I follow the SEO Code of Conduct and SEO Ethics developed by Bruce Clay.
In short, “Do not deceive in any way.”
I write this because I was the victim of “deceptive practices” and the firm is still practicing. They create what I call a scam by using “shadow” domains and hidden link pages that will take users to a different site or place on a site by using deceptive redirects. The “shadow” domains are owned by the SEO firm without the client knowing so if the client ever wants to leave the SEO Firm or hire internally they then realize that they have to start over with building traffic because the firm built their own sites not the one the client owns.
“Doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere that are unrelated to the “theme” of the site. This page is not helpful to the actual site because it is irrelevant for the search engine quires the client needs. The truth is the SEO Firm has hidden links to their other clients so that it appears that there are links coming to the site – again if that relationship ends – the links will disappear!
Code of Ethics
Whereas all parties are working towards presenting relevant and high quality information in an easy to use format to information seekers, and whereas SEO practitioners are being contracted to assist clients in obtaining higher rankings for client pages, we (and those linking to this page) are voluntarily adhering to the below SEO Code of Ethics:
No SEO practitioner will intentionally do harm to a client. This involves the continued use of any technology or procedure (without appropriate care) that is known to result in having the client site removed from search engine indexes or directories, or rendered inoperative. Questionable adherence to standards must be addressed via the Robots Exclusion Standard.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any specifically published and enforced rules of search engines or directories. Should rules and guidelines change (as they often do), the SEO practitioner will promptly take action to comply with the changes as they apply to all clients. Where rules and guidelines are unclear, the SEO practitioner will seek clarification and await approval from the appropriate search engine before continuing to utilize potentially harmful technology or procedures.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally mislead, harm, or offend a consumer. All individuals utilizing a search engine to visit a site will not be misled by the information presented to or by the search engine, or harmed or offended upon arrival at the client site. This includes techniques like “bait and switch” where the client page does not substantially contain and is not clearly associated with the optimized phrase, or may be reasonably offensive to targeted visitors.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any laws. This involves the deliberate and continued violation of copyright, trademark, servicemark, or laws related to spamming as they may exist at the state, federal, or international level.
No SEO practitioner will falsely represent the content of the client site. This includes the practice of presenting different versions of web pages to different users except where that information is altered solely to meet browser specifications and needs, sensitivity to regional factors such as language, or product specific needs. In general, ALL requests for a specific URL should be served identical HTML by the web server.
No SEO practitioner will falsely represent others work as their own. This includes the taking of work from others in whole or in part and representing this work as their own. The SEO practitioner may not make verbatim copies of the work of others (instead of authoring original work) without the prior consent of the other party.
No SEO practitioner will misrepresent their own abilities, education, training, standards of performance, certifications, trade group affiliations, technical inventory, or experiences to others. This includes quantifiable statements related to project timetables, performance history, company resources (staff, equipment, and proprietary products), and client lists. Guarantees will be restricted to items over which the SEO practitioner has significant and reasonable control.
No SEO practitioner will participate in a conflict of interest without prior notice to all parties involved. This includes the practice of choosing to emphasize one client over another in competing keywords because there is more personal gain for the practitioner. All clients are treated equally and all will receive equal best effort in their Search Engine Optimization.
No SEO practitioner will set unreasonable client expectations. This includes the practice of accepting more than a reasonable number of clients competing for the same keywords and implying that all will be in the top positions in the search engines. This also includes the implication that results can be obtained in an unreasonable amount of time given the known condition of the search engines, client site, and competition.
All SEO practitioners will offer their clients both internal and external dispute resolution procedures. This includes the publishing of address and phone numbers on primary web pages, the inclusion of third-party dispute resolution links prominently placed within the practitioners web site, and contracts that include sections discussing dispute resolution.
All SEO practitioners will protect the confidentiality and anonymity of their clients with regards to privileged information and items implying testimonial support for the SEO practitioner. All staff of SEO practitioner shall be bound to protect information that is not generally known as it may harm the client. The SEO practitioner will not include the publishing of testimonials and proprietary logos of client lists, press releases, and other collateral discussing the client without explicit approvals.
All SEO practitioners will work to their best ability to increase or retain the rankings of client sites. Clients are contracting for fee with the SEO practitioner in order to obtain and retain search engine placement. The SEO practitioner is charged with an obligation to utilize appropriate and allowed technology and methodologies to improve and retain the rankings for their clients in the face of shifting search engine technology, competition, and client web site needs.
Code of Conduct
Whereas all parties are working towards presenting relevant and high quality information in an easy to use format to information seekers, and whereas SEO practitioners are being contracted to assist clients in obtaining higher rankings for client pages, we voluntarily adhere to the below SEOToolSet™ Code of Conduct as it relates to Search Engine Optimization:
No SEO practitioner will intentionally utilize practices that serve one set of content to the search engines, and a visually different set of content to other visitors. Ideally, ALL requests sent to a specific URL should be served identical content by the web server. Cloaking is not inherently evil, but using it to deceive a search engine is not acceptable. ALL text within the BODY section of an HTML page should be visible, uncovered and easily readable by all visitors to the page. Since the search engines determine the relevancy of a page for a keyword based in part on “visible content”, the search engine user deserves to see the same “visible” content when they click through to that page. Anything less than a substantial match between the content that the search engine spider sees and the content that the user sees is deception. The use of any technology with the intent to hide content or the importance of certain content from the user in any way is unacceptable. This includes using on-page techniques, bait-and-switch techniques, server controls and any other techniques developed to deceive either the search engines or search engine users. Simply put, certainly there are a great many ways to “hide” content, and all of them are deception and are not acceptable.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally use redirection in such a manner that search engines see one set of content, and non-search engine visitors are forwarded to and view a different set of content. Ideally, ALL requests sent to a specific URL should land on and remain on that URL. It is not acceptable to rapidly switch users to a page containing content other than the indexed content, commonly using redirects or event-driven processes.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally produce multiple pages with identical or nearly identical content for the purpose of influencing the search engines. Ideally, all site pages should be unique and contain content of value to a researcher seeking information. Obviously several sites can reprint articles, process news feeds, and sell the same products, but expert information is only expert if it is unique. It is not enriching to the user experience to have all of the top results containing rehashed versions of the same content.
No SEO practitioner will utilize software to automatically generate pages of no or limited value. Automatically-generated pages commonly have “gibberish” and usually make no grammatical or logical sense, hence they harm the user experience. It is generally understood that the generation of hundreds or thousands of indexable pages in an attempt to have them ranked is unacceptable. However, data base driven pages are also automatically created as are the search engine results themselves, so not all automatic pages are evil.
No SEO practitioner will intentionally participate in a Link Farm. No site can control who links to them. However your site does not need to participate in a program where unrelated sites will link to each other for the purpose of artificially inflating rankings. If the link is valid, then that is fine. If it is to deceive the search engines then it is not acceptable.
All SEO practitioners will work to their best ability to maintain the integrity of the search experience. We must all consider the effects of our optimization efforts on both the client’s rankings and the quality of the search engine results overall. If any optimization technique detracts from a search engine user’s experience, it is not worth using. After all, the goal of search engine optimization is not to simply achieve rankings, but it is to make expert information more accessible to users through search engine queries. Do not make pigs fly.
All SEO practitioners will work to their best ability to maintain the integrity of the SEO industry. All SEO practitioners must be committed to upholding ethical and professional conduct in practicing search engine optimization. This steadfast commitment will improve the SEO practitioner’s reputation as an honest, hard-working SEO professional. Plus, it will help the practitioner maintain honest, healthy relationships with their clients, the search engines, and other SEO professionals. This in turn will help improve the reputation of the SEO industry as a whole.