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Ethical and Legal Considerations in SEO and SEM

— November 21, 2022

If you want to increase your visibility and be ethical, you need to offer unique content.

At the moment, there are approximately 333.34 million businesses in the world, registered in the last two decades. All of these businesses have to make themselves noticed somehow. So, considering the sheer number of companies competing against one another, you need something to make yourself stand out. SEO and SEM have proven to be quite effective in this regard.

The problem is that over the years, many businesses have abused the power of SEO. To avoid misinformation and prevent legal problems, search engines such as Google have become craftier. Whenever someone is being unethical, they are punished. To avoid ethical and legal problems, this article will cover some necessary considerations.

How Businesses Engage in Unethical SEO and SEM

There are various ways in which a business may engage in unethical SEO or SEM practices. The most common one to be avoided is keyword stuffing. This action involves placing a lot of keywords in your text, even listing them out, without considering their relevance to your context.

Cloaking is also a common unethical method. Here, you give the search engine bots a certain type of information, while your readers get something different. The type of content is misleading and often has no actual use for your readers.

Mirror websites are also very common. Here, businesses use multiple websites to host the same content. The only difference is the URL. Companies frequently use this together with link farming, which artificially improves the popularity of the website. 

If a company uses these kinds of SEO/SEM techniques, they risk being penalized by the search engine. Google is particularly thorough when these unethical strategies are used. The more penalties you get, the lower your page will go on the search engine. 

If there is clear proof that you used such practices, you even risk a lawsuit. For example, if you use the same content that a different company posted, you may be sued for copyright. This can easily cause you to run out of business due to bankruptcy. 

Differences Between Unethical and Ethical Practices

For the most part, there are two types of SEO/SEM techniques: white hat and black hat. White hat SEO is the kind that you need to go for. It is the content that Google sees as ethical, with useful and clear content.

White hat techniques include fresh and relevant content that can be of use to your reader. You are using a natural keyword density that does not seem forced, and you are making/getting the appropriate links from other experts in the industry. With white hat techniques, you are also using relevant titles and optimized images to not mislead your readers. 

Black hat techniques are the complete opposite. Most of the time, they are not perceived as illegal. That being said, the SEO community does not see this technique in a very good light. Someone that is working honestly to gain clients may not like that you are trying to cheat your way into the business circle.

Moreover, by using black hat SEO, customers may question your integrity. This content is frequently referred to as “spam,” and will be treated as such. By using these types of unethical practices, you may achieve results in the short term, but the penalties won’t make it worth it. Depending on your SEO violations, you may get banned from Google altogether. 

SEO Tactics You Should Follow

At this point, you know what you should not do if you don’t want to get punished. Now, let’s move to the things that you should do. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Use the Right Keywords

The first thing you need to do if you want to remain ethical is to use the right keywords for your content. First, you should avoid keyword stuffing; search engines don’t like that. If you are writing content for guest posts, this can even get you rejected.

Man looking at SEO results on laptop; image by Campaign Creators, via
Man looking at SEO results on laptop; image by Campaign Creators, via

Most importantly, you should make sure that you are not using misleading keywords. The purpose of those words is to offer your clients an idea of what you can offer. There’s no point in suggesting that they will encounter something on your page, only to find out there’s nothing for them.

  1. Offer Unique Content

If you want to increase your visibility and be ethical, you need to offer unique content. By being original, you will establish yourself as an authority in the field. If you rely on someone else’s content, you will only establish yourself as a copycat. 

For one, if you post copied content, the search engines will pick up on it. Your content will be flagged and will likely be taken down. Secondly, you risk your clients noticing your lack of originality. 

If you can’t even be bothered to write your own content, your clients may not believe you are serious about the services you offer. When in doubt, it is always much better to go for a blogger outreach service. They will know exactly what kind of content should be provided. 

  1. Offer Transparency

Finally, to remain ethical and within legal grounds, you need to remain transparent. Be careful about how you organize your website content. It should be easy to follow, clear, and with a defined purpose. Remember, when it comes to SEO, omission is just as bad as lying.

If you are not completely transparent in the content you offer, your audience will feel like they are being deceived. This can lead to bad reviews, which can damage your reputation. It’s best that you are open and honest about everything, to prevent potential legal issues. A simple omission at the wrong moment can lead to a lawsuit.

The Bottom Line

The best way to ensure that your marketing strategy is successful is to use ethical SEO techniques. While not every black hat technique can have legal ramifications, its discovery can significantly affect your business. The safer route is to use white hat techniques, as they will paint you as an authority. This will bring more traffic to your website in the long run.

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