need the external validation to justify going whole hog with the non-spammy, on-topic optimizations. Based on phone calls this past week, BMW just provided justification to many of them. Not too many clients actually want to enagage back-alley operators (a.k.a. "pitt bulls"), but many want to compete as rigorously as possible (as they compete every day offline).

Are "ethical talks" holding back SEO? Nah... there's simply not enough sensible counter talk.

Nice Piece of Fiction ... but spare me the sob story.

Do you really expect anyone - outside of the regulars here ;o) - to believe a word of that drivel?

the clue is in the first sentence ... "I work for a top tier 'ethical' SEO company" before confessing that he's a spammer.

Oh, and he's a coward too ...

Methinks you are running short of serious topics for discussion if you need to invent "Saddo's Sob Stories"

Wow what a long thread, you

Wow what a long thread, you definitely hit the hot spot here Aaron.

However, I think time wasted talking about ethics is better spent SEOing something and trying to be as creative as you can. Reserve the term "black hat" for dumb button clicking script kiddies with no imagination whatsoever - nooo I don't agree, that's not black hat that's just being dumb. Spam all you want but do it with taste and imagination - then it will at least work better.

Branded

John Andrews wrote:

Quote:
The fact is that SEO is being "branded" by one of the biggest brands in the world - Google. It is being branded as EVIL, because that is in the best interests of Google. It is that simple (and that complex).

John's post is one of the best to come out of this thread and he is exactly right, SEO is slowly being demonized by Google's spin machine.

I also think some serious attention should be paid to his suggestion of writing articles about how effective SEO can be, not from a how-to angle but for informing the public and potential customers.

Quote:
WHAT IF people like Mr. Anonymous here, instead of secretly harboring his beliefs about SEO not being equivalent to spam, wrote a White paper about how effective technques like JS doorway pages are, using the BMW business case sudy with expert financial estimations?

We can sit here and discuss this amongst ourselves (again) all day but John's suggestion would actually attract SEO customers, not only for the author but for the industry as a whole.

I'm curious...

Was the BMW thing just a publicity stunt? Did they *want* to get caught for the publicity? I'm sure there has been a traffic spike to their site from all this.

And, if it was a publicity stunt...was it agreed with Google beforehand? Or was Google just baited and used?

If it was a stunt...it was brilliant.

Greg recently posted about

Greg recently posted about how there really is no risk to spamming if you have a large brand.

grnidone.. On Strikepoint

grnidone..

On Strikepoint DaveN said Thomas Bindl indicated that it had been going on for the last 2 years.

Spamming is like Murder

You won't get in trouble for either until you get caught.

As long as you can get away with it, why not...

--

John Andrews is correct, but only because Google made a huge error in allowing BMW to simply remove the mess and get right back in.

That sends the message that if you spam, all you have to do is fix it and all will be well. If that's true for all sites, then why not spam?

However, I really don't think it's true for all sites. Not from the mail I've received from people who've been banned, cleaned things up, begged for re-inclusion and then have to wait quite some time to get back in.

Matt should have made a better example of this BMW site if he really wanted to send the correct message. Now, he's probably done more harm than good. I just hope he's the one that gets all the email from people wondering why they weren't put immediately back in after they cleaned up their messes, rather than me. Because I'll be sending all those ones to him for guidance, in the future.

more harm

> if he really wanted to send the correct message. Now, he's probably done more harm than good.

I agree. While Danny is somewhat apologetic on this issue with the "Google needs BMW in the index" argument, I think he's forgotten that the Fortune 1000 Marketing VPs are going to rightfully see this as a wink-and-a-nod from a member of the good ol' boy club.

Matt has stated a few times

Matt has stated a few times that the penalty for hidden text is a 30-day removal from the index. But again, it appears that it can be flexible. From his same BMW spam post.

Finally, as long as we’re on the subject of cars: to the domestic car maker whose European domain had hidden text on the front: your 30 day removal was set to expire in two days, but the hidden text has been taken off the page, so I’m scheduling the domain for reinclusion now.

And notice that BMW wasn't the only car manufacturer that recently got caught in Europe.

Oh, and a point of irony

It's taken me a couple of days after getting back from a short vacation to absorb all that's been written the past week or so. But one thing kind of struck me right off the bat.

Has anyone else noticed that Threadwatch -- that den of black hats and black hat apologists -- seems to host more and deeper discussions about SEO ethics than other boards?

What's the deal? The folks here aren't supposed to give a damn about ethics. Aren't we all a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls? (Sorry Bob. I don't think "privateers" ever really made it into the SEO lexicon.)

but only because Google made

but only because Google made a huge error in allowing BMW to simply remove the mess and get right back in

or maybe not
http://www.oilman.ca/google/bwm-back-in-record-time/

but there is still some shenanigans going on with redirections and iframes etc

the demographic of TW

the demographic of TW readers has greatly changed in the past 6 months, jimbeetle

yeah

it's pretty wussified here now, jim. but, hey, i'm a white now, or pretty close. i'm even thinking of having matt & tim do a site review.

Demos changed

Most of the folks are the same. Must be something they're putting in the Kool-Aid.

>>site review

Only if they're color blind, Bob.

Only if they're color blind, Bob.

man I wish I was color blind looking at rc's sites - maybe my eyes wouldn't bleed quite so much then ;)

Hey!

I said I was white now, not that I'd whitewashed the place. Lime & Orange converts.

Maybe if you're selling

Maybe if you're selling country club memberships in Florida.

>>wussified Yeah we all got

>>wussified

Yeah we all got religion. We're kinder and gentler now, settled down, indoor Gplumbing and we know that ecru is a color and not a big bird we can stick in a stew pot. Thinking of buying some PPC come Spring. Heheh.

(Kinda disappointed about the ecru bit though.)

ecru

Didn't know that.. hmmm.. I was sure it was a spice. Anyway, aren't the young nowadys simply rude? And their language... No respect for us old folks anymore, I tell you.

I was happier then and I had nothin'. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.

my keen (x-)admin senses

tell me this thread is going astray, hhh.

>ecru

I wouldn't know much about ecru as I only work with the 8 truly safe web colors.

>And their language..

'Tis true, the little M%*@^$&@^^*!!!ers.

Let's get real

> Until some standards emerge it's not an industry
> that CEOs of large firms can take seriously, or
> even want to touch.

So, BMW were a small mom-n-pop, huh?

I'll let you in on a secret: When the average SEO firm has a £2m indemnity insurance policy you'll find they attract all the big blue-chip clients they want.

How many of the participants in this thread have indemnity insurance?
Don't you think it would make a much better selling point to give clients the warm fuzzies than any BS about hats or ethics?

LOL

I'll let you in on a secret: When the average SEO firm has a £2m indemnity insurance policy you'll find they attract all the big blue-chip clients they want.

Yeah so they can be lousy at SEO and be insured/secure about it.

You got the 'and...' part

You got the 'and...' part right - its all about security.

Do you have dental insurance because your teeth are lousy? Medical insurance because you're a fat heart-attack waiting to happen? Home insurance because you burned down your last 5 houses?

Like most people, you'll probably find that the only way you can afford the premiums on a big insurance policy is to have definitive proof that you don't need it. That's how insurance is.

A company that has to pay out indemnity will pay thru the nose for its policy henceforth, or more likely be unable to find an insurer. Insurance companies aren't in the business of paying, they are in the business of making very very safe bets. When a major insurance company gives you a nice fat indemnity insurance, that tells clients more than any amount of promises, meaningless rhetoric about ethics, or whatever.

It says you mean business about safety - and put your money where your mouth is.

because of the point that

because of the point that black knight noted IMO an seo insurance company could be the ultimate intermediary that would legitimize the market for seo services and help accelerate its growth rate.

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