Ethical SEO & Ethical Standards

I’ve recently heard a pretty nasty horror story about how a local Chicago online marketing firm treated their client. Unfortunately I cannot disclose the details but the situation prompted me to point out some issues regarding ethical SEO practices, ethical treatment as it pertains to clients and Internet marketing in general.

Let all of us in any business remember that without our clients and consumers we have nothing. No business, no revenue, and zero credibility and no pot to cook in. How we treat those that spend their hard earned money and revenue on our products and services is critical to longevity and long term success. Respect, honesty, transparency should run both ways in any healthy relationship. Is it time for the ethics lesson? Yes, it is.

There are certain industries that rank at the bottom of the barrel on the respect meter. Lawyers and car dealers are the first to my mind. Coming up fast behind are the Internet marketing outfits. Over my nine years in the industry I continue to hear stories of how clients are being held hostage and treated terribly throughout the business relationship and ending contracts by such firms.

There are certain things that your SEO agency and Internet marketing firm should NEVER do to their clients.

  1. Withhold important information regarding account access.
  2. Falsify data as it pertains to reporting [of any nature].
  3. Use trickery and nefarious tactics to gain the upper hand on a client.
  4. Over charge for services that they do not deliver on.
  5. Over charge for services as a general rule.
  6. Fail to divulge strategy for SEO and online marketing.
  7. Treat clients with disrespect.
  8. Arrive late for meetings [this happens more often than you may think].
  9. Claim ethical “white hat” SEO practices when in reality they use “gray hat” or “black hat” strategies.
  10. Fail to provide transparency regarding SEO and online marketing methodologies.

I can continue building out this list…but this is a pretty solid start. As a business owner or company agent, you should treat your clients as you would like to be treated. If the current practices continue by SEO and Internet marketing companies continue, I promise you the digital industry will end up as bottom feeders.

So what can you do as a potential client for one of these companies? READ YOUR CONTRACT! Don’t read it once…read it several times. Grill your potential account managers, sales people, and the executives of the company. Yes, the executives. They are the individuals who set the standards for all to follow. If you smell any shady business…RUN and do not look back.
It is important to note that clients are responsible for WHAT they know…and those that serve their clients are responsible for providing the information needed to have a successful relationship. I can only hope for more transparency, honest, and integrity from all SEO and search marketing firms as time rolls on.
Unfortunately, not all companies are equal and not all companies set fourth a set of ethics and standards. Make sure you thoroughly review and dive into the company you trust your marketing to. Some care more about their bottom lines than they do for the service of the clients they serve. 

Time to Unplug: 9-11 & Being Human

9 |11 | 2001 was the worst day in my personal record. I was not in New York but hundreds of miles away in Chicago. I remember the call while I was getting ready for work. My dear friend in Colorado called me and said, “Al, turn on the t.v.” Nothing for me or our country has been the same since. I saw the second plane crash into the Twin Towers live as it happened and my shock and terror was beyond my own personal experience or comprehension. As I drove into work I was caught at a stop light. As I slowly crossed the street, a woman passing in the opposite direction looked at me and I looked at her.

Both of us were in tears as we acknowledge one another, sharing a tragic moment. In one fleeting moment we gave each other a nod which spoke volumes of understanding, sorrow, fear, love, and support. We both knew that it would have been okay to pull over and comfort one another while America was in the throws of a full terror attack. We didn’t have any other form of communication available to us but our eyes and deep understanding of being human…and being in solidarity with one another. As we passed I shot her the peace sign (a ridiculous thing to do in retrospect) in hope she would know that we were…in that moment…together. Two people who would never meet or speak or share anything ever…but that brief moment on the morning of 9-11. 

I started teaching a class on E-Business at Columbia College recently…and one of the topics was how their lives have been changed by the Internet, Tweets, Facebook, texting, and the world of wide webs. It dawned on me during discussion that we are all so plugged in that it is very possible that we can’t unplug long enough to enjoy or pay attention to anything long enough to make a positive change or a real connection with life, friends, family, politics, or the real reality of living.

During and the days following 9-11 there was a collective mind think in America. We were going to get through this attack as a nation. We were going to support one another from now until the end of our days…because that is what America is made of and that is what we do. America [good and bad] is built on survival, being good neighbors, integrity, sweat, hard work, and the ability to build anything we wish based on designs created when our eyes were closed. Now we are plugged in. Internet, t.v., video, magazines, crappy reality shows, and more. A constant bombardment for our attention…just another bright shiny object to take us away from long work hours, a box full of bills, and good government gone bad.

In 2001 America had optimism, belief in our future, and paid a whole lot more attention to things we really should  pay attention too. We were not as plugged in during 2001 as we are now, ten years on. We, as a nation, were more aware of one another as human beings and more aware of others as our fellow men and women. We still made eye contact when in passing, slight smile, or even a full blown “hello” or “nice day isn’t it?”.

We have somehow become so detached, so distracted, with every little electronic message, advertisement, and t.v. episode featuring the rich, the stupid, the narcissistic, and the depraved we may be slowly loosing our own humanity. I hope I am wrong…I hope that we come to the realization that while the Internet the one of the most important inventions in human history it should not rule our ability to be human.

Words like respect, humility, courtesy, and kindness should not be reserved for holidays and days of collective remembrance. Maybe we should unplug a little more and a little longer in order to reflect on our own mortality, humanity, and wonderment that is life. 9-11 reminds me of the very best in human nature and the very worst. September 11th is a day that we will always know where we were and exactly what we were doing that day. For those who raced toward the burning wreckage, and for those who protected America from a hijacked jet let – they are the constant reminders for me…of what truly being human can mean.

I hope we don’t loose ourselves completely and hold onto the greatness of life. It is short and fleeting for certain. Back in the 1960’s Timothy Leary said, “Tune out, tune in, drop out.” His meaning of this was to be aware of your own biological self, engage with the world around you, and commit to self-reliance, acquire sense of self self, and commit to change.

I live and breathe the world of search and I take great strides to tune out as it is one of the great gifts of being human. During this day of remembrance we should all take stock of what we have. And moving forward from this day always remember your own humanity.



10 Commandments of SEO

Top 10 Commandments of Search Engine Optimization [Part 1]

And the Cheif Searchologist spoke saying, “I search therefore I am. And being of, for, about, and that I do live by the search…I put fourth to you these 10 Search Engine Commandments to pull you from the hands of insanity and perpetual aggrivation.

  1. You shall not trust any SEO firm which guarantees top placement for thy keywords.
  2. Thou shall not create duplicate content.
  3. Thou shall not steal content and spinneth said content for your own site or purpose.
  4. Thou shall not buyest links for the Google gods will surly punish thee.
  5. You shall not Google-Bomb thy neighbor.
  6. Thou shall not write false reviews to improveth thy reputation.
  7. Thou shall not believeth that social media is thy savior nor that social media can be totally controlled or contained from the occasional bad review.
  8. Thou shall holdeth thy search engine optimization firm accountable for deliverables and results.
  9. Thou must takest great efforts to be proactive in all search marketing efforts.
  10. Thou shall not fail to address all Meta Data, internal links, and URL structure.”