6-1 Blog: SEO and SEM Ethical and Legal Considerations

What are some ways that organizations engage in unethical SEO/SEM tactics? Provide examples from the case you found.

Organizations can engage in unethical SEO/SEM tactics in many ways. Regarding SEM, one way they do it is by being dishonest. An example of this would be promising a client that they will have optimal results with their PPC campaign right away, knowing that is far from the truth as this typically takes 3 to 9 months (Mordue, 2016). As for engaging in unethical SEO tactics, organizations can do this by keyword stuffing, which involves the overuse of keywords on a web page in order to rank highly on search engines. Other tactics are cloaking (presenting one version of a page to the search engines and another to users) and buying links to manipulate a site’s ranking in the search results (Rampton, 2015). Link buying was the case with J.C. Penney. More specifically, in 2010, this company was suspiciously at the top of Google’s organic search rankings for nearly every product imaginable. Upon investigation, was the discovery of thousands of unrelated websites that were linked to J.C. Penney’s (Fox, 2011). The company said that its SEO firm was responsible and that it was unaware of what was going on. Nevertheless, Google penalized J.C. Penney for it by preventing them from appearing in search results for 90 days, which had a significant impact on this retailer’s revenue.

Make a clear distinction between ethical and unethical practices.

Some ethical or “white hat” practices include using keywords and content that are relevant to the website’s visitors and creating different links for separate web pages (“Ethical SEO,” 2013). Another is adding a sitemap. Doing so allows search engines to crawl and index the pages of the website better. In contrast, an unethical or “black hat” practice would be plagiarizing content, meaning falsely representing the work of others as your own. Hiding links or making them appear less obvious to a site’s visitor would also be immoral. And exploiting security is highly unethical. An example of this would be installing a virus or software without the user’s knowledge the moment they open your website.

What are the benefits of being ethical?

By being ethical, a company won’t run the risk of being penalized or banned by search engines like Google. Also, acting ethically allows organizations to avoid legal issues that result in costly fines (Hill, 2019). As equally important, ethical behavior enhances a company’s reputation and leads to customer loyalty, which is vital for long-term success. And as some are aware, the temptation to accelerate to the top of search engine rankings can be powerful. But do not be tempted marketers because the short term gain will not be worth the long term pain.

Ethical & Unethical


Ethical SEO vs. Unethical SEO. (2013, January 14). Retrieved from https://www.optimus01.co.za/ethical-seo-vs-unethical-seo/

Fox, V. (2011, February 12). New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google. Retrieved from https://searchengineland.com/new-york-times-exposes-j-c-penney-link-scheme-that-causes-plummeting-rankings-in-google-64529

Hill, B. (2019, October 16). The Advantages of Ethical Behavior in Business. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-ethical-behavior-business-21067.html

Mordue, L. (2016, October 28). How Long Does PPC Take to Get Optimal Results? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.jdrgroup.co.uk/digital-prosperity-blog/how-long-does-ppc-take-to-get-optimal-results

Rampton, J. (2015, July 29). 25 Black Hat Techniques that are Killing Your SEO. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2015/07/29/25-black-hat-techniques-that-are-killing-your-seo/#1372c7b76431



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