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Marketing Ethics for SEO

I got a message on Google+ this morning from Gail Gardner. She was commenting about a post I made a few days ago Free traffic from trackbacks. In her opinion "Spamming blogs with worthless trackbacks is an unethical thing to do". She wrote a very lengthy post to explain why and also to help stop the process titled TrackBack Spam: Blacklist Blogs Using Trackback Spammers Blogging Backlink Spamming Plugins. The post and conversation really got me thinking about marketing ethics. When is it okay to market in an unethical way? Is there ever a time? Should we always use marketing ethics? What is and what is not ethical when it comes to marketing?

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Honestly there are three types of marketers in the world and the way each type handle marketing ethics is vastly different. There is the blackhat marketer, the whitehat marketer, and the greyhat marketer.

Blackhat Marketing

A blackhat marketer is a person who really doesn’t care about the world of marketing or marketing ethics. They have one goal in mind and they will use whatever practice they find that works. These are people who create fake webpages with fake links, send out blog comment and trackback spam, create fake social accounts and spam links at them and numerous other practices that most people consider unethical marketing.

Many of the automated tools you see me promote on this blog are considered by most to be unethical marketing tools. The reason is blackhat marketers use such tools to automate link building and automated link building is almost always considered blackhat and unethical.

Actually the truth is most of the marketing tools that exist are blackhat in nature. According to Google anything you do to manipulate your search results is against there terms of use and thus blackhat and this includes backlink building through automated means. Honestly when it comes to search engine marketing very few tools exist that are not blackhat in nature.

Whitehat marketing

The tools that exist that are whitehat in nature fall under a couple of categories. First there are website analysis tools – these are tools that will scan your websites and give you suggestions that you can make to your web pages to help get better SEO results. Second there are research tools – these help you research keywords, monitor your competition, and otherwise help you figure what keywords you should be targeting in your pages. Lastly there are Pay Per Click (PPC) monitor tools that help you with paid marketing efforts.

Whitehat marketing is considered to be the only form of ethical marketing. Below I have included two links that are tool ethical marketing tools. One I have mentioned before is web ceo, and the other is one found in my sidebar but I have not yet reviewed.


  • SEO PowerSuite is a complete and well rounded SEO tool for ethical marketing. It is composed of four tools. Rank Checker, website auditor, seo spyglass, and link assistant. None of these tools automate anything but all of them help you achieve better SEO.


  • Web CEO. Web CEO is my favorite ethical marketing tool. I have talked about this tool and will likely talk about it again because this tool does so much. It helps you setup social networking accounts, shows you some of the best blogging networks, monitors your website, analyses your website and tons of other tools. I did a complete review of webceo which you can certainly check out.

Greyhat Marketing

Greyhat marketing is a mixup of ethical and unethical marketing practices. Ultimately its about using blackhat marketing methods to help make life easier while having a main focus on whitehat marketing. The trouble with greyhat marketing is that no matter what methods you use, someone is saying its blackhat. So you have to pick and chose how and when to use blackhat methods very wisely.

For example trackback spam, is considered highly blackhat and very unethical as Gail pointed out, the reason for this is bloggers are VERY active online and they take great pride in the things they type. They don’t like seeing spam on their sites. Trackack spam ultimately results in no benefit to anyone except a blackhat marketer. There is no benefit to the blogger.

Spamming blog comments is another method that is considered to be blackhat. The reason is spamming blogs with comments adds no value to anyone except the blackhat marketer. A blogger loves comments, but a comment must be well thought out and actually relate in some way to the topic they posted about. Thats what makes for a useful comment. A simple comment like “nice blog” is not helpful and adds nothing of value to a blogger.

On the other hand, using tools to automate directory submission like I mentioned in my post Submit Eaze – automatic directory submission software are considered slightly less blackhat. Why? Because you are adding value to the link directory you are submitting to and you are getting something back. However most people who run link directories will tell you automation software allows for abuse of the link directory site by filling it will spam links. Its truly tought to figure out how to please everyone as a greyhat marketer.

Unethical marketing tools for ethical marketing

I personally consider myself a greyhat marketer. I use blackhat tools to do whitehat marketing.

One such tool I use is called the SEO Blog Submitter. This is a tool that automates sending comments to blogs. As I just explained above, these tools are blackhat in nature and bloggers detest them because they want USEFUL comments not spam. Thats also the reason I use this tool over any other tool on the market.

SEO Blog Submitter is a little different than most automated blog comment tools.

SEO Blog Submitter is an application that allows to perform search among blogs powered by popular blog platforms (WordPress, Drupal etc.) according to user-defined keywords. The application will not only bares blog pages but also analyze the content and retrieve specific criteria allowing you to pick blog pages suitable for SEO needs. For example all dofollow pages with PR>3, containing more than 10 comments with no need to register for commenting. After selecting blog pages, you can open them in the integrated browser and submit comments either manually or using built-in Auto Fill feature.

As the quote above explains, the reason I use this particular unethical marketing tool is because it also offers a manual mode. So I can use SEO Blog Submitter to search for blogs that allow comments without registering, I can search based on a niche, and I can easily submit a comment in manual mode. What I also do is use a comment template. This helps me speed up the process.

So I will have a default comment entered that says something like “I just found this blog and really thought it a great design and this post particularly caught my attention. I couldn’t agree with you more when you said [enter something from the blogpost here that “proves” you read it]. Thanks for sharing”. By doing this all I have to do is scan a blog post and find a interesting quote to shove in my comment. It proves I read the post even if I didn’t and makes my comment unique and useful. Its also nearly IMPOSSIBLE to see this as spam because I am manually typing in something about the topic at hand.

What type of marketer should you be?

The truth is this is a question no one can answer except you. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. Blackhat marketers tend to build a website and profit very quickly. They don’t spend the time making connections and friends and doing the long drawn out thing, which appeals to many. However at the same time, blackhat methods run a risk of getting sandboxed in Google or finding a site that was making good money suddenly stops making any money because google changes things up.

Whitehat marketing is a slow and drawn out method but builds for a long lasting business. Because whitehat marketing lies not only in search engines but also in socializing, those contacts never leave you. If you decide to change businesses or websites, your contacts are still contacts so you still have lots of support to help you get started. Also there is no risk of making anyone angry with spamming techniques.

Greyhat is faster than whitehat methods, but slower than blackhat. Also if done improperly can have the same types of negative effects as blackhat marketing. You also miss out on a lot of great interaction by using greyhat methods. However it also makes marketing easier without upseting other website owners.

So ultimately whether you want to do ethical marketing or whether you want to do unethical marketing is always a choice you have to decide. Or you could always walk that fine line of using unethical tools to do ethical marketing.

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Jay is a professional author of Search Engine, Marketing and Social networking news and also the owner of The Downliner. He has over 12 years of experience with affiliate marketing and Internet business promotions.

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