SEO can be something of a “black box.” It’s certainly much more widely accepted as a marketing practice than it was when I was first starting out, but even though more business owners understand that SEO is something they need to be doing, they still may not understand what, exactly, SEO entails.
In some ways, this is a good thing for us as SEOs – we’re in possession of an in-demand skill set that not a lot of people possess. Can anybody say “job security”? But in other ways, SEO’s esoteric nature makes it easy for unscrupulous SEO providers to hide the fact that they’re not providing real value. In a world where business owners understand that they need SEO, but may not have much (or any) idea of what good SEO entails or what results they should be getting, there’s a lot of room for advantage to be taken.
To add to that, there are a number of “black hat” SEO techniques that still work disturbingly well even today. These tactics can gain success for a business, but also run the risk that the website will be penalized by Google if it detects the use of those tactics. Since black hat tactics aren’t illegal, just risky, there’s really nothing stopping SEO practitioners from using them, often without their clients’ awareness or a full understanding of the risks involved. Nothing, that is, except the individual practitioners’ sense of ethics and integrity.
Integrity at UpBuild
When researching company values, you’ll see Integrity, Ethics, and variations thereof come up in a lot of companies’ value statements. It makes sense: most people don’t want to think of themselves as unethical or lacking integrity, and even fewer businesses want to advertise themselves as such. As we’ve discussed in previous entries in this series, though, there’s a big difference between listing something as a value on your About page and actually living it.
Here’s what Integrity means to us at UpBuild:
- We try to do what our clients actually need us to do. Sometimes we pitch an engagement that, once we get under the hood of a website, turns out to not actually be what our clients need. When that happens, we begin a discussion with the client to figure out a new plan of attack, rather than simply adhering to the letter of an engagement plan that doesn’t actually solve the underlying problems the client needs to be solved. I like to think of this one as “we’re not just going to put keywords on a broken website.”
- We don’t engage in black hat tactics. The efficacy of black hat tactics could be a whole other blog post, but suffice it to say that there are a ton of activities that Google frowns on that still work really well when it comes to short-term gains in organic rankings and traffic. It can be frustrating when you see a competitor’s spammy site outranking your beautiful, hand-crafted marketing, but remembering our value of Integrity keeps us from stooping to that level. In the long run, that means we’re not putting our clients at risk, or spending time frantically trying to recover from penalties when Google catches on to our shady practices. SEO with Integrity takes longer, but the rewards are longer-term as well.
- We don’t work with unethical businesses. If we don’t believe that a business hooks into our value of Betterment, we won’t work with them. To keep ourselves honest, the whole team votes on every client; we’ve even got a Veto option to make sure our team’s strongest objections get heard.
- We do what we say we’re going to do. If we’re contracted to work a certain number of hours per month for a client, we work those hours; if for some reason (e.g. our client stakeholder is on vacation and we can’t move forward until they get back) we’re under for a given month, we make that time up in the next month. By the same token, if we need to go over by a few hours in a given month to get done what needs to get done, we reach out to get the client’s permission to “borrow” from the next month’s hours, rather than just throwing up our hands and saying, “See you on the 1st.” Having a maximum ratio of four clients per Senior Marketing Strategist helps us make sure we live up to that guarantee.
How do you try to show Integrity in your work? Have you seen another company exemplifying Integrity in a way that makes you want to shout it from the rooftops? Let us know in the comments!