Ethical SEO and the non-client testimonial

Sigh.  This SEO client won’t make me any money.

But first, a story.  Our fancy vacuum cleaner was slowly seeming to get weaker and weaker, until it really would just not suck anything up anymore.  This would have precipitated immediate action, except that we have a ShopVac, which at least can pick up most of the dust from out carpets. 

So “repair the vacuum cleaner” went onto our to-do list.  Which is a lovely place for something that doesn’t seem too urgent.  And as long as the ShopVac did 90% of the job, repairing the vacuum cleaner never really became as urgent as dozens of other things that would pop up.

If you have ever had items remain on the to-do list in perpetual procrastination, you will understand how over time they psychologically grow to epic proportions, to the extent where they become jobs that just seem too burdensome to want to tackle.

But one day, not all that long ago, I picked up the phone and called the vacuum repair guy.  OK, it actually took several days, because these guys don’t just hang out at the foot of my driveway, and over the years the Canadian rights to the vacuum brand had been sold to another company.

The repair guy asked me a couple questions and gave me a homework assignment.  Before charging me a whopping repair bill, he suggested that I check out the *****.  Which I did.  And the vacuum began sucking immediately.  I won’t tell you what ***** was, because I don’t want you to know just exactly how foolish I was and how little this epic repair challenge actually was, but suffice to say that I felt silly.  I called him back and thanked him for being so kind and so ethical.

Which brings me to the “testimonial” I received yesterday from a non-client.  The gentleman wanted some link-building for both SEO and targeted traffic.  After a bit of back-and-forth, it was clear that he had a few specific websites of the Fortune-500 variety in mind.  He also had good reason to believe he had a shot at getting those links, based on what he was offering related to their sector.  I had to tell him much what the vacuum repair guy ended up telling me:

It sounds like you are seeking somebody to pitch these very specific websites on the value of linking to yours.  Unless these are paid links, in which case money talks, you really are the best person to make that pitch.  While this is a superb idea, both for direct traffic and for some pretty strong SEO benefits, it is not something you need or should hire an SEO consultant for. 

The “testimonial” he provided was a short email back to me:

The advice you have just rendered indicates clearly you are the epitome of your firm’s motto “ethical seo services”. It is nice to know.

So those conversations made approximately $0.00 richer than I was before they began (plus interest!), proving that great non-customer service is just like my “refurbished” vacuum cleaner — it really sucks. But in a sector where so many fly-by-night charlatans look for ways to suck website owners into their own little vaccuums, I believe it pays to be honest in the long run (that’s the “plus interest” part).

Here is our ethical SEO consultant page.


  1. You did the right thing. Truth makes you friends and you sleep better at night. You should have sold him on what you _could_ do for him, legitimately. Tell the straight truth and say you can do X, for $y, for Z benefit to him.

  2. In this case, I think you have made the right decision, Dave 🙂

    By the way, you did know how to use the “Vacuum cleaner” to describe how “suck” it is!

  3. It is always good to play by the rules when doing SEO. It can get you sandboxed. I enjoy your story. Thank you for sharing.

  4. You missed 1 thing from that story . I suspect that the conversation you had with the guy looking for you help has a much higher financial value than $0.00, as was the amount the vacuum guy will earn from helping you. Why?

    Well, clearly you were impressed with the way the vacuum guy helped you without trying to screw you for money. This has proven him as someone you can trust to fix your vacuum if it ever does break. But… if a friend or relatives vacuum ever breaks, you wont think twice about recommending him, and then the people you recommend him to will recommend him. So you see, by treating you how he did, he will prob earn 100 times what he could have charged for the repair to your vacuum.

    The same goes for you and the guy who wanted you to do link building. SEO’s have a pretty bad rep these days, and people are always wary about whether they are getting a genuine SEO or just a ‘rip off cowboy’. The guy that you helped will prob recommend you as a genuine and helpful SEO who isn’t just after a quick buck to every person he meets who needs SEO for many years to come. So… I’m guessing that the lifetime value of being nice and helping that guy is far higher than you ever would have charged for his link building 🙂

  5. Yes, i agree. You must be honest. Truth is the best.

  6. In this case, I think you have made the right decision