“I’m an insider, I been burned by the fire
And I’ve had to live with some hard promises
I’ve crawled through the briars–I’m an insider.” Tom Petty
I have no problem stating publicly that I don’t feel that…’s prison sentence fits the crime committed (though I admit I don’t know all the facts and know that many other people I respect don’t agree with me). What I find interesting is that in my mind, even though his transgressions had nothing to do with SEO, his incident brought up for me some very salient points that touch upon SEO client / contractor relationships.
SEO engagements can be full of moral and ethical ambiguity. SEO’s possess an incredible amount of power over a business and its prospective success/failure and the pressure to either maximize the revenue generated from the engagement as well as justify the “promised” results can cause the SEO to choose a path that places personal interest in place of the client’s.
I (and hopefully everyone I associate with) follow the following precepts: All actions I perform on a client website are 100% “white hat” and strictly follow search engine guidelines and best practices. If I were to stray from “white hat SEO” on behalf of a client (I don’t but if I did), I would only do so with full disclosure and written consent.
Unfortunately, not all SEO practioners follow these rules. There are different levels of straying:
Situation: SEO takes on a project above their ability level and due to inexperience, causes harm to the website and to the client’s business.
Situation: SEO uses “Non-White Hat” techniques on a website in attempt to achieve the client goals. They intended to do good but instead, they cause harm to the website and to the client’s business.
Verdict: Reckless Endangerment
Situation: SEO provides false and misleading information in order to close a sale. SEO appropriates money either for services not rendered, services that knowingly harm the client’s business or worthless services.
In my eyes, the crime of theft under the guise of “selling” SEO services is in many ways worse than what…did. Arguably, it’s more damaging to the victim(s) of the crime. Both situations involve a breach of trust, but the effects of SEO fraud can linger long after discovery and could be permanent. The people who perpetuate such bad behavior cast a shadow over all the ethical practioners in our industry. They commit their crimes without remorse and since they likely don’t have the skills to do the work ethically and honestly, unlike…, they are not capable of redemption. Since it’s theft via consulting with (theoretically) “informed consent”, no crime has been committed in the eyes of the law. They are unlikely to even face civil consequences even though they, not…, are more deserving of a spot behind bars IMO.
It’s unlikely that an SEO crook will ever get sent to jail. However, if their misdeeds extend beyond the SEO sphere and they get caught, they also might not get any mercy.
Dude, we hate the sin but love the sinner. Keep well.
Todd Mintz knows PPC…knows Social Media…knows SEO…knows Blogging…knows Domaining…and knows them all real well. He runs growth marketing for <a href="https://www.position2.com"Position2)and is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon’s Search Engine Marketing Association, and he can be found here on Twitter and Facebook.