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  • Writer's pictureMark A Preston

Ethical SEO: There is no magic SEO wand

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

When it comes to the world of SEO, I hear a lot of bad stories of business owners getting ripped off or running a marketing campaign based on the misinformed information. I had one business owner in tears speaking to me down the phone, hoping I have a magic wand to make everything better as he (yes, blokes cry as well) signed a contract with an SEO agency that verbally promised the earth and delivered nothing. Well, nothing is strictly true. They did manage to totally destroy the guys business and turn his life upside down.

Ethical SEO Wand

The truth is, nobody has a magic wand and success takes time to develop when it comes to SEO but if you play by the rules in the first place, you will reap long-term success.

The SEO secret no digital marketing or SEO agencies want you to know

I have been performing SEO since 2001 and I will let you into a secret that no SEO agencies want you to hear.

The art of ethical SEO has changed very little over the past fifteen years. If you read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines they clearly state what is acceptable and what is not. All the SEO consultants that tell you that your rankings have dramatically dropped because Google launched an update are telling you the truth – BUT the real truth is, each time Google release an update (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and all the other animals in the Google zoo) they are just getting a little better at establishing who conforms to their rules and who doesn’t. The simple fact is, if your website rankings drop like a stone, the person or agency performing your SEO has been gambling with the future of your business by performing unethical SEO techniques that go against their guidelines and the new update has found them out.

Google doesn’t care about you or your business

It is a fact. In my opinion, Google is only interested in two main things:

  1. Making revenue to keep the monster alive.

  2. Increasing the quality of their user experience.

If you look at Google as a business, they are mainly an advertising company. In fact, around 89% of their annual revenue (US$66 billion) comes from selling advertising. The organic listings that SEO consultants are fighting over to secure the number one spot is a massive cost to maintain so if you do not play by the rules, Google has no problem at all with knocking you off your perch.

It was way back in mid-February 2013 when this became very clear as Google sent one almighty message out to the SEO world by totally removing the flower giant Interflora from its search engine. In fact, their website did not even appear within the organic listings for their own brand name. Considering that it was the run-up to Mother’s Day, it could not have come at a worse time. It turned out that the SEO team behind the Interflora website was buying links on top newspaper websites for the purpose of increasing rankings and Google clearly state they have a zero tolerance on paid links.

It does not matter who you are, if you are interested in building a long-term future for your business, it is vital you work with an SEO that knows exactly what they are doing and will always put the future of your business or company first.

Just because you are ranking, doesn’t mean its ethical SEO

I have been providing white label SEO to digital marketing agencies of all sizes for over ten years now and one thing I have noticed is more and more agencies are just buying links, paying authors to post a link and posting links on websites that have been built for the sole purpose of increasing rankings, otherwise known as, private blog networks.

SEO consultants are still using these link building techniques that Google clearly state are against their guidelines because they still work and work very well. Google have now clamped down on the really spammy stuff which is good news but the Google machine is still finding it quite hard to determine which links have been paid for and which have not.

If that is the case, why don’t we just buy links to increase rankings? Because it is clear to see which links have been paid for and which sites are part of a private blog network if you look at them. The machine might not be able to tell but anyone who understands SEO will know for sure.

Google have a team of people who get paid to manually go through websites to manually check to see if they conform to the guidelines and if they don’t, the owner of the site will receive a manual webspam penalty and de-ranked. In some cases the rankings will never return – even after you clean your link profile up.

Do you really want to gamble with the future growth of your business by paying for quick wins when ethical SEO techniques may take a little longer to secure results but will be sustained?

How can I tell if an SEO uses ethical techniques?

The simple fact is, SEO consultants and digital marketing agencies are very clever at hiding the fact that their SEO techniques are unethical. You can do all the pre sales research in the world and still end up getting burnt. Any results or testimonials they show you will obviously not show any dodgy work.

The thing I would say is that an ethical SEO is usually totally transparent and will tell you exactly what they have been doing in order to secure results and meet targets and goals. They will even provide you with a list of new links secured and detail how they secured those links. If there is any trace that those links have been purchased, it is a big sign not to continue using that person or agency. Anyone who fails to provide you with this information are obviously hiding something.


About the author

Mark A Preston

Mark A Preston: SEO trainer & speaker with over 2 decades (since 2001) experience in the SEO industry. Host of 'The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast'. Author of 'The Business Side of SEO' and 'The SEO Freelancer Survival Handbook', SEO Business Books.


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