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Did Matt Cutts Put out the Bat Signal? – Why WrightIMC won’t be “outing” anyone

WrightIMC will not be participating in the “outing” of SEOs or SEO agencies for violating Google’s terms of service. There a couple of exceptions. We will out those that practice negative SEO that affects our friends or clients. We will out agencies that violate the rules without warning their clients of the implications – and then we have to clean up their mess.

After the iAquire debacle, it’s clear that SEO agencies need to be careful not only of how we do our job, but we must know what our clients are doing independently of us. As SEOs, we are frequently asked by a client or acquaintance about some sort of “SEO magic bullet” and if they should try it. My advice is always the same – no. But what happens when the client gets tired of my answer and decides to pull the trigger anyway? If they are a known client of mine and one of my competitors sees what they are doing, can they report both the client AND WrightIMC?

Another frequent scenario when you work with large companies is one hand may not know what the other is doing. One division of a company may fall prey to a slick salesperson, and the team or agency in charge of SEO not even know what’s happening until the spammy links are placed and the reinclusion requests are necessary. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Are all of my clients, then, in danger of being penalized because one of our clients went rogue? Sounds far-fetched, but I would have thought that Google banning an agency for actions they took for a client was far-fetched a couple of months ago. But it happened.

We don’t buy links at WrightIMC. We work hard at trying to stay within the limits of Google’s terms of service. But are we clean? Honestly, I don’t know. Yes, we have bought links in the past. In fact, we spent the last few weeks checking to make sure that some of the links we bought years ago were cleaned up. Some even for clients we no longer work for.

The bottom line is Google wants SEO agencies to stay clean, and they want you to help them. Google has recruited you to “out” other SEO agencies. Some have already taken up the call. I keep picturing a Rosie the Riveter poster using Matt Cutts face.

Gotham City is a dangerous place. So is the world of SEO. In Gotham City, a vigilante crime fighter, donning a mask and brandishing some of the coolest weapons known to man roams the streets looking for criminals. When he finds them, he beats them up and leaves them tied up for the real authorities to take care of. In the SEO world, we have vigilantes as well. However, the SEO vigilantes aren’t fighting crime based upon a psyche marred by being the victim of violence as a child. SEO vigilantes are out for self-glory, self-satisfaction or just plain-old self-interest.

Changes in the search engine algorithm have recently sent many SEOs reeling (thankfully, WrightIMC clients were minimally affected). The Penguin and Panda updates have made many techniques that some SEOs used as their bread and butter no longer relevant. The common reaction I’ve seen in various SEO forums is as follows –  (amalgamated quotation) “someone else is doing something bad and getting away with it, and our clients want to know why they can do it and we can’t, and well, I’m going to turn into a kindergarten-minded tattle tale, channel my inner Batman and go tell Matt Cutts. “

If you are an SEO, you are not Batman. If you see yourself as a vigilante for SEO justice – enforcing rules that you have no say in – then you are delusional. I can see the rationale for comparing SEO outing to a neighborhood watch. If you see something bad going down in your neighborhood, you call the cops right? But there is a difference. We’re enforcing nebulous rules that have changed over the years -rules that have spawned and destroyed an estimated billion-dollar link buying industry with a mathematical switch.

It is my opinion is that it’s not right to “out” a competitor. Judge not lest you be judged. I’m sure my opinion paints a target on my chest for some out there – but if we can’t have an open and honest conversation without fear of repercussion from a search engine, then we’ve got other more Orwellian problems.

But the ethics of outing are irrelevant as my opinion in our decision.

We don’t “out” other SEOs in for selfish reasons, mainly self-preservation. We don’t need to make enemies, and I wouldn’t want someone reporting on my client for going rogue and possibly damaging my brand. It’s as simple as the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we see doing something wrong – we’ll directly approach the party committing the offense. I don’t want to rely on big bad Google to bring out the hickory stick, especially without knowing the full story. We all need to be fully aware that people’s livelihoods could be at stake.

Not only is our policy the right thing to do – it’s the best way for us to protect ourselves.

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