7 Rules of Ethical SEO You Ignore Probably as a White Hat

ethics *

What is ethics all about?

Ethics often consists of unwritten rules. Those rules – while not being official state laws or beyond them – allow us to live together in peace and prosperity. While laws and religions prevent us from inflicting the most obvious harm on others

the deeper underlying ethics of civilization make us what we are, humans.

I often have been dissatisfied with the term ethical SEO for being a bad synonym for white hat SEO which only means “not cheating the search engines”.

Ethical SEO must be more than following search engine guidelines if we want to take ethics seriously.

During my career I have been approached by numerous potential clients I was not quite happy to work with. They were not only the usual online poker or escorts type of businesses that approach me quite frequently. The cases were a little more complicated.


From rejected clients to best practices

I can’t retell the stories of all the clients I have rejected for ethical reasons but I derived some of the 7 rules of ethical SEO you ignore probably as a white hat from them. You could also call them best practices as they are derived from over a decade of business practices with often painful decisions.

  1. Don’t work for people who harm others like weapons manufacturers and those who work together with them
  2. Don’t work for people who compete with your existing or former clients (or at least not shortly after)
  3. Don’t keep on selling services that do not work anymore or are insufficient by now e.g. search engine submission, meta tag optimization, link exchange
  4. Don’t offer social media mass submission (as people in social media frown upon it)
  5. Don’t offer blog commenting as a link building measure
  6. Don’t work for companies that exploit their workers or treat them in a demeaning way
  7. Don’t work for industries you do not believe in or are in your opinion harmful for humanity


Why to apply these rules

Now the rules are not unwritten anymore. Abiding by them is very difficult and like with religion, everybody sins from time to time. You can at least try to abide by those 7 rules of ethical SEO though.

Why should you limit yourself to ethical business practices?

I believe that supporting harmful businesses will sooner or later harm you or people close to you. Work for tobacco companies today and watch a family member die of cancer tomorrow. Support a company that is bad for environment and see your home devastated by the outcome of climate change next.

With 6 votes this post is the winner of the latest reader poll.

Last updated: June 15th, 2015.


* (CC BY-SA 2.0) Creative Commons image by Aditya Doshi