Ethical SEO across the search engines


You’ll never guess what I found when I recently searched for “ethical SEO” at one of the major search engines. 

The organic listings, of course, are open to tampering to match the algorithms, so even an unethical spammy SEO company could rank well for “ethical SEO” with enough effort.  What caught me by surprise was what I saw in the sponsored listings – the paid ads.

Just for the record, any unethical SEO could easily post an ad for ethical SEO; how would the search engines know, without investing a major effort in checking out the methodologies of each company – which they are not about to do.  But, you would think they would at least check the ad copy.  You would think that a paid ad on a search engine that announces “ethical SEO” would at least not have an unethical message, such as “guaranteed ranking”.  You would think there might be a filter to red flag such ads.


(For those new to SEO, guaranteed ranking is one of the cheapest lies an SEO company can make…and far too common.  Rankings are relative.  You get to be top 10 only by ranking higher than all the other websites.  Nobody can guarantee a ranking without having control of all those other websites, as well as having control of the search engine’s algorithm.)

I present to you below the results of a search for “ethical SEO across the five major search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing , AOL and Ask. 

“Ethical SEO” at Google



“Ethical SEO” at Yahoo


“Ethical SEO” at Bing



“Ethical SEO” at AOL


“Ethical SEO” at Ask


So which search engine supports the most ethical SEO when showing ads to the public?  I’ll let you decide, and I welcome your comments on this.


  1. good point, do you think people believe them?

  2. Ethical SEO should be a thing of the past-there is no point even mentioning that your SEO practices are 100% ethical these days as anything other than ethical will have you sandboxed quickly-even black hat techniques dont get you better rankings that white hat, so what's the point dare one say?

  3. I fully agree with SEO Manchester You should offer SEO services. Period. I wouldn't trust those that go out of their way to say they use ethical SEO. I think it should be a given.

  4. I agree…. claiming to be 'ethical' and guaranteeing what is not within your power to control is like a life insurance company saying we will pay out in 20 years, because we guarantee you wont die before then. Would you buy the insurance from them? I think not.

    One could emphasise experience and results instead….

  5. True, nobody can guaratee results unless you're some kind of Google employee and know their methodology. Most of the SEO companies can get in trouble if Google decide to change completly the way their crawl works.

  6. It would be great if they could gurantee it though.

  7. Business is business, eh? By that I mean that a small percentage just cares about themselves, another small percentage cares about their clients (and prospects) knowing helping enough will get them what they want… and then there's the big percentage that's not consciously trying to mess you over but just want the phone calls / sales and try every way they can to get there.

    Unfortunately with a bit of time, research and education (and not over-mortgaging their life just to subsidize their dream of a business) they could figure out effective *and ethical* ways to market their business and close sales.

    Oh well, makes it easier for those of us who do :).

  8. I think there is really no way for the search engines to discriminate on "ehtical SEO" companies. It's just not gonna happen. If they never interact with the company or use their services, it's hard to guage whether they're ethical.

    Now, Google does its share of "screening" shall we say by trying to match ads and websites and give users the results that they're looking for, but – let's face it – that's for the money, that's not like they're actually evaluating the business on its (gasp!) merits!

  9. I am not sure anyone is suggesting that Google should pass jusgment on any SEO company. But I think they should pass judgment on ads to the extent that those ads are advertising something that violates their own "rules".

  10. I am not sure anyone is suggesting that Google should pass jusgment on any SEO company. But I think they should pass judgment on ads to the extent that those ads are advertising something that violates their own "rules".

  11. They paid for it so I guess those search engine will accept it, and beside who clicks those ads anyways?

  12. Interesting… those giving effort to unethical SEO processes will eventually be beaten back by the best internet software wizards in the world at Google/Yahoo, etc.. That would seem to depress the scammers' willingness to invest a lot of time in the effort. And…. if these guys were that good, they could certainly create a useful, honest system that would help business make the internet useful to them in whatever niche they chose.

  13. I really agree with you. As it is true that no body can guarentee results unless your'e some kind of google employee and know their methodology.

  14. No such thing as guaranteed rankings! Nice Catch on this one…. Since SEO results are ultimately beyond the ability of local softwre engineers to guarantee, promoting any specific ranking number is unethical.

  15. Using smoke and mirrors in SEO is nothing new. "Ethical," "Unethical," "White Hat," "Black Hat" are all terms that are subjective, adding just a bit more grey to the entire equation.

    Ultimately, clients that deal with those that are less ethical may come to regret their decision if they don't adequate vet those agencies in advance.

  16. White Hat SEO strategies will pay off in the long run

  17. Its sad that when people search for an Ethical SEO they may end up with listings like this, in the end the words just become another way to manipulate the listings and the poor searcher.

  18. Just create good content, spread the word (getting links), don't spam and forget SE like Yahoo or Bing.

    I know a lot of people thinking SEO is from the past because of social media

  19. Only thing that will ever guarantee you good links is ethical promotion, good content, and good publisher marketing.

  20. No matter what anyone does people will always want unethical results. I find most people would rather scam their way into the Search Engines than earn their way in. The problem is that there are always going to be loopholes that people will find and exploit. I think people also forget that a lot of the current Black Hat SEO techniques used to be acceptable.

  21. I can only see 2 Guarantees in the examples you provided, one of them is Guaranteed result, which does not suggest ranking in anyway. It is probably unethical to guarantee a postion, but it is OK to guarantee that there will be results for the service. The other one is about guaranteed site traffic, which, by the looks of it, is unlikely to be search traffic.

  22. Yeah SeO Manchester is right. Seo companies should offer only seo services and providing list of links created so that they would know that those links created are only white hat.

  23. Companies these days can become so busy that forget common sense and only focus on the earning of money. It's a crazy thing to see but that's like.

  24. That is very funny – Ethical Seo – with a guarantee. But they never guarantee for a tough word. They will only guarantee for a word no one searches for and then they parade that number one listing to the company. I've seen it many times.

  25. This is absurd. SEO techniques are either effective or not, ethics only playing a minor role. These manipulations relates to business aspects such as not delivering the service required. Business is business after all.

  26. Well, I believe these guys didn't bid on "ethical seo" as a keyword but I don't see your point here. Why would these search engines filter these ads? Is not their job to test the quality of the services provided, is the customer problem. If they buy ads like "guaranteed first place for $29,99", is their business, their money, they time and so on…And again, I am pretty sure they didn't create ads with "ethical seo" as title, they just used the {keyword} option.

  27. yeah totally agree a few months ago someone offering me SEO service not a company just a person.
    he said "pay me $3000 and i will optimize your site to top 10 ranking"
    definitely not trust him, i thought he just tried to scam me.

  28. $3000 for optimizing your SEO? i think that is too much! But, normally owners of high ranking websites really spent thousands of dollars just to get their desired ranking. Truly, it is not easy to work with a site. You really need to have both, money and time to make your site a SEO rich one.

  29. Lol, I just perform my own SEO. After only a few hours work total I'm on the 14th page of Google for "make money blogging" which isn't bad – considering most people take months to get there. If they were really ethical and effective, they'd be at the top of the organic searches.

    Kris Roxas

  30. I think FTC can fine these people with a heavy lawsuit. You can't say guaranteed FAST results. Perhaps you can say get your site to first page of Google in 6 months, but not #1 spot fast.

  31. I've a question about the 2nd Google example. What's $1.95 per 1000? 1000 links? 1000 visits?

  32. It depends how much you want Google to 'censor' AdWords – could do as much harm as good?

  33. I don't find any point in this argument of ethical seo and non ethical seo.but i believe non ethical tricks will be penalised in later time even though they can achieve something for the moment being. What do you say?

  34. In my opinion, seo is inseparable from the development of a website, because by observing the seo factors, the website we can more quickly indexed and found by the visitors with a specific keyword.
    Thank you, very helpful article at all.

  35. One issue here is that at least with the Google example, the advertiser is broadmatching to show for anything SEO. So they show up for "ethical SEO" but could also show for "discount SEO." Does Google regulate that? And if they show for "unethical SEO," does Google step in to fix that?
    villa bali

  36. drill, you are so right. It is a shame, but it's also Google's fault. If they wouldn't care so much about links but only about great content, the internet would be a 'spam-lesser' place.