it Means To Be a Search Engine Marketing Professional
What it Means To Be a Search Engine Marketing Professional
There's a lot of stuff posted on search engine forums and newsletters
around the world about how companies who spam the search engines
are unethical, and that it's important to hire only "ethical
SEO consultants" or "ethical search engine marketers."
But, if you think about it, ethics is not something that's quantifiable.
What makes any given SEO technique ethical or unethical? Isn't ethics
more of a way of life than a method for doing something? Is trying
to trick the search engines really unethical? Sure, it's stupid,
in my opinion, but is it really unethical? I don't believe that
those who practice what I sometimes refer to as "shady SEO
techniques" can necessarily be classified as unethical. Just
as everyone who follows every search engine rule can't automatically
be assumed to be ethical.
What we should instead be discussing is which companies are *professional*
and which are just out for a buck. This is true in every industry,
not just SEO. If the people in our industry can remember this when
trying to create a professional organization of SEOs (and there
are many factions trying to do this), it will go a lot smoother.
It's really quite simple. My friend Alan Perkins, who is a champion
of "professional SEO," pointed out this page to me recently.
It says in part:
What defines a professional?
"A professional is a person who, by education, training, and
experience, performs work, analyzes and solves problems, makes decisions,
and promotes ethics associated with a particular field of study."
- A. Carol Rusaw, Learning by Association, HRD Quarterly, Summer
They go on to list some criteria for defining a professional. The
one that really jumped out at me was this:
"[The] Professional assumed to know what is good for the client
better than the client."
That really hits the nail on the head. It would be easy for any
of us to say, "Sure, why not, I'll take your money and just
tweak your Meta tags" when asked to do so by a client. Of course
it would be easy money. But would it be right if you knew that doing
so probably wouldn't really help their site be found in the search
engines? Not in my opinion; nor would it be professional.
So what about when a potential client comes to you saying "we
know exactly what we need" because they read somewhere how
SEO should be done. They ask you for a proposal to create 10 zebra
(doorway) pages for their site. They don't want you to touch the
actual pages of their site, they just want pages that live on the
"fringes" of the site.
You know, the kind that only the search engines will find (because
you added a link way down low on the home page to a sitemap of all
the zebra pages). Once the user arrives at one of the pages from
the search engines, they're basically forced to click an extra time
to finally arrive at the *real* site that they wanted to begin with.
Should you give the client a quote for this even though you know
in your heart that it's not necessarily the best way to optimize
their site? Certainly, creating those pages that way couldn't really
be considered unethical or anything. But what if you see that their
current site already has tons of great content pages? They really
don't need to add zebra pages, they just need to tweak their current
content a bit to make sure they're using words that real people
use when searching.
Or perhaps they just need to make sure the search engines can easily
spider through the site and find all that great content, e.g., turn
dynamic URLs into static URLs.
What do you do if when you explain this to the client, they're
still set on using those zebra pages? They refuse to make changes
to their actual pages (cuz someone told them they shouldn't have
to!), and even though the site will be much improved by making these
changes, no amount of cajoling will convince them of this. So what
do you do then? Do you do things the way they want you to? Do they
really know better than you, the SEO professional?
If I were in this situation, and I couldn't persuade them how wrong,
unnecessary and shortsighted their preferred technique was, I'd
have to turn down the job altogether. Yeah, it's hard to turn down
some decent money that a job like that could bring. I mean, you
could probably even create those zebra pages using WPG's Page Generator,
and give them some fancy new name. They're really not zebra pages...these
ones would be giraffe pages! It could be good money for little work.
And after all...it IS what the client wants, right?
There are plenty of ways you can justify it to yourself. But the
bottom line is that it's your job as a professional to do what you
know in your heart is right. If it means you don't get that particular
job, then so be it. There will be other jobs. And there will be
other clients that appreciate your looking out for their site's
long-term well-being. You can bank on that. Seriously. The money
you lose from declining that type of work will be made up in so
many different ways. Trust me.
About the Author
Jill Whalen of High
Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization
consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search
engine marketing newsletter. Contact Jill Whalen by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.