Successful & Ethical: Divergent Goals or Realistic Ideal?
About The Author:Vacheh Joakim is the CEO of Evoba (www.evoba.com), a Los Angeles-based Internet Marketing firm, with strong emphases on organic search marketing, content development, and social media marketing services.
In any study of ethics, there is a distinct possibility for the student to come across philosophical as well as pragmatic discourse which originates from sources which are less than perfectly ethical. This writing is not meant to preach ethical behavior, but to champion the notion that ethics and success are not mutually exclusive.
In its most basic form, ethical business behavior is charging a fair price for services rendered. If this basic principle is not adhered to, then we are already on the wrong track. To be on sure ethical footing, the most important thing is to honestly evaluate the quality of your services; then, and only then, should you develop a pricing structure that’s based on the value your services can provide to potential clients. If this foundation is not laid properly, then the remainder of the client-provider relationship is going to be fraught with pitfalls.
One of the most important elements of trusted relationships; it is of paramount importance that you not allow any roadblocks to sidetrack the building of strong trust bonds. Having unfair and poorly thought out pricing schemes will inevitably lead to backpedaling by the service provider, and the introduction of rationalizations to explain the inability to meet the client’s expectations. By pricing the service properly, the first step has been taken to prevent such an outcome.
The second foundational necessity for the building of the client-provider relationship is full disclosure—what can search engine optimization realistically achieve for a particular website? If this question is answered honestly by the search engine optimization professional, then the client will know exactly what to expect from a campaign.
Often, service providers fail to state in clear and unequivocal terms what search engine optimization is capable of doing. This behavior stems from the intense desire to ”close the deal,” and is automatically a breach of the tenet of full disclosure. There are several basic topics that should be discussed in this regard:
• First, if the potential client is not knowledgeable about what search engine optimization is, then it is the responsibility of the service provider to explain and clarify.
• Second, the potential client should be made aware of the capabilities of the specific brand of search engine optimization practiced by the SEO provider. Don’t oversell!
• Third, the limitations of search engine optimization and what it can do for that specific site should be explained. If the potential client has a brand new site with limited customization options and is looking to rank within a few months for the term ”auto insurance,” then it is the moral responsibility of the SEO professional to set the client straight and to explain the realities of SEO.
• Fourth, the client must be helped to realize that rankings alone will not translate into positive ROI. If a site ranks in the top three for a strong keyword but the website itself is not user-friendly or offers no desirable product or service, then the conversion rate will suffer greatly and not necessarily result in a positive ROI. The client must know that he is responsible for conversion tracking and improvement (assuming that’s not part of the service provider’s contractual obligations).
In addition to arming the client with valuable information, the SEO provider is obligated to clearly define their strategy for the client and keep the SEO activity within the confines of what can be safely considered white hat SEO.
If the goal of search engine optimization is organic growth and long-term sustainability (and it always should be), then by default the SEO professional should steer well clear of black and gray hat techniques. Long-term stability will always be considered more desirable (as opposed to short-term gains) by businesses that operate based on long-term goals and projections. This approach will benefit the businesses of both the service provider and the service receiver.
With just this simple realization of mutual benefit, it is possible to develop a business plan and code of ethics which have not only one’s own business interests in mind, but also (and possibly more importantly) one’s clients.
However, there is one ”drawback” to this approach: it will take time to build and develop one’s business. The coffers won’t overflow overnight; but what will happen is the initially incremental and healthy and sustainable growth of the SEO service provider/professional, and an eventual opportunity to overtake the competition and enjoy robust if not exponential growth.
Some of this growth will come from positive word of mouth and echoing ripples that spread through the increasingly powerful and popular online social landscape. At the same time, aside from benefiting from this philosophy of integrity and concern for the success of fellow business people, companies can also separate themselves from the negative publicity that surrounds the world of search engine optimization. Ultimately, one of the main goals of the Internet marketing community should be the improvement of the image of the SEO practitioner, which is currently, in some respects, the same as that of a snake oil salesman.
Principles and integrity are not easy to adhere to, especially in the face of economic hardship; however, for the person or company with foresight and a willingness to persevere through the hard times, there is greater and more sustainable success to be enjoyed. This philosophy and attitude has to be engrained in every individual who is part of a company or operates independently in the world of Internet marketing, specifically search engine optimization. If this mindset can be adopted, not only will success and ethics be able to coexist, but they will become the norm.