Ethical SEO: What does it mean, and why should you do it?

In case you haven't run across the term yet, SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's the practice of improving a website’s authority through various means to get a website to the front page, or even the top rank, on various search engines. SEO is a moving goalpost, because the search engines are constantly revising their policies to provide the most relevant websites to their consumers. The optimization part usually involves a number of different components and methods, including the use of keywords, linking to reputable sources, and generating relevant and unique content.

Word cloud of SEO terms

What is ethical SEO?

There may be some debate about what exactly ethical SEO entails, but the basic principles involve honesty and transparency. Some have even set out to define a list of rules of what exactly ethical SEO is, but it really comes down to five simple things.

  1. Don’t lie to your client. Don’t promise things you can’t give, or use an exploit that will only work for a limited time.
  2. Don’t plagiarize other people’s work. This can get you great content for minimal effort, but it’s easy to spot and search engines weed it out quickly.
  3. Don’t lie to the consumer. You can promote a site by misrepresenting the content, but this is ultimately pointless. It won’t direct consumers to what they need, and the website you’re trying to promote is likely to will lose authority and relevance.
  4. Don’t spam. This might get you valuable links for a time, but they will often be quickly removed, and you could get banned. Nobody trusts spam comments.
  5. It’s a process. Because search engines are always revising their policies to deliver the best service for their customers, you have to do the same. You can’t just set up the SEO and move on. To be effective, it must be maintained.

Why should you practice it?

It’s obvious that there are ways to do SEO with less effort, less time overall, and initially deliver good or even better results. On the surface, you have achieved what you or your client want: a top-ranked website that’s easy to find via major search engines.

This isn’t in the long-term best interests of your client or of consumers, though. Search engines and consumers will quickly realize if you’ve taken any shortcuts, and the site will lose rankings as quickly as it gained them if it isn’t relevant. Ultimately, ethical SEO is not just about "playing fair"— if you practice ethical SEO, it will increase your visibility in a lasting way while providing a good service to consumers, clients, and search engines. When you do it the right way, you can deliver lasting authority and usefulness, rather than a temporary boost.

Why does ethical SEO last?

When SEO practitioners take shortcuts, it creates less relevant results. Search engines need accurate and reliable results, so they take steps to weed out these shortcuts. That's why it's recommended to be familiar with the policies of major search engines like Google before you start work.

Following ethical SEO guidelines will make your SEO work better, and not restrict you in any way. Ultimately, ethical SEO allows you to provide a quality service that benefits everyone.

Nicole Walters
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