By:Mark Angeletti, Published:2003-11-10

What is Your Path? The Dark side or the Light side of SEO

In Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Luke Skywalker asks Jedi master Yoda if the dark side of the Force is stronger then the light side. Yoda denies that the dark side of the Force is stronger than the light side; but he does not declare the light side stronger,leaving open the possibility that the two are of equal strength and that the Force is fundamentally dualistic.

You thought my Star Wars talk was done didn’t you? Nope, I had to bring it around full-circle. Like the dichotomy found in the Stars Wars movies of the light side and the dark side you will find an equally segregating set of terms in the SEO world. Often the words ethical and unethical get tied to certain practices used by some SEOs. I have seen heated, almost evangelical, discussions over certain practices that are used in the SEO world.

I find it amusing that there can be such passionate debate, to the point of using words as strong as ethical and unethical over a service that has no set of rules, no governing body, no stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.

That said I believe you will find that there are unwritten though certainly not unspoken practices that most SEO’s will steer clear of. You may ask, “Well, if there are no rules that define right from wrong then what makes people avoid some techniques in favor of others?” That’s a good question; I believe the answer has nothing to do with ethics. For the answer I give you one word – actually it’s not even a word – Google – almost as powerful as the finger of God.

With Google as the dominate search engine most SEOs will try and keep Google as fat and happy as possible. Google holds the right to ban you from their listings. With 76% of all internet searches going through Google [1] – a ban from the search engine is the equivalent of website suicide.

There are certain techniques that are highly likely to get you banned from Google, such as hiding text in your pages in an attempt to falsify information or increase keyword density. Yet other SEO tactics walk a very fine line. Like the technique of using doorway pages. Doorway pages are web pages that have been created for the sole purpose of ranking highly in the search results for one or two search terms, and are not normally an integral part of the website. Depending on how the doorway pages are implemented this may be seen as a good strategy or as spam. Some SEOs and their clients are willing to walk that line while others are not, but let’s not mistake that as an ethical choice.

The Conclusion

Due to the lack of credentials for an SEO title what we are left with is many people taking the SEO policing authority into their own hands. Perhaps this could be a good thing? We the people will govern ourselves? Could it work? Will it work? I guess only time will tell, but keep in mind we are all after the same thing – a better understanding of what makes the search engines work and how we can better please our masters.

[1] comScore Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings

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