What do you consider "ethical SEO"? What types of general techniques do you use? (No need to be specific or anything here.) The only reason I ask is because everyone has their own definitions of black hat, white hat, ethical, not-so-ethical, etc. :)

11 Years
Discussion Span
Last Post by mj99

What do you consider "ethical SEO"? What types of general techniques do you use? (No need to be specific or anything here.) The only reason I ask is because everyone has their own definitions of black hat, white hat, ethical, not-so-ethical, etc. :)

I am not falling for that one. You are a smart girl. I have been reading your posts for months. You know the difference. If you really want to know what I think then find my blog.

Search for :

Google's Position Regarding Ethical Search Engine Optimization
Yahoo's Search Content Quality Guidelines
MSN's Guidelines for Successful Indexing


Ah, but there is so much to what is ethical. First thing's first. Buying links, alright. We'll categorize that under black hat seo. But what about the less heinous crimes an seo can commit?

For example, in looking at your webpage, I see you talk about keyword / keyphrase density. This would fall under the category of rewording your page content to perform better with the search engines than with your site visitors. Is this "unethically" altering your site's content to climb the ranks in the serps, as opposed to optimizing your site for the surfer and not the spider? Many people consider keyword stuffing unethical. Do you?

I also see you talk about dynamic vs static pages. I use mod_rewrite to convert dynamic php pages to appear as static html pages. Is this unethical in your eyes? I'm tricking the search engines into thinking I have a static site. I guess so, eh? :)

<< update: You edited your post while I was typing this. Going to reread and search ... >>


... I see you talk about keyword / keyphrase density ... as opposed to optimizing your site for the surfer and not the spider ...

... I'm tricking the search engines into thinking I have a static site ...

There's meeting keyphrase density and there is keyword stuffing, those are two different things altogether. Provided that the content is visitor friendly and doesn't appear too repetitive, meeting keyphrase ratios is a basic part of Ethical SEO.

Appearing to be a static web page when in fact it is a dynamic web page can be ethical, provided that the content are the same.

I reworked my blog to suit your question

Ethical Search Engine Optimization

1. Does not include hiring oppressed people to write content
2. Does not recreate someone else's material and call it their own
3. Does not artificially make a web site appear important by manipulating it's link popularity
4. Does not intentionally hide content from the visitor that the search engines can find
5. Does not create pages that have little to do with the web site or are extremely similar to other pages within the web site for the purpose of giving the web site additional depth
6. Does not engage in cloaking
7. Does not manipulate redirects of any kind for an SEO advantage particularly for pages that no longer exist
8. Does not cooperate with link building management entities, buy links from link brokers or engage in link farming
9. Does not create a web page that appears to be about one thing but has content inserted within that is unrelated and intended for the search engine to find and rank


I disagree with a couple of your points ...

Firstly, I'm not going to get into whether it's ethical or not. But I don't see a difference between subtle keyword stuffing and "meeting keyphrase density."

Secondly, your point #1. What if you have a content site (such as tutorials, etc) and you hire a copywriter? Many people earn decent livings as copywriters (ie English majors, etc) Is your copywriter forbidden from living in a 3rd world country?

Thirdly, your point #6. No cloaking at all, eh? What about automatic redirection based on user agent for non-SEO purposes. For example, suppose you have a PDA-friendly version of your website and you want users using Windows Mobile devices to automatically be directed there. Even Microsoft is guilty of redirecting users automatically based on what version of Windows they're running. I think this is more a question of whether automatic redirections based on user agent criteria is visitor friendly instead of whether it's seo ethical.

Now #7 on your list I totally disagree with! Suppose someone has a directory on their site called www.site.com/directory/. Now, suppose, for one reason or another, they need to rename their directory into www.site.com/dir/. Are you saying it is unethical to use 301 Permanent Redirects to tell the spiders that the pages have moved to a new location (from /directory/ to /dir/) and to update their listings appropriately. Is this not the true reason and usage for the creation of the 301 message?


I don't mind clarifying my position on #1, #6 and #7. I am always up for a professional discussion, that's what we do here right? I knew you were setting me up to argue about something. Well, I certainly gave you sufficient ammunition.

The difference between ethical and non-ethical SEO has always been a charged, highly opinionated matter. One that I generally try to avoid because of exactly how you responded. People seem to get emotionally involved in this issue when they dissect it. Funny thing is, this argument has been going on since the invention of the search engine and has evolved over time to mean something totally different each advancement.

It's good that you disagree. That means that you have considered the matter of SEO closely.

#1 "Is your copywriter forbidden from living in a 3rd world country?" No not at all, but hiring a copywriter that directly or indirectly uses enslaved children or people oppressed in any manner to edit text and create content, is wrong. But I didn't want to put it quite that way.

#6 We were talking about SEO techniques, not redirects "based on user agent for non-SEO purposes." Cloaking is unethical SEO when a technique is used that intentionally provides the search engine spider with one set of content in an attempt to manipulate it's importance while delivering a completely different presentation to the Internet browser, one more visitor friendly.

#7 This of course is my opinion. If a page no longer exists, then the page no longer exists.


Thank you for your feedback. :) I still disagree with that #7 of yours. Suppose you have a page with a good PR and incoming links. If you take that page down and redirect it to a different page of yours that you want to optimize and reap the benefits of the now-deleted optimized pages ... now that is unethical.

But using a 301 redirect to show that the exact same page has moved directories, now that is just fine. Suppose you have a site called www.site.com and for some reason or another, you are forced to change your domain name because your company was acquired, or changed names, or some other non-seo reason. But you have over 2,000,000 pages indexed within the site.com domain. Do you mean that you wouldn't use a 301 redirect so that you don't lose everything and have to start from scratch building your way back into the serps? At least it's your duty to tell Google, "Hey, these exact pages still exist, they have just moved to a new location."


Good questions. Rememeber that redirects and cloaking are not the same thing, but you clearly have a solid argument with regards to redirecting.

If a web page or a web site has moved somewhere else, then it is natural to direct the visitor and attempt to direct the spider to the location of the web page or web site. This is helpful to both the visitor and the search engine.

If the page or site no longer exist, then to redirect the visitor and even the spider to another altogether different page or site for the intent to move importance from one page to another or from one web site to another that has yet to merit this importance, is in fact unethical. Does this mean that the new web page or the new web site has to start from the bottom and move it's way up the SERPs like the rest of the pages on the Internet, yes. That is the game fairly played.


I totally agree with that. Why then, did you classify my previous example unethical when I said that I renamed /directory/ to /dir/ and want to use a 301 redirect to tell Google to find the pages at their new URL? (from post #15)

Still want to hear what you have to say about mod_rewrite :)


"... Why then, did you classify my previous example unethical ..."

I must have read it wrong, my eyes are fatigued I had a long day. I had coming to Daniweb on my "things to do list" for today. I haven't been visiting you folks much lately and felt I should contribute once in a while. I really support your work here, it is a good place for all SEO enthusiasts from novice to guru. I hope I clarified my feeling about 301 redirect in a later posting. I am sure we'll run into this argument again sometime.

I didn't want to comment on "mod_rewrite" because that is beyond my scope. I sorta' understand what it is, somewhat, but I am not qualified to be either for or againsts this as far as SEO is concerned.

Hope we can do this again real soon! ( a sleepy eyed smilie )


Alright, nitey nite! I'll take a raincheck for giving a mod_rewrite introduction :)


The only ethics that really matter are those defined by Google. Anything else is pretty much just Holier Than Thou Hogwash. Be found, make sales, don't hurt anyone in the process. :-)

This topic has been dead for over six months. Start a new discussion instead.
Have something to contribute to this discussion? Please be thoughtful, detailed and courteous, and be sure to adhere to our posting rules.