MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Ethics in Search Engine Optimization

I’m feeling a little behind with my post here, but I just want to say what a great class Monday was! Unfortunately, co-op interviews kept me from Wednesday’s class but by reading the posts, it also seemed just as thought provoking.

Calum Nairn has to be one of the best speakers we’ve had this term. He seems to very much enjoy what he does for a living. I always love watching or listening to people who are passionate about what they do. It gets me very excited about the subject too. I guess that goes back to the Passion post from Managing the Gray I talked about before. Passion is certainly contagious and I think I caught it from Nairn.

I was trying to think of a way to sum up everything he showed us in this post but I don’t think that is possible. Thinking back it’s hard to figure out how he was able to fit everything in the hour and a half he had with us!

One of the more prevalent topics that sticks out to me is about search engine optimization (SEO). That he is able to keep his sites at the top of the Google search is quite an incredible feat. I feel very privileged to have such information now. It kind of makes me wonder though: who else knows this and who else is controlling the information that we receive when we naively Google something on the internet? It may be silly of me but I always thought that the top of the search results meant that it was the most credible source or the most viewed or something along those lines. I will view my results with a little more caution from now on.

Having this knowledge and let’s say “power” that’s associated with SEO is a little troublesome. It’s kind of like, is it ethically right to skew these results to make my organization be number one? Does it make it right knowing other people in similar organizations will do it too? As much as I would want my site to be popular based on merit is it wrong to use SEO to achieve my own agenda?

To answer these questions of course I had to do a Google search. Interestingly enough there is a Code of Ethics for Search Engine Optimization. Please take a look!  Once again I naively chose the first option but hey- it works!

What are your thoughts about ethics and search engine optimization? Do tell.


June 15, 2009 - Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , ,


  1. Tracey,

    I totally agree. I was having some of the same thoughts after our class. I guess in my opinion, SEO is almost like advertising or marketing – organizations do it to promote themselves, raise their profile and seem relevant. Regardless of what you think about advertising/ marketing ethics, it’s all relative… everyone does it, everyone hates it, but everyone expects it.

    I think the main point, which you discussed, is who knows about it. If we know that we are being advertised to or that organizations are using SEO to be more prevalent on Google then it’s free game, as far as I’m concerned. WE need to be educated, think critically and make decisions. BUT people need to know what is real and what is being created in order to make those decisions. I also feel very privileged to know about this, and will educate people about it too!

    Comment by beewilly | June 15, 2009 | Reply

  2. Tracey, thank you for your very kind words.

    Having set up Google alerts for my own vanity was “alerted” to your post. One of the many reasons I am a fan of Google.

    Another reason is of course is when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, and you make a very valid point with the question “is it ethically right to skew these results to make my organization be number one?”

    My own personnel answer to the question is this: – (short answer: NO)

    Google works very hard to match an individuals search with the relevant content.
    Whilst it is possible to “skew these results” (and people do try) it is not in anyone’s best interest, and I do not think it is ethically correct to do this. Also using SEO techniques in none ethical ways would only make a short term gain with little to no advantage for any party involved.

    Having this knowledge it is in any organizations best interest to deliver great relevant “quality” information/content, this in itself will improve the experience of all involved and maximize the potential for any organization to get ranked higher in Google.

    One of the biggest mistakes many organizations make on the Internet is not researching and finding out what “word phrases” their clients are using to find them. By researching this information and then targeting these “word phrases” with “quality” content, searchers are satisfied, which is what Google is aiming to do and surely the goal of any organization is to be found and satisfy the searcher.

    So to sum up, “Content is King” targeted content is even better and keep it ethical..:-).

    Helping an organization be noticed in their relevant field and encouraging the supply of relevant targeted quality content will build a strong presence on the Internet, and therefore maximize an organizations potential to be found in an ethical way based on merit research and effort.

    That’s my opinion..:-)

    Wishing you the very best of luck for the future,


    Comment by Calum Nairn | June 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Gracia, Calum. I appreciate your responses to my students, and apologize that I didn’t see them earlier to approve them. None of us did, even though we’re all administrators on this site. We’re all learning.

    I think that your opinion of Google is much more romantic than mine. I can appreciate that they want to create the best links for information exchange, but whenever a huge organization does something to make more money, I get suspicious. I hope my students continue to ask questions that will force us all to think about power (in whatever form it takes). I hope, too, that you’ll consider teaching some day. It really was a fantastic presentation!

    Comment by doctor d | June 19, 2009 | Reply

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