As an online marketer, It’s pretty important to keep up to date on twitter, check up on great industry news sources such as and generally stay on top of some of the great articles on the numerous industry blogs regularly.

Last week I came across a post on one of my regular reading haunches by Joe Hall entitled SEO “Outing” Is Immoral. For those of you that haven’t read it, Joe essentially argues that outing a website for bad SEO practices is unfair on the end clients that are unaware of the practices of their SEO company and that we are not paid to “police the web”.

I couldn’t really agree with the sentiment Joe was laying down. Small business owners have limited budgets and are the first ones to analyse what they are spending their money on. It takes seconds to run a simple search query on what they are about to embark on and what they are about to spend money on. Those that get caught on the wrong side of SEO ethics and get punished have no sympathy from me and nor should they.

My position was summed up by an anonymous commenter:

Should we be feeling bad for those honest business owners that have been caught up in this now or should we be feeling bad for those that struggled or didn’t survive in the past because their site was ranking behind a competitors site with an advantage provided by BMR?.

The topic of outing is by no means a new one, Aaron Wall made an epic post back in 2008, but as an industry we are no closer to an agreed plan of action and quite frankly I can’t understand why.

Yes, SEO has a terrible reputation. We are seen by some as the snake oil salesmen of the online world but there are also builders across the world are being called into half-finished jobs due to the work of a cowboy builder and everyone knows of that “dodgy” mechanic that robs you blind when all you wanted was new brake pads.

The difference between us and those other troubled industries is they are actively doing something about it. Here in the UK, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing another shadowy character being unmasked for their dodgy construction work, and now it’s about time we dealt with our cowboys.

With the Panda update, Google has made some really good progress in battling web-spam but as things stand, it’s still not good enough. I know I’m not the only one that is fed up of complaining to colleagues about the spam links I’m finding in competitor link profiles. I’m fed up of clearing the blog’s spam folder every 12 hours from lazy SEO’s and webmaster’s comment spam, but more than anything I’m fed up of protecting these cowboys while I work my ass off to help my clients online ethically.

I’m not saying we need to publicly “out” client websites but we can start to make a stand against crap SEO agencies. We all come across SEO companies using less than favourable methods to get their perfect anchor links. There comes a point where we need to offer a true disincentive to SEO agencies spamming the web and harming their clients businesses.

In the comments of Joe’s article, there was the beginnings of this from Andrew Girdwood‘s comment:

When an SEO agency emails one of my blogs, asking for a link and offering money then I don’t think it needs an independent adjudication panel in place to determine that they’re buying links.

We have a best practice guide. We have a rule list. I understand Google’s published guidelines and I know how SEOs are supposed to handle themselves, and it is certainly possible to tell when someone is ignoring these standards. By judging our contemporaries against these we can determine their ethics and act accordingly.

I propose that we define our own industry standard, we hold ourselves to the highest level of ethics and publicly identify those that choose to ignore them. The SEO industry needs validity and I think it’s time we educated the public on the good, the bad and the ugly.

What are your thoughts? Should those that know better sit idly by and let sleeping dogs lie or should they speak out and try to clean up the tarnished image of this industry?