Should an SEO Company Declare Its "SEO Code of Ethics"?

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Dana Lookadoo

Aug 28, 2008, 12:43:09 AM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Discussion on Sphinn started by @Harith

Thanks @Harith & @GlobalFusion for taking the ball and rolling with
it. The need for some form of standards, code, best practices didn't
start with our Twitter discussion on 8/23. Bruce Clay has been, and
will continue to, be a leader and bellwether in this industry.

I don't believe our discussions are focused on certification. We are
discussing voluntary participation. And, many are already choosing,
obviously, to adhere to a code of ethics. So, does that make this
discussion a mute point? TBD

I look forward to working together with you to determine a scope and
methodology and how to involve our community. It may be determined
that such an effort is not necessary. However, we cannot determine
that without first exploring the issues, opportunities and support.
Glad to be part of the Lewis & Clark team who goes out to determine if
the broad expanse, later known as the Wild Wild West, is inhabitable.


Aug 28, 2008, 12:09:39 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Group outline: (tentative)

Vision: in a perfect world what do we see this doing?

Mission: what therefore is the prupose in this exercise?

Deterrents: What potential problems could occur we want to deal with
no rather than later?

Strategy/Tactics: How or what would we do to accomplish our goals?

Implementation: how has it been implemented before and how can we
improve upon that process?

Aug 28, 2008, 12:25:37 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Hey All,

Dave Snyder here. Our company Search & Social, displays our Customer
Service Promises , and
our SEO Ethics

We do this as our personal promise to our clients that we will guard
their brands. It is also the foundation of mine and Jordan Kasteler's
philosophy on Client Services.

What I dont think many people get is that Black Hat's dont often due
client work, so the real threat to client service industry is the
proverbial snake oil salesman.

I do not think a regulated industry is the answer, as no other
marketing outlet has such a regulatory factor, and the FCC is not an
example because that is not their purpose. This needs to be about
education and personal responsibility.

In the end our code is our personal stance on the issue, and I have no
problem with it remaining a personal stance.



Aug 28, 2008, 12:43:30 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
thanks for the input dave..

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head... Education. (i
think that is the higher purpose of this group... am i wrong?)

voluntary is very important...

and most of the black hats aren't really on the same radar for most of
my clients...

i think it's more of the posers, etc..

hang on let me look in my junk mail..

ahh.. perfect.

"We found your website in google for the term "healthcare providers",
(note: this comes from a drone email address from an air conditioner
manufacturers website)

"We would be happy to give you website a free diagnosis to improve
your search engine listings.
We can submit your website to over 65,000 search engines and boost you
to the top of the search engines"

etc..... let's enlighten future SEO customers... let's INFORM
possible new client on how the people they select for SEO should
behave.. (as you do as a personal choice)

ceritification/regulation won't work for me... i do things to google
with a fork that no one would think of... (ALWAYS within Google
webmaster guidelines) , of course.. plus... the only people qualified
to certify what i do is google or yahoo or msn.. and we all know that
isn't going to happen.

so.. i would say that your company and bruce clay have already done
what the purpose of this group is to do... but more people must do it
to rise above the noise and seo chumpion type of SEO mentality.. to
make things better for all of us.. i would think if we came out with
some type of "badge", "seal" etc... you two companies would be auto
approved, since leading by example.

Dana Lookadoo

Aug 28, 2008, 12:59:55 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Agree with both of you! Personal responsibility, promise and

I so appreciate what Dave Snyder & Bruce Clay are already doing to
lead the way. I see ourselves as messengers and organizers to continue
and spread the charge, rise above!

I stopped consulting for a while (other opportunities), and it was
nice to not be associated with SEO because of the snakes! I personally
know some of them and am doing everything to separate from them. I
have spent HOURS trying to explain best practices to non-clients,
friends, who have been throwing their money away.

I like the idea of a badge, but we have to be careful. I was
researching domains and found that has created
their own badge (look at SEO Code of Ethics PDF). We definitely don't
want this to be about selling our own services or using a badge to do

Paisley, do you want to start a wiki here with your outline to get us


Aug 28, 2008, 3:24:23 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
pixelb... me setup wiki.. not really (oh.. i am honest.. btw)

i just like starting out with some type of plan for organization..

if you feel that will help, cool.. i'm thinking that people should
just cut and paste that outline and fill it out on their own.

here's why... (again my opinion... so i am open to other ideas)

I instituted a keyword process we use for all of our clients, it works
like this...

ask the influencers (sales people, engineers) and the decision makers
(CEO, CFO, COO, CMO) , and the points of contact (sales people,
receptionist, office manager) at the company to come up with 10 things
they would type into google to find their own company... they cannot
share their suggestions.

they all send them to the acct. rep for their account.. who then takes
them all and puts them in a spreadsheet with labels.

it allows me to realize the expectations of the client and mix that
with what people ask for when they call the company (i.e.

so along those lines...

anyone and everyone who wishes to have input, copies that short 6
items list and fills it out (when they have time)

then we get as many people's (legitimate) perspective...

Group outline:
a group formed to establish a better method for educating people about
seo.. not the technics but how to avoid the pitfalls and what
establish, credible seos do as part of best practices.

Vision: in a perfect world what do we see this doing?
saving one company from getting burned on SEO by untrained,
unexperienced, unethical seos.

Mission: what therefore is the purpose in this exercise?
certification for seo is a near impossible concept, the rules are ever
changing and not made by anyone in SEO.. right now the rules are
google's rules and we MUST adhere to them. however most of the time,
there are personal interests (my paycheck is personal... disclaimer),
or self-promo aspects to certification methods... (income generation
thru teaching, etc. and why the hell should i pay someone $XXXX to get
a rubber stamp when i know more than they do most of the time...),
regulation is also out of the question becuase due to the nature of
what we do (try and manipulate Google), google has it's guidelines
already and they aren't going to endorse anyone... but they will lay a
smack down on people that do cross the line, i.e. SEOinc, BMW, etc..

Deterrents: What potential problems could occur we want to deal with
now rather than later?
haters... current seo "rockstars" that want to say their way is best..
etc... people that will not adhere to the standards and therefore feel
threatened by them.

Strategy/Tactics: How or what would we do to accomplish our goals?
first we gather input then move forward based on the common goals of
all the people who decided to participate.

Implementation: how has it been implemented before and how can we
improve upon that process?
i'm not going to type libelous statements here.. but .. well.. bruce
clay posted this a while back and dave snyder's company uses it.. to
their success... and let's just say other methods have umm.. failed..

Message has been deleted

Dana Lookadoo

Aug 28, 2008, 4:28:45 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
I like this approach! Thanks for input on process! Now to set some
time aside to do such.
Message has been deleted


Aug 28, 2008, 5:24:57 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
I wish to thank you for creating this group for our efforts. Need to
learn how to use Google group "facilities" :-)


Aug 28, 2008, 6:17:31 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
I wish to start with these two suggestion of paisley:

> Strategy/Tactics: How or what would we do to accomplish our goals?
> first we gather input then move forward based on the common goals of
> all the people who decided to participate.


at the moment we need the participation of as many SEO industry
members as possible. To achieve that we need to make our effort
visible and promote it. And most important is to start at once to
proceed forward.

> Implementation: how has it been implemented before and how can we
> improve upon that process?
> i'm not going to type libelous statements here.. but .. well.. bruce
> clay posted this a while back and dave snyder's company uses it.. to
> their success... and let's just say other methods have umm.. failed..

Lets make Bruce Clay "SEO Code of Ethics" as our basic materials to
start with. Also if you know of other materials, you are most welcome
to bring it to the table.


Aug 28, 2008, 6:30:36 PM8/28/08
to SEO Code of Ethics

I'm posting Bruce Clay's "SEO Code of Ethics" (SCOE) just to take a
look and see where we can add value, and if there is an item we wish
to see ammended or removed:

Whereas all parties are working towards presenting relevant and high
quality information in an easy to use format to information seekers,
and whereas SEO practitioners are being contracted to assist clients
in obtaining higher rankings for client pages, we (and those linking
to this page) are voluntarily adhering to the below SEO Code of

No SEO practitioner will intentionally do harm to a client. This
involves the continued use of any technology or procedure (without
appropriate care) that is known to result in having the client site
removed from search engine indexes or directories, or rendered
inoperative. Questionable adherence to standards must be addressed via
the Robots Exclusion Standard.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any specifically
published and enforced rules of search engines or directories. Should
rules and guidelines change (as they often do), the SEO practitioner
will promptly take action to comply with the changes as they apply to
all clients. Where rules and guidelines are unclear, the SEO
practitioner will seek clarification and await approval from the
appropriate search engine before continuing to utilize potentially
harmful technology or procedures.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally mislead, harm, or offend a
consumer. All individuals utilizing a search engine to visit a site
will not be misled by the information presented to or by the search
engine, or harmed or offended upon arrival at the client site. This
includes techniques like "bait and switch" where the client page does
not substantially contain and is not clearly associated with the
optimized phrase, or may be reasonably offensive to targeted visitors.

No SEO practitioner will intentionally violate any laws. This involves
the deliberate and continued violation of copyright, trademark,
servicemark, or laws related to spamming as they may exist at the
state, federal, or international level.

No SEO practitioner will falsely represent the content of the client
site. This includes the practice of presenting different versions of
web pages to different users except where that information is altered
solely to meet browser specifications and needs, sensitivity to
regional factors such as language, or product specific needs. In
general, ALL requests for a specific URL should be served identical
HTML by the web server.

No SEO practitioner will falsely represent others work as their own.
This includes the taking of work from others in whole or in part and
representing this work as their own. The SEO practitioner may not make
verbatim copies of the work of others (instead of authoring original
work) without the prior consent of the other party.

No SEO practitioner will misrepresent their own abilities, education,
training, standards of performance, certifications, trade group
affiliations, technical inventory, or experiences to others. This
includes quantifiable statements related to project timetables,
performance history, company resources (staff, equipment, and
proprietary products), and client lists. Guarantees will be restricted
to items over which the SEO practitioner has significant and
reasonable control.

No SEO practitioner will participate in a conflict of interest without
prior notice to all parties involved. This includes the practice of
choosing to emphasize one client over another in competing keywords
because there is more personal gain for the practitioner. All clients
are treated equally and all will receive equal best effort in their
Search Engine Optimization.

No SEO practitioner will set unreasonable client expectations. This
includes the practice of accepting more than a reasonable number of
clients competing for the same keywords and implying that all will be
in the top positions in the search engines. This also includes the
implication that results can be obtained in an unreasonable amount of
time given the known condition of the search engines, client site, and

All SEO practitioners will offer their clients both internal and
external dispute resolution procedures. This includes the publishing
of address and phone numbers on primary web pages, the inclusion of
third-party dispute resolution links prominently placed within the
practitioners web site, and contracts that include sections discussing
dispute resolution.

All SEO practitioners will protect the confidentiality and anonymity
of their clients with regards to privileged information and items
implying testimonial support for the SEO practitioner. All staff of
SEO practitioner shall be bound to protect information that is not
generally known as it may harm the client. The SEO practitioner will
not include the publishing of testimonials and proprietary logos of
client lists, press releases, and other collateral discussing the
client without explicit approvals.

All SEO practitioners will work to their best ability to increase or
retain the rankings of client sites. Clients are contracting for fee
with the SEO practitioner in order to obtain and retain search engine
placement. The SEO practitioner is charged with an obligation to
utilize appropriate and allowed technology and methodologies to
improve and retain the rankings for their clients in the face of
shifting search engine technology, competition, and client web site


Aug 29, 2008, 7:11:17 AM8/29/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Sorry All ...bit late to get active........... It's great to see
participation, since now we are taking BC as base for our discussion
and taking it to next level, we need to make effort in order to bring
this issue among as many as people and encourage SEO practitioner's to
share their views.

I think someone needs to start making database of people who want to
be part of this movement and abide to follow the outcome of this




Aug 29, 2008, 12:13:02 PM8/29/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
let's keep it simple..
no database needed, people interested will join... those that won't
will either lurk/read anonymously or try and disrupt...

we have mods for disruption...

David Keffen

Aug 30, 2008, 8:49:39 PM8/30/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
As some here may know we too have a code of ethics at and have no problem
living up to the standards we declare.

Difficult subject this. I think Dave Snyder makes a good point when he
mentions personal responsibility. Having said this, I do wonder if it
might become a matter of good practice for companies to declare their
ethics openly.

In this litigious age, most genuine SEM / SEO companies will be wary
not to promise more than they can achieve, but by the same token
potential clients might like to see that they are confident enough to
'nail their colours to the mast' so to speak, in other words clients
must appreciate such declarations and see them as a potential way to
get redress if the company strays into dubious marketing techniques.


Aug 31, 2008, 3:15:53 AM8/31/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
In addition to Bruce Clay's "SEO Code of Ethics", suggest to include
in our basic material for further discussion David Keffen's "SEO
Standards Declaration"
and Dave Snyder's "SEO Ethics"

On Aug 31, 2:49 am, David Keffen <> wrote:
> As some here may know we too have a code of ethics at have no problem

Dana Lookadoo

Aug 31, 2008, 2:33:00 PM8/31/08
to SEO Code of Ethics

You have some valuable input here. A good contract can cover some
litigious aspects, and a good practice is to have an Opportunity to
Cure clause as well as Indemnification by which a lawsuit cannot
exceed the value of a contract. I realize this is a separate issue,
and Sarah Bird of SEOmoz has covered this subject well on their site.

However, legalities are related in the fact a client who perceives a
firm is doing all possible in an ethical manner may be less prone to
bring a lawsuit. Bottom line and repeating you... " SEM / SEO
companies will be wary not to promise more than they can achieve." We
should under promise and over deliver!

David Keffen

Sep 1, 2008, 8:23:11 AM9/1/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Dana and Other Group Members

Yes, I agree an Opportunity to Cure clause is essential for any
company.No self-respecting company in any sector will not want to have
every opportunity to 'put things right' so to speak if the client
perceives (either rightly or wrongly) that an injustice has taken

I feel that a declaration of standards is just another one of the
things a potential client can tick off in their minds when looking for
a legitimate SEO company. It falls in the same group as (I'm going to
say this in UK mode - I'm sure you'll work out the US equiv.): Whether
they are a registered company, whether they charge VAT, what results
they have already achieved for other companies, whether they have a
contact telephone number, a contact address and the name of a real
person to contact.

Of course, not all of the above are vital, but I'm sure you, like us
look for these sort of indicators that a company is genuine or not.
You might even go as far as looking for a Dun and Bradstreet number to
check their credentials.

I agree that it is vital not to promise more than we can achieve, and
with the face of acceptable SEO practices changing from time to time,
we would need to be careful to review our declarations regularly and
amend them where appropriate. These changes would then need to be
passed to our existing clients as soon as they are made. We would have
already made a clause in our main service contract that would allow us
to do this.

On the main issue: IMHO For a governing body to truly work, it would
have to be completely neutral (difficult at best) and not a money-
making racket. This could only mean no advertising unless funds were
used exclusively for genuine administration.

The trouble with our business is that we are mostly in it to generate
money on-line. Affiliate marketing is on most SEO's minds and none of
us would feel much like lining the pockets of a fellow marketeer
running a 'standards' site.

I think the key to making an organization work would be by finding a
unique way to fund the administration and by open election of officers
who would form a standards committee. Having said this, I HATE
committees. Committees often make watered-down, ill-informed, out-
dated, unfairly-loaded decisions. (I am speaking from personal
experience of someone who has sat on a number of business and trade,
including executive committees over the years).

For a true set of standards to be arrived at, there would possibly
need to be a full referendum open to all SEO / SEM firms. All could
supply a list of standards they would like to see implemented. This
list would then be added to a master list of all the suggested

These could then be made available and voted on by all the companies
involved. Only those that, say 80% of voters agreed on could start to
be called agreed standards.

I doubt that a 100% agreed list would be long enough to call a SET of
standards. ;) There would also need to be agreed review dates, when
voting would re-occur to keep standards current.

Difficult I know and not a definitive set of ideas, but I thought I'd
share a few things I've been mulling over for a while.



Sep 2, 2008, 11:19:10 AM9/2/08
to SEO Code of Ethics

i agree with all of your points.

my purpose is to set some type of agreed upon standards (enough group
input to cover all the bases)

as far as a governing body... not a good idea, specifically for the
reasons you mentioned.

i don't want to be party to a lawsuit because an unethical person
doing seo decides to post the product of the discussion, we certify
them then they violate the rules.

we should come up with a list of desceriptive seo functions and post
on our website we agree to these tenets.

Dana Lookadoo

Sep 2, 2008, 12:10:58 PM9/2/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Super good input, Dave! Laughing about your take on committees.
Agreed! Paisley, agree with you, too.

Maybe we don't use the term, "standards," since this does infer
governing body. I believe we are all for no governing and full
voluntary implementation. However, there should be some cornerstone
against which to compare, a SET as Dave mentioned. Maybe the approach
we are striving for is "de facto."

From Wikipedia:
"De facto is a Latin expression that means "of the fact" or "in
practice" but not ordained by law. It is commonly used in contrast to
de jure (which means "by law") when referring to matters of law,
governance, or technique (such as standards) that are found in the
common experience as created or developed without or contrary to a

de facto SEO Code of Ethics :-)

Webmaster T

Sep 6, 2008, 4:37:41 PM9/6/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Standards won't work. Too many cowboys and too many people who put
self interest in front of all else. ie: what is good for me is good
for the industry.
I was interested participating more until I saw the Bruce Clay code
was being held up as a model. It shouldn't if for no other reason then
where it came from. It is a sham and was put up because he was removed
from both professional Orgs that vet members. The Code is a sham to
sell services and will bite you in the asse if you hold it up as an
example. But who knows perhaps that's what this is really about...
more publicity for BruceClay LLC. At the very least it will deter many
from joining your crusade, me included.

Dana Lookadoo

Sep 7, 2008, 1:46:32 AM9/7/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Webmaster T,
Standards, at this point, won't work. Agreed!! It will take the
industry as a whole. What's the point? Personally, I don't envision
regulation or standards. I'd like to see this as a collaborative
effort to develop a template for best practices that we can each apply
and modify as our personal promise for how we do business, to set an
example. An example for whom? For customers, for those who don't know
better, to help expose the snail oil SEOs.

Thank you for your input regarding Bruce Clay's code. That's
definitely worth investigating and understanding more.

Why were we looking at Bruce Clay? The company is visible. Again,
there are others. Why re-invent the wheel from scratch? hmmm...
reinvent the wheel...maybe that's something that IS needed in this
industry. There are additional codes of ethics upon which we can
build a template as mentioned above. We'd appreciate your suggestions
even if you do not want to participate. There have been multiple
initiatives prior to this. All have failed or suffered from self
interest. I believe the core of those who are in support agree that
we don't want any linkbait nor do we want to use this as a platform to
sell services. We have not received any input by Bruce Clay or any
other SEO "leaders."

hmm... thinking more... With no input and no industry backing, will
this make a difference?

It's interesting that so many agree there are problems, dire issues.
We can sit around and complain about it or do something about it,
collaboratively or individually. We can at least come together as a
unified force to make a dent.

Bottom line, ethics is a personal issue that cannot be regulated.


Sep 7, 2008, 7:27:23 PM9/7/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
webmaster T.

if u have issues with bruce clay
a. please don't post it in this group.
b. legal grounds should be taken to an attorney not aired in a google
c. bruce clay has been around as long as i have (seo since 1995), so
show some respect.
d. this isn't about publicity for bruce clay.. but if you do seo.. he
is integral to the history of SEO.

this isn't about publicity for anyone, it's about trying to solve a
problem, which is the people that are into publicity and not providing
good seo service.
please read he rest of the group before you jump to assumptions.

Dana Lookadoo

Sep 8, 2008, 1:01:51 PM9/8/08
to SEO Code of Ethics
Well said, Paisley!
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