To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a clear definition for the term – I kind of made it up. Hear me out. “Professional ethics” has nothing to do with black-hate SEO vs. white-hate SEO. Black-hat tactics have their place and their purpose…and they wouldn’t be utilized in so many circumstances if they weren’t effective. It is when a company employes black-hat tactics that can ultimately result in a ban or penalty in the search engines without first discussing the potential consequences where the idea of “professional ethics” comes into play. I’ve worked for companies whose business philosophy stood in stark contrast to my own. A person can be great at sales without being a charlatan. A product or service with real benefits and true value essentially sells itself. Contrary to popular belief, a service can have both the same perceived and actual value. In a world without crappy products and services, the role of a salesperson would be to present individual features and their specific benefits to the prospect – not to inflate the perceived value so much so that the expectations can never be met. People must understand that “cheap” & “free” bear a far closer resemblance to “worthless” than they do to “valuable” in the world of marketing. Helping to educate the public and expose the questionable business practices of many SEO firms is my goal as a self-proclaimed Professional Ethics Proponent. I chose that term because I believe it’s a good indication of who I am, not only as it relates to SEO, but as it relates to business in general. It really goes back to the old adage, “Treat people as you would want to be treated…”.
It seems that more and more corporate bottom line revenue goals depend on taking advantage of people’s ignorance – not just in search marketing, but in relation to products and services in general. I find myself drowning in a sea of dishonesty and marketing propaganda, much of which is designed purely to mislead, misinform and misdirect. As such, I decided a long time ago that I would never intentionally mislead or misinform to turn a profit for myself or for anyone else. One can’t profit from the ignorance and misfortune of others and honestly expect Karma not to come back and bite you in the ass. Sales in general is about manipulation, in a way…even if all you’re doing is manipulating someone into buying an identical product from you, rather than your competitor. It is the intent with which you manipulate them that really matters. Selling a product or service that holds genuine value to someone who would truly benefit from it doesn’t exactly qualify as “manipulation with malicious intent”.
“Spot-A-Hack” Tip #1:
A company having “telemarketers” is a sign of its lack of commitment to providing great service. That’s not to say that every company that telemarkets is out to scam you. I’m sure there are some out there with only the best of intentions – I’ve just yet to be called by any of them. Companies that provide great service are able to rely heavily on their customers testimonials and word of mouth to “spread the news” and help to sell their service – leaving them more time to concentrate on serving their current customer base, rather than whoring themselves for business by cold-calling all the numbers on a phone list. While I’m at it, let’s establish a working definition of “telemarketer” for today’s purposes – a “telemarketer” is anyone who initiates contact with the intent to sell any product and/or service…it doesn’t have to be over the phone. Period.
If you’re a new small business owner and some dude calls saying, “You need a website…”, immediately hang up the phone. I’m not kidding. You should realize that he’s absolutely right – you do need a website. However, the fact that he called you proves you don’t want a website from him. If he (or the company he works for) was any good, they’d be too busy taking care of their current customers to be calling to tell you “we’ve built sites for tens of thousands of small business owners…” and “it’s free for a month and you can cancel anytime…”. Any charming schmo can con someone into buying something once…and when it’s free, well…then the schmo doesn’t even need to be charming. The real key to sales is generating repeat business and referrals. I wouldn’t think telemarketers get too many referrals.
We’ve Got A BUDGET To Hit People!
I’ve simply never been a “sell, sell, sell…we’ll figure out how to actually produce it later…” type. I am an “under promise and over deliver” type. I am the proactive voice saying, “hey, let’s prevent the problem rather than figuring out how to deal with it once it becomes a problem…”. Why wait for the wheel to fly off? Hey…let’s go ahead and tighten those lug nuts BEFORE the wheel flies off, shall we? I’m very much a big picture girl and I refuse to set myself up to fail. Ironically, because of that I also tend to be a thorn in the sides of those willing to sacrifice a company’s long-term reputation in favor of reaching short-term bottom line revenue goals.
Need an example? Here ya go…I was working for a lawn care company when I uttered the following statement during a staff meeting the week before Easter:
“Uh, yeah…I understand that we’ve got a budget to hit next week, but I’m not the genius who created this budget without realizing that Easter comes around about the SAME TIME EVERY YEAR. Treating lawns the Saturday before Easter might NOT be the best idea. Granted, we’ll probably hit our budget this week if we do it…but hundreds of people will be calling in on Monday to fire the bunch of fools who don’t recognize that it is stupid to spray chemicals on a lawn that will likely be the stage for Easter egg hunts less than 24 hours later…”.
People actually looked at me like I had lost my mind…as if it never dawned on them that doing something so blatantly greedy and possibly dangerous to children flies in the face of common sense. It never entered their minds that it might lead people to believe that the company cared more about money than about children’s safety. Duh. While they clearly did, and likely still do, value the bottom line above all else, at least I made my point that day. Those rules of conduct have followed me from company to company and industry to industry and have remained true no matter what rung of the corporate ladder I found myself standing on. It is simply part of who I am and not something I am willing to sacrifice for any reason.
One of the first things I learned is that there are a lot of scammers in the SEO industry, but probably no more per capita than in any other industry. There are a lot of unscrupulous individuals all over the world willing to capitalize on the general public’s ignorance. In search marketing, for every ethical professional, there are many hoping to profit from unsuspecting consumers looking for instant gratification. Inevitably, there is a price to pay for opting for a “quick fix solution” to search marketing…but most site owners don’t learn that lesson until it’s too late. They read “page one in Google in 7 days…”, picture money falling down from the sky and never stop to think, “Hey…if it’s this easy and this cheap to get to page one of Google, I wonder why everyone isn’t doing this…oh…maybe I should think this through…”.
So, there you have it – a bit of history that helps to explain the evolution of the phrase “Professional Ethics Proponent” as it applies to SEOAly. It is my own personal commitment to creating a culture of honesty, integrity and trust among my colleagues and clients. While I typically describe myself a rather cynical, I also choose to live on with the delusion that more people than not have the best of intentions…they just don’t get the kind of press that the “bad apples” do. I think my e-mail signature sums it up best: “Real integrity is doing the right thing regardless of whether or not anyone will know you did it…”.