An ethical question for the Warriors

39 replies
Ok long story short, I was having a chat with one of my students who is a really good prospect. The question arose as to what you could potentially do as an SEO consultant and together we thought of a few things:
  • Incorporate a backdoor so you can access their site
  • Put a hidden link to your site on their web pages
  • Place an blatant link on their site without telling them
  • Ask the owner if you can place a link on their site

Now the first one would be considered unethical, but the other three can help your site and reputation without hurting their site. Doing this for thousands of sites and you have got yourself some interesting links in.

Change niche to site building and you still have the same options and a niche where it's more acceptable. (Especially on templates)

So would you ask or would you just place it on there?
#ethical #question #warriors
  • Profile picture of the author Jere Kuisma
    I'd probably ask them about it. I bet that in most cases the answer would be yes anyways, and doing it without asking doesn't sound too customer friendly and might result in some bad feedback.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
      You are getting paid to do their SEO - not spam your own links on their website.

      If I were your customer I'd be furious. I'd also think it RUDE of you to ask to put your links on my site.

      You are considered the SEO guy. Can't you get your links elsewhere?
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    • Profile picture of the author SamuelUherek
      Originally Posted by Quahas View Post

      I'd probably ask them about it. I bet that in most cases the answer would be yes anyways, and doing it without asking doesn't sound too customer friendly and might result in some bad feedback.
      Agree. I wouldn't do it without asking. It's more professional and many of your customers will say yes anyway.

      The only case I would put the link without asking is when I design the website and sell it to them.
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  • Profile picture of the author WillR
    I would find it quite ironic that someone calling themselves an SEO consultant would need to stick their links on the sites of paying customers.

    If you truly are an SEO expert then none of the above should be needed.
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    • Profile picture of the author WriterWahm
      Originally Posted by WillR View Post

      I would find it quite ironic that someone calling themselves an SEO consultant would need to stick their links on the sites of paying customers.

      If you truly are an SEO expert then none of the above should be needed.
      Exactly! If you're an SEO expert then why would you need backlinks from your clients of all people?

      I guess you could ask although it depends on the relationship you've built with that client. If I were the client, it would make me doubt your abilities.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark72
    You definitely don't want to do anything to your client's site without first explaining to them exactly what you're doing and why.

    The only option I would even consider is the last one, but even that seems kind of unprofessional and spammy to me.
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    • Profile picture of the author davejug1
      Totally agree, it would be different if you was giving away your service for free specifically for backlinks. But since it's a paid service, only the most nefarious of folks would do that.
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  • Profile picture of the author weebeastie
    Not a good practice. Best to be upfront and ask, then you have nothing out there that can backfire on you.
    It's a small world out there for marketers. Even one or two angry customers can damage a reputation when hellbent on revenge. It's not worth taking a sneaky chance.
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Generally, if someone has to ask if something is ethical, it probably isn't.

    I would not place a link on the site, without first obtaining the client's permission.

    Further, if I thought there was any chance at all that the client's site linking to my site would hurt the client's site, then I would not even be having the discussion.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
    Banned
    Originally Posted by davejug1 View Post

    the other three can help your site and reputation without hurting their site.
    I don't even agree with this premise.

    Quite apart from its being an obvious trespass, outgoing links on any page have a negative effect on the linkjuice of any other outgoing links on that page which the owner of the site might add later. You'd be doing something that does potentially have a deleterious effect.

    Still: if you have to ask whether this is "unethical", at least we know now whether or not to employ you for any future SEO work on our sites ...
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    • Profile picture of the author davejug1
      Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

      Still: if you have to ask whether this is "unethical", at least we know now whether or not to employ you for any future SEO work on our sites ...
      Haha thanks for the vote of no confidence

      This is all good feedback because the question of ethics is one we should all ask ourselves. Are we doing right by our customers?

      Rhetoric of course, but still, they are number one, not us.
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  • Profile picture of the author Riggs
    I'd personally seek prior consent, as I think actions such as these have a good potential of damaging your customer-related trading affairs beyond repair, something I just don't think the benefit risk is worth.

    Just my two cents.
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    • Profile picture of the author Danny McConnell
      There is no world in which doing something to a client's site without their knowledge could be considered ethical, so the first three are out.

      I have to agree that as an SEO provider it seems suspect that you would need these links. I don't see that it is inherently unethical to ask their permission to place your link on their site. It could be part of your pricing strategy, for example.

      Dan
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      • Profile picture of the author davejug1
        Originally Posted by Danny McConnell View Post

        It could be part of your pricing strategy, for example.

        Dan
        Interesting. So say for example a two tiered pricing structure, one based on inserting a link.

        Just to be 100% clear on this. I don't offer SEO services, there are people far better at it than me. The question was put to me hypothetically and I promised feedback from genuine marketers.

        Thanks to you all. Knowledge rules.
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  • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
    yup, no doubt. Ask 1st, no matter what the case is, if it concerns the customer;s property which in this case is his site, then you gotta seek their permission.

    But like what the others mentioned, i dont think an SEO guy would need to be that desperate for a link on the customer site. =)

    Oh and i disabled my sig for this. =P
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Strange, there seems to be blanket agreement about leaving a backdoor access to the client's site being unethical.

      It does not have to be. I can think of two instances where it seems perfectly appropriate.

      > As a means of enforcing payment. Just like web hosts will take sites offline if the hosting bill isn't paid, the ability to disable the site with a 'down for maintenance' or other benign notice would be a form of 'repo' on a site you designed/provided. If you are doing SEO for an existing site, inserting such a back door is inappropriate unless...

      > The back door serves as a security measure in case of a hack. Some hackers will go in and actually change the username/password so that the actual site owner can't get back in. A back door allows someone (you) to reset things to the way they should be.

      As for the other three, they all seem kind of sketchy to me. See the tpw post above for my view - Bill put it just right.
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      • Profile picture of the author Global Warrior
        I think the guy that owns the site, owns the content. If you put content on his site that he hasn't asked for, i think that is unethical, no matter if he's paid for it or not.

        A backdoor with his permission would be ok as long as it was sold to them on the basis of support. To use it to shut down or disable the site due to non payment would be illegal. You cant hold people to ransom.

        My .25c worth

        GW
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        • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
          Originally Posted by Global Warrior View Post

          I think the guy that owns the site, owns the content. If you put content on his site that he hasn't asked for, i think that is unethical, no matter if he's paid for it or not.

          A backdoor with his permission would be ok as long as it was sold to them on the basis of support. To use it to shut down or disable the site due to non payment would be illegal. You cant hold people to ransom.

          My .25c worth

          GW
          There's a difference between "ransom" and repossession. Are you saying that every bank that repossess a car for non-payment or forecloses on a building is doing something illegal?

          Personally, I'd find other ways to pursue the subject, though.

          Edit: Maybe it's a sign that I was just stirring the pot here, but I just assumed the client would be told that the back door exists.
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          • Profile picture of the author Global Warrior
            Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

            There's a difference between "ransom" and repossession. Are you saying that every bank that repossess a car for non-payment or forecloses on a building is doing something illegal?

            Personally, I'd find other ways to pursue the subject, though.
            C'mon, those entities go through a process. If i had an agreement with some one that states theres a process involved in non payment disputes, fine, but if they just shut down my site, because they thought it was ok but there was an outstanding invoice, that's illegal.

            GW
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          • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
            Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

            There's a difference between "ransom" and repossession. Are you saying that every bank that repossess a car for non-payment or forecloses on a building is doing something illegal?

            Personally, I'd find other ways to pursue the subject, though.
            Wait, but you cant use this to compare.
            The banks state clearly, and before you loan from them you already know what they can do.
            It is stated in the contract or form you sign. Its an agreement term.

            But its totally wrong if you DO NOT let them know you have a back door to their site.
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          • Profile picture of the author Global Warrior
            Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

            There's a difference between "ransom" and repossession. Are you saying that every bank that repossess a car for non-payment or forecloses on a building is doing something illegal?

            Personally, I'd find other ways to pursue the subject, though.

            Edit: Maybe it's a sign that I was just stirring the pot here, but I just assumed the client would be told that the back door exists.
            Seriously NO offence taken, It sure promotes a good discussion :-) but the OP was talking about ethics....... and i guess its something very dear to a lot although sadly not all, IM'ers hearts
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            • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
              Originally Posted by Global Warrior View Post

              Seriously NO offence taken, It sure promotes a good discussion :-) but the OP was talking about ethics....... and i guess its something very dear to a lot although sadly not all, IM'ers hearts
              but i think he edited and said he assumed that the client knows there is a back door when he made that comment.

              So giving him the benefit of doubt, then yes, i think it is okay. So long as the client knows.
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              • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
                Originally Posted by Newbieee View Post

                but i think he edited and said he assumed that the client knows there is a back door when he made that comment.

                So giving him the benefit of doubt, then yes, i think it is okay. So long as the client knows.
                You and I were doing those posts at the same time, and you beat me by a minute. So instead of adding a one-line response, I just added to my post.

                To be very, very clear...

                The only ethical way to use a back door for either security or as a means of enforcing payment is to make it very clear to the client up front that the back door is there and may be used in that manner. It will be clearly stated in the operating agreement between the two parties.
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                • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
                  Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

                  You and I were doing those posts at the same time, and you beat me by a minute. So instead of adding a one-line response, I just added to my post.

                  To be very, very clear...

                  The only ethical way to use a back door for either security or as a means of enforcing payment is to make it very clear to the client up front that the back door is there and may be used in that manner. It will be clearly stated in the operating agreement between the two parties.
                  yup =)

                  That sounds good.
                  Then clients will be pre-amped not to mess around with ya. haha
                  At the same time its for security. So if they decline then you know they are a potential problematic client and not worth taking them up anyways.

                  save you a whole lot of trouble.
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                • Profile picture of the author Kay King
                  Put a hidden link to your site on their web pages
                  That is more common than you might think - I've seen it done and it infuriates me.

                  You should do NOTHING to a client's site that he doesn't know about - period. There is no "gray" area - if you have inserted a link in any way without the client's knowledge, it's wrong. There's no other word for it.

                  A back door is a different matter as there can be reasons for having one. A client who is told there is an "access door" will understand he needs to make payment as needed - but unless you are providing ongoing work you need to close that door after payment is received.

                  I've found marketers put a lot of trust in people who build sites for them, in sites they buy and in hired SEO people - and that trust is too often misplaced.

                  kay
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                  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
                    It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission! LOL
                    It's more rewarding to go after damages than to forgive something like this
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      • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
        Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

        Strange, there seems to be blanket agreement about leaving a backdoor access to the client's site being unethical.

        It does not have to be. I can think of two instances where it seems perfectly appropriate.

        > As a means of enforcing payment. Just like web hosts will take sites offline if the hosting bill isn't paid, the ability to disable the site with a 'down for maintenance' or other benign notice would be a form of 'repo' on a site you designed/provided. If you are doing SEO for an existing site, inserting such a back door is inappropriate unless...

        > The back door serves as a security measure in case of a hack. Some hackers will go in and actually change the username/password so that the actual site owner can't get back in. A back door allows someone (you) to reset things to the way they should be.

        As for the other three, they all seem kind of sketchy to me. See the tpw post above for my view - Bill put it just right.
        yes though i get your point. and it does make sense. BUT and still BUT, it is unethical to do it WITHOUT your clients knowledge and permission.

        You can say that you will do it, or ask him, or you can make it your company;s policy to do it but explain to him your rationale.

        So if its for safety, i think u can tell you clients. Like just in case your site gets hack, we will restore it for you using the "back door"
        If not its the same as saying you pay a lock smith to copy your key, or you buy a lock pad, or you forgot your keys or lost them and so you hired one to come up to your apartment to smash the lock for you.

        Then he gives you a new lock and he secretly holds on to a copy of your key. Then lets say you find out later, and he says, "oh its just incase you misplaced your keys". Will you be happy? Wil you accept his answer?

        As for payment security, i think there are other ways to ensure customer pays, ethical ways, this is an unethical way.

        That is my take on the comments although at 1st thought it sounds good. =)

        I agree with most of your other comments in the forums but this is one that i must disagree.
        With respect. =)

        edited:
        Originally Posted by Global Warrior View Post

        I think the guy that owns the site, owns the content. If you put content on his site that he hasn't asked for, i think that is unethical, no matter if he's paid for it or not.

        A backdoor with his permission would be ok as long as it was sold to them on the basis of support. To use it to shut down or disable the site due to non payment would be illegal. You cant hold people to ransom.

        My .25c worth

        GW
        exactly. what i belief. Spot on.
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  • Profile picture of the author davejug1
    Gang I've run out of thanks! Seriously guys, this is dynamite stuff, thanks.
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    • Profile picture of the author Newbieee
      Originally Posted by davejug1 View Post

      Gang I've run out of thanks! Seriously guys, this is dynamite stuff, thanks.
      its okay, u can thank us another day. lol!!

      Nah just kidding. You can thank us in your posts. Gratitude is enough. Thanks count doesnt matter.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Put a link on one of mine without asking and I'll blog about the unethical practices of your company.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bill Cousins
    It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission! LOL BC
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  • Profile picture of the author CreativeFlair
    Not many SEO consultants get full access to the site like that anyway.

    I've only ever worked with clients who hire designers & developers to implement the SEO changes recommended.

    I know of a way to get a link from competitors' sites that works and is technically legitimate with no access to their site required...that's a secret though
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
    On the suggestion of disabling a site for non-payment - if you aren't providing the hosting for the site and can 'turn it off' according to terms in a contract, you're opening yourself up to a lawsuit and possibly criminal charges. Talk to an attorney before you ever do something like that.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by SteveJohnson View Post

      On the suggestion of disabling a site for non-payment - if you aren't providing the hosting for the site and can 'turn it off' according to terms in a contract, you're opening yourself up to a lawsuit and possibly criminal charges. Talk to an attorney before you ever do something like that.
      I thought I clarified that in a later post. Thanks for driving the point home again...
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  • Profile picture of the author hotwebwords
    Why would you want to destroy someone's trust in you like that?
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  • Yea thats pretty sleezy if you ask me...

    if you are hired to their SEO , i would assume you know how to get links other then using your clients.

    2 thumbs down bro
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