How to navigate through SEO’s uncomfortable grey areas

Nov 5, 2021 by
How to navigate through SEO’s uncomfortable grey areas

As SEO bastions, it’s our duty to ensure we’re always evolving when it comes to best practices because if we don’t we’re not only likely to end up on the wrong end of a Google algorithm update but we could alienate potential customers and clients too. One area that is rarely discussed when it comes to SEO, however, is ethics.

While the majority of us like to colour within the moral lines, so to speak, there are certain practices still common in some SEO circles that flirt with problematic behaviour. So, here we’ll be underlining a few of those practices and exploring where the line is and which side of it you should be sticking to.

Claiming that “you’re the best”

Now, it might very well be that you are “the best” agency on Google Ads in your own mind but “being the best” is a truly subjective claim without hard evidence to back it up. Technically, without that evidence, you’re violating Google’s “Misleading Representation” policy and while you are unlikely to be chastised for it, the majority of potential customers will probably see this for what it is. So don’t bother!

Renting or selling ads from a third-party source

If you work in SEO and you use Facebook then you’ve probably noticed various groups advertising the selling or renting of their Google or Facebook ad accounts. This is one of those areas that isn’t grey – it’s jet black. If you’re engaging in this practise then you’re doing something illegal.

Saying you work for Google

Again, this is a depressingly common predatory tactic that many freelancers and even some agencies still engage in. We shouldn’t have to say this, of course, but of course, it is unethical to lie so blatantly, as 5 agencies in Florida discovered much to their displeasure in 2018 when Google filed a lawsuit against them.

Pricing before scoping out the work

While we offer a flat rate for our clients that ensures there is never any confusion regarding the pricing, there are some SEO agencies that skirt around the issues of payment and quote one price for a piece of work or a campaign that ends up being a fraction of the total cost. This happens more often than you’d think.. The problem is, unless you’re working from a flat rate model then pricing the work before realising what’s actually involved is going to result in pricing that doesn’t add up (unless you get really lucky). Either way, it’s more often than not the customer that’s going to be paying too much. So, ensure you know exactly how much work is involved in a job before signing off on a price or that the rate is agreed upon beforehand.

Lack of access

If you are running an SEO campaign on behalf of a brand then you need to offer a level of transparency and keep the brand in the loop. Otherwise, how are they meant to trust you? This is another grey area, as there is certainly something to be said for “letting the expert get on with their job” but as a marketer, you are the voice of that brand and you are spending their money. Transparency is not just practical but it’s ethical too.

Copying and pasting

This is less of an issue now but there are still copywriters that think they can get away with literally copying and pasting entire articles, with the only differentiating factor being the display URL. There are times (in news pieces and when directly quoting people) that duplicate content is unavoidable but, generally speaking, if a writer is copying and pasting content then they’re not just dancing around a pretty grey area; they’re not really doing their job.