Following a post on Mezzoblue, a question I submitted to Boagworld, I have stumbled across a few blog postings responding to this idea of SEO ethics. Being a White Hat SEO, I decided to respond to the negative connotations.
The Problem – Those who do not understand, mislabel
It is easy to identify those who have not performed SEO at a deep level. Short and simple, they do not understand the profession in a least. They seem to think SEO is a profession of tricks used to steal the number one spot. Many of them rant about how “anything done beyond making on site changes is crossing the line.” Others ramble about “manipulating search engines” to forge relevance. However, none of these people are truely looking at what the profession is trying to do.
What SEO really is
SEO (white hat) is a broad term used to describe methods of increasing traffic to a site organically (ie: not on a pay per click/action/advertising baises). It doesn’t even have to be directly related to search engines. Building a blog that gets a lot of referrals from technorati would be considered SEO, even though technorati is not technically a search engine.
SEO is not manipulation
While you can use black hat methods to manipulate results in search engines, white hat seo is really nothing more than good ideas and practice. Since when is submitting your site to relevant directories, having proper title tags, and semantic code unethical and sleazy? Any business owner can see the value in having a site that is easy to find, and making it more visible outside of the search engines will in turn have a positive effect on the search engines.
Even if you go as far as link baiting, coming up with high quality viral content is simply good publicity. Let us not forget why majority of people bother having a website designed in the first place – marketing reasons.
Yes, black hat methods can be used to artificially boost a sites rankings. However, just because search engines can be manipulated doesn’t mean all SEO tactics are unethical. Blogs can be used for spamming, how many of us have blogs?
SEO Benefits everyone
In reality, SEO not only benefits the website owner, but it also benefits search engines, and users as well.
- Website owners get more visitors, because they are visible in the search engines
- Search Engines display more relevant results, because web pages are designed to make them easier to categorize and rank
- Users can find relevant sites and information easier, because they are designed properly for search engines to categorize, listed in directories, and have links on other relevant pages.
While there still will be purists who don’t understand the profession and will complain about it, the truth is that it simply is a vital part of an online presence. At some point, when search engines have an algorithm advanced enough where they can accurately identify sites regardless of optimization then the profession will no longer be needed – until then, engines and companies need help to deliver the relevant content to users.