SEO Agency Ethics

    March 1, 2007

A bit of rant here – I know the whole ethics debate is tired and most people don’t want to read about it these days but I gotta throw in a word or two about it.

I just did a freebie consultancy for a small business – the lady who runs it on her own is completely bewildered by SEO, and having seen her so passionate about her business I gave her a call and straightened a few things out, offering a free basic consultancy (which tbh, is all the site needs – it’s not a competitive market).

During the conversation it came up that she had hired a SEO agency (UK based I gather) a year ago who had done some “SEO” work for her.  She had some rankings from the work, but then the agency landed her with a monthly bill for link building work.  As she had already spent most of her budget on the initial consultancy, she couldn’t afford what they were charging and hadn’t realised the monthly fee was required so she cancelled the services.

They told her if she cancelled, they would remove the backlinks they built – which they promptly did!

Shower of bastards!  You know me – if I knew the name of the agency I’d be outing them right now with a scathing attack on why they are the scum of the industry…

While I am happy to admit that all is fair in business, I think that the very least SEOs have an ethical responsibility to clearly outline what it is they are doing for their clients and what costs / risks are involved.  Even putting ethics aside, landing additional fees on people is always – ALWAYS, without exception – going to piss them off.  Is that the way you want to run your business?

It is bad enough that we are in a industry where a “professional SEO” will happily offer conjecture and misinformation as “fact”, putting at risk their clients’ sites, but is holding people to ransom really acceptable practice?

IMO things need to change – only so long can businesses go on getting burned by amateurs before there is a call for legislative change.  It’s happened so often in the history of marketing – telesales, door to door sales, email marketing, billboard advertising, sports advertising – all have faced a legislative crack down in the past 10 / 20 years, mainly due to businesses taking things to the extreme and ripping people off – how long before SEO gets the same treatment?

After all, if SEOs know one thing for sure – it’s how to push techniques to the extreme!

My pet peeves with the SEO business:

  • Lack of disclosure in terms of the risks carried with spammy techniques.  I don’t have a problem with spam techniques as such, but I do think that there should be full transparency when selling these services to others.
  • Lack of standardisation in terms of professional skills and knowledge.  Basically, SEOs selling “facts” that inaccurate.
  • Unethical business practices when providing services.

Anyone care to add anything to the list?



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