There are a lot of members of Daniweb who run their own websites, and even many members who run SEO firms. I've given SEO a lot of thought, and I can only conclude this:

[b]SEO is totally unethical. At it's foundation, all you are doing is artificially effecting your search engine rankings - it's not occuring naturally.[/b]

To me, the best type of SEO is popularity. The more popular your site is, the higher ranked you would be (based on backlinks, etc). Simple and clear :o .

I really feel that SEO is comparable with changing an unborn child's genetic makeup for sex, appearence, etc. It's just totally artificial!

What do you guys think?

palanivelraja commented: If it is unethical then 80% of websites ranked unethical. SEO makes the website quality as per search engines algorithm +0
Dinesh_22 commented: No...Search Engine Optimization is Purely ethical. You can refer white hat SEO techniques in Google. +0
TERAP commented: I don't know if someone else mentioned this, but are you thinking ads and commercials are unethical too? +0
deepakdubey commented: SEO is completely ethical. And I think you dont know anything about SEO. +0

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All 31 Replies

This might sound really dumb but whats SEO?

SEO is search engine optimization. It's all of the techniques that are used to get good rankings on search engines. There is ethical SEO and then there is unethical SEO. Ethical SEO is doing everything you can to make it easy on the search spiders. When spiders have an easy time spidering your site and indexing the content, they'll crawl deeper and be more likely to rank your site higher. Ethical SEO tips and techniques are most often common sense: good page titles and meta tags, no & and ? characters in URLs, clear / easy text-based navigation that is not more than 3-4 levels deep, content-rich text-based sites with as little Flash/JavaScript/DHTML as possible, optimized HTML/XHTML code that conforms to the proper standards, etc. etc. etc.

Unethical SEO is stems from what you, yourself, said: The more popular your site is, the higher ranked you would be (based on backlinks, etc). Unethical SEO (or rather borderline black hat SEO) can include artificially increasing this "popularity" (aka Google PR) value by buying links on other sites, etc.

Unethical SEO (or rather borderline black hat SEO) can include artificially increasing this "popularity" (aka Google PR) value by buying links on other sites, etc.

This is what I really think of, when I think SEO. Services like SEOGuy do this, right?

I don't know how they can justify this practice... I guess profit helps :evil:

Yes, most SEO companies do act as link brokers, in addition to all of the other SEO techniques (those mentioned above as well as many others). Personally, I think that link building isn't unethical. A good link building campaign can be in the form of the DaniWeb Link Directory, for example. In addition, I think it's okay to pay for high quality, relevant, targeted text links on other sites - it's just a form of advertising (not unlike banners) that has some added search engine benefit as well. It's when people buy mass amounts of completely untargeted, cheap, sleezy links just for SEO benefit - that's where it begins to cross the line. Then of course you get into all of the other black hat SEO techniques ... cloaking (showing googlebot and other spiders one version of a page while showing other surfers a different version), hidden text, doorway pages, duplicate content, artificially generated traffic, artificially generated content, etc.

It really is a shame when people like you, who aren't well-educated in SEO, attach it to only the sleezy, black hat techniques. That really isn't what SEO is about at all. Basically, we need to educate the public about what SEO really is.

Just to add, if SEO was really not on the up-and-up, Google wouldn't have created a page recommending that webmasters learn SEO techniques and even consider hiring a search engine optimizer / SEO consultant! Check it out ...

In fact, straight off the Google site:

Many SEOs provide useful services for website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted. However, there are a few unethical SEOs who have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results.

Sound familiar to what I had to say above, doesn't it? ;)

I'm not sure whether SEO is unethical or not, to be honest.... the desire to appear within the top listings is fair enough... attempting to ensure that your site is their is only natural. If this requires optimisation, then fine.

What I beleive to be unethical is the methods by which some/most/all the SE work.

The rating of a site based upon content -- this is good, fair and sensible!
The rating of a site when it utilises graphics, a facy menu (non-txt-flash/js/j), has many levels, contains video, audio, flash files, uses tables for layout, doesn't contain <HD> tages, has a frontwelcome/home page with little content... not good, unfair and completely pout of date!

If I make a WS that is simply made of sole html, with no graphics, tons of bland txt, use bland txt links, has a huge <HD1> tage for the page title, a <HD2> for Section titles and <HD3> tags for sub-section titles, I place the words from my hdr, page/section/subsection titles as keywords and phrases... I can almost gaurentee being in the top three on almost all SE.

Yet thats the best way to get to the top without paying for it!

mentioning paying... now, depending on what you pay for raises ethics!
Some literally optimise your site... better Kwords+phrases, ensuring proper structure etc. This is good.
Placing links onlink indexes solely created of SEO, placing ads everywhere, this is not good!

(incase you haven't guessed, I'm not impressed with how SE perform the decision making process based on content and design... if you have a affect based site or one that utilses strong coding or graphics, you get shafted!)

SEO is anything but unethical, it's a talent that should be taken seriously.

I agree that there are unethical ways to do SEO... and people who are new may fall into those ways only out of lack of knowledge and experience. Now the unethical question really falls onto the person doing the SEO. And to be honest, from what I have found any truly unethical practices will get your site band from search engines... which is comparable to death by stoning!

So, to answer the question. SEO is not unethical, people are!

so you don't think the way the SE operate or grade sites is outdated or biased towards certain styles of design?
You think it's perfectly fair that a media based site should be penailised for having a media welcome rather than a txt welcome? That sites that fall outside the standard categories should suffer? That sites that use strong coding are automatically less important than those coded with txt links?

yep, thats obviously fair and ethical.
So's the fact that those who own the SE are able to charge and place those that pay above others....

"money makes money, no money makes little or less!"

so you don't think the way the SE operate or grade sites is outdated or biased towards certain styles of design?

No I don't... with both google and MSN coming out with new engines this year I think that search engines are bringing up better results, based on things that are well known... like content!

You think it's perfectly fair that a media based site should be penailised for having a media welcome rather than a txt welcome? That sites that fall outside the standard categories should suffer? That sites that use strong coding are automatically less important than those coded with txt links?

Persoanly I think "welcome" or "enter" pages are outdated, I want information when I go to a site, not a pretty image, or media with a little 'skip intro' button... and generally the design is really bad.
I think that category selection is very important, and most time overlooked. However I do think that the categories are in need of an update.
Strong coding vs. Text links - first off, not sure what you consider strong coding... but it would include text links, that are relevant to the site. There is nothing unethical about placing a few relevant text links on a website to gain PR... becoming a link farm is unethical, and will most times get you banned! SEO is not the problem, the people using unethical practices are.

yep, thats obviously fair and ethical.
So's the fact that those who own the SE are able to charge and place those that pay above others....

Fair - in accordance with standards.
Ethical - conforming to accepted principles of right and wrong.
If you do SEO right you are both fair and ethical... saying the entire thing is unethical just seems like you don't understand how to optimize your site.

Businesses are in business for ONE REASON... to make a profit. If someone is willing to pay to get a top spot let them... I have number one rankings for things based on content, and my optimization... not paying for it. Don't get upset at the SE because they run a good business.

I come back at you like this only for the sake of debate. If you can prove your case to me than I might change my mind, but I doubt it.

To clarify...strong coding as in JS menu systems etc.

I am not disagreeing about the ethics of business... what I am "complaining" (and I am, I like a good whinge every now and then! LOL), is the fact that sites get little rating based on design, flair, layout etc...... if you generate something bland and basic, you actually have a better chance at the top 10.... where as having a well structured site with nice little extras gets you no where else, or worse, lower in the rankings because the SE doesn't like JS menu's, flash etc.

Why aren't these things supported by the SEO, considering there so common place... maybe not mainstream, but enough sites utilise this stuff, yet suffer for it?

Try me... go on! Build a content for a web site consisting of around 20 pages... have 3 pages set 3 deep, 2 pages set 4 deep, the rest can all be on level 1.
Then you build two sites... one bland, stuck the txt in the html, stick a couple of HD tags in, txt link the pages... done! The other, use a js menu, add grapics and layout... make the content defined and attention grabbing with visual aids... possible add media etc.
The first site will come out on top!

IMO, this is the unfair part. I also believe it to be unethical due to the SE's keeping this way.... in a way, it makes the design process a little backwards... whats the use of making a site with the extras?

Then again... what would the alternative be? A program can't validate the appropriateness of media file attachments, not the quality of images or animation, or even conceptualise design flair... .the only way to produce a more appreciable SE system would be to have human viewers perform all the ranking scores... which would take for ever!

So, what makes using an outdated language like JS strong. Let me introduce you to some things called WEB STANDARDS AND ACCESSABILITY.

Good websites are comprised of two major parts. The content, which is your XHTML document which has all your markup. (I use div tags, but tables would work just as well) Then you have the design, which should all be located in a CSS document. All the pretty stuff goes in there.

By not seperating the two you fall into a large category of designers who only care that things work now, as opposed to working 5 years from now. But what hapeens when browsers completely phase out JS?? What happens to your strong coding then??

WEB STANDARDS not only include XHTML and CSS, but there is this thing called DOM that from what I hear works similarly to JS, but is STANDARDS COMPLIANT...

Now, ACCESSABILITY (not sure I spelled that right...), our strong JS menus mean nothing to someone who is blind, or deaf. They can not be read by screen readers of anykind.

When you utilize WEB STANDARDS AND ACCESSABILITY... it is easy to optimize the site using ETHICAL SEO methods like "title" attributes in the <a> tags (so blind people can hear your link), and like "alt" attributes in the <img> tags (so blind people can see your images).

WEB STANDARDS - look into them.... I think it is UNETHICAL that people still create websites that are not STANDARDS COMPLIANT or ACCESSIBLE to all. your stong JS navigation menus are NOT COMPLIANT OR ACCESSIBLE.

See, I think that search engines are trying to get web designers to move forward. And by doing so, I think they're really pushing CSS, which I don't necessarily see as a bad thing. You can do SO SO much with CSS nowadays. Basically, what it does is separate the content from the design, so the search engines get their content and the web surfers get their design. Could there be a more perfect medium? ;)

It's all about how you use it.
Sites that include meta tags (or hidden text within the page itself) with hundreds or thousands of target words just to get rated in a lot of categories are clearly unethical.

Just making a good design is fine, in fact it's crucial for the user experience as well.
Personally if a site uses a lot of flash I don't come back, and neither will most spiders.
Same with easy URLs and shallow site architecture. Those help not just spiders but (and that's far more important) they help humans as well.

If you need to resort to explicitly do things that have no benefit to human users in order to get those users to appear at all (so, getting your site spidered into places it shouldn't be) you'd better rethink your site (and maybe should just take it down).


1) web standards...... aren't adhered to by the most common (or less common) browsers fully. If they were, everyones life would be easier!

2) css isn't even fully supported by browsers... version 1 still needs full implementation in some modern browsers, and as for css2 + 3.... LOL... yet another 2 years away minimum. As for using tables instead of Divs... aparently thats bad form for layout! Thats what CSS is for.... tables should be for displaying statistics and other such data displays (unfortunately!)

3) phasing out is almost guarenteed..... then again... so is html! depreciation will ruin alot of sites... apart from the very bland and basic whgich look the same on all browsers, and probably will for the next 7 years until a new language is thought up!

4) Dom is a good thing.... yet suprisingly, isn't fully supported either!

5) accessability.... good point.... yet the web is primarily a a "visual" medium. No offence. I think it is a wonderful thing that we can now enable this medium to be accessed by those previously excluded from it... yet that should be a secondary sight, after ensuring a sight works. the percentage of blind or visually impaired net users isn't significant enough to warrant a strong point in design perspective.... it should be, yet thats business ethics for you!

6) as a final boost.... maybe it isn't the designers that are at fault.... maybe the browser providers should be enabling the support of visually impaired people! Maybe those that design the screen reading software should find away to read full content, rather than the singular file content of html/xml document!
I DO NOT DISAGREE with you on the accessability score.... merely pointing out that the blame is for most of society and mankind in general, not just web designers who don't bother to include such things into the base design.

I agree... (now, though still a little peeved with)....css is good. Shame that it isn't fully implemented in most browsers as yet.
I disagree with the SE doing anything helpful for web designers apart from being restrictive, yet that is merely my opinion.

what you say is true... yet no help to those sites which have a fair degree of content and design, yet get shoddy ratings due to alternative design styles.

In all, I think the SE do little in the way of things to help designers get sites rated. They have provided a loosely graded system of labelling your sites content.... so long as it adheres to a strictive markup...anything that doesn't meet the base requirements is considerd poorly and gets a low ranking.

Instead, sites should be checked for validation, and provided with code to place into the html doc.... from there, the spiders could refrence the code, check the contents match, then rate it from there. That way, thoise sites that validate and conform to standards get the ratings they desrve... those that don't get listed as such.
Further, by such uimplementation, you would enable SE and browsers to identify pages for those of differing needs or impairment, and provide strong alternatives.

Yet, because they have nothing to gain from such, this doesn't happen.


'white hat' SEO is no more unethical than hiring an advertising writer A that writes better copy than advertising write B. Is it unethical to understand the psychology of human decision making? Why then is it unethical to try to understand the algorithm of a search engine? Makes no sense to me why you would consider it so.....

I think SEO is perfectly ethical, unless you intend on manupulating a search engine to produce poor quality irrelevant results for a query. I encourage site owners to include lots of free quality text based content in adjuct to a product or service being sold. This is SEO, and is beneficial to everyone - particullarly the search engine.

I think most forms of SEO are fine... sol ong as links and txt are related to the pages/site, then not aproblem.
It's the SE themselves that cause alot of problems for designers.

Maybe a system to report bad links or shoddy sites?
a method to rate impressive sites?
a way to index them by browser compatability?
Provide code level ratings?

These are the things that cause issues, as well as poor meta tags or purposeful lies.

I see where your coming from, your almost saying that SEO is cheating right? Well SEO is used as part of any sites marketing strategy - and cost effective marleting such as 'guerilla marketing' can also be seen as encouraging people into seeing their brand without them actually looking for it. In the same way SEO is encouraging the search engines to spifer your site.
If your gonna go there, then you need to think about the way that business works, much of it could be viewed as unethical, but really it's just agressive, competitve etc etc....

At the end of the day, if you understand the rules why not use them to your sites advantage? Besides if you really are unethical then the search engines nowadays are smart enough to see what your doing and you'll get black-balled

seo has been pushing the limits like all other industries. What happens is that too many people catch on to the "secrets" and overuse them without activating their common senses. Old time search engine optimizers are usually aware of the danger that seo tunnel vision can bring along. When you build a site, do it naturally but with the search engines in the back of your mind. Seo to me is more like a "what not to do list" where I can direct the web designers to start things off right. I have been in the business for over 5 years and have seen a lot of hot shots come and go, but the good ones are still in business and will be for a long time.
I think the face of seo is changing more towards consulting rather than on site work.

Btw has anyone seen the new Google Site Map yet?


hi all,

SEO is unethical when one deliberately make an URL to be over-populated.. but this also means that Google's pageRank algorithm has flaws to it.. not technical flaws but ethical flaws.

however, it is ethical when you pay for it.

There is a new comer saw this as an opportunity to provide a better, well, I would say well-defined search engine and hope to tackle Google.

The core of is its AIR algorithm; affinity index ranking, it differs from Google’s PageRank algorithm in two ways. First, when AIR assesses the importance of a given Web page, it takes into account the topics of the pages linking to it.(PageRank considers some elements of the context surrounding an incoming link, but not the page’s overall topic.) AIR rewards pages that have on-topic incoming links. Second, AIR penalizes pages that have outgoing links to off-topic pages (PageRank does not examine a page’s outgoing links.) AIR’s dual process of rewarding and punishing pages based on the primacy of a specific topic means that the top search results for a query like refrigerators will be those closely related to buying a refrigerator, not necessary those with most incoming links, as with PageRank.

which means they actually define two types of link to a web site.
1. incoming link
2. outgoing link

Well SEO is not unethical, it just the approach we follow while promoting a website looks unethical.Its neccessary to work manually and on white hat techniques to build quality links

Hi buddy We can't call it unethical.
I would like you to explain with one eg. You see, in football or cricket each and every team develops strategies and plan to win world cup. Its not unethical. We can call it tips and tricks to remain one step ahead of your competitors.
I think same applies in each and every field.

Well, like most of the members said above SEO is actually a good thing eithcal SEO yield results and that's the reason why SEO was conied ! But also Google never talked about SEO thing they never said there is a need to form a SEO team to look after the website and all the things. It's like we people discover the tricks that to came in more of the limelight we can do a populartiy stunt its like a media person who is trying to fix the correct spotlight, if you know what I mean over here is everyone has the spotlight but the one which looks unique is going to get more attention. So, this what SEO'ers around the globe is doing they are trying to fix the correct light over themseleve so they can look unqiue from other !

To me, the best type of SEO is popularity. The more popular your site is, the higher ranked you would be (based on backlinks, etc).

Indeed. But you're neglecting the critical first step that to become popular you must be noticed. How do you get noticed when your site is a tiny drop in the bucket of the interwebs? That's what SEO accomplishes.

Nothing wrong with SEO, and it sure isn't unethical, when you are playing Googles game, you have to cater to the desires of their bots, which sure isnt unethical!

It depends on the type of SEO. Creating quality content that drives more organic traffic is ethical, as you're earning the traffic by displaying that you're an expert in your field. Black hat SEO is less ethical and includes tactics such as keyword stuffing.

commented: -1. This is 13 years ago. -3

I think as long as the product / service you are trying to promote with your SEO tactics is useful, lawful und provides value, there is nothing wrong with doing SEO.

If it is unethical then 80% of websites ranked unethical. SEO makes the website quality as per search engines algorithm

I am not agreeing your view becasue seo is extand on search engine optimization by which we can optimize any website according search engines policy and these policies are decided by search engines.

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