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The Importance of Being Honest as an SEO

White Hat SEO

Can we agree there are enough shady characters in the SEO world? The SEO community seems to have taken the phrase “No News is Good News” to mean that one can’t get anywhere in SEO without going to the dark side.

Protect your customer’s reputation

It seems every story sent across my desk about SEO has to do with a disgruntled former client or a company all too happy to ruin their customer’s reputation with black hat tactics. The ones that come to mind fastest are the NY Times articles about JC Penny or the New York sunglasses salesman using scorchingly negative reviews to generate links to his website. JC Penny was ranking ahead of Bed Bath and Beyond for bed and bathroom supplies. The sunglass salesman was ranking ahead of sites like Oakley and Ray-ban.

White hats understand that this shouldn’t be the case, especially if the main factors of Google’s algorithm, relevance and importance, are worth a damn. Of course, the reason stories like these are in the news is because black hats and shady dealings are being exposed and will almost certainly be dealt with. Because when black hats are caught and make the clients look bad, it also reflects poorly on search engines.

In many of these cases, the client, regardless of their involvement in an SEO scandal, claims they paid the agency to get them to rank but were not kept in the loop regarding the particulars. This doesn’t surprise me from a black hat firm. Or even a white hat firm actually. I have spoken with many good-guy SEO’s who try to limit their client’s knowledge about what it is they do, whether successful or not. Most say the client doesn’t care or want to learn, which is why they hired a firm. And others say the process can be too complicated to explain to a client not in the internet field.

You need to be a good teacher

If you are an SEO worth your salt, you need to be a good teacher. Walk your clients through the process in layman’s terms as best you can if they aren’t all that tech savvy. If they don’t want to know, at least they will have the comfort of thinking that you know your stuff. This will make them feel better about coming to you with questions. Or better yet, they’ll refer you to other businesses.

There are no guarantees in SEO. What works today can backfire tomorrow, what’s keeping you down could help you up in no time. However, when SEO firms use this as a shield to promise results based on vague tactics, it becomes hard to keep your hat white.

In short, your clients are paying you good money to get results, and if they ask for information regarding the results or lack thereof, give it to them. A bad scenario is that you lose the client when they don’t like your honest answers. The worst case scenario is ending up in the New York Times with a dark cloud overhead for the rest of your numbered days in the industry.

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