Ethics and Internet Marketing

I got into internet marketing back in 2003. Like most of my ilk I was tempted not by the riches, but by the perceived better way of living. Setting my own hours and full automation is what appealed to me. I started with the old “Google Cash” business model. Promoting other peoples products on a commission basis using pay per click (PPC) advertising.

Having had some great initial success, I got a little disappointed as I watched new entrant after new entrant come into the market, copying my campaigns and forcing the cost of pay per click (PPC) advertising up. This combined with Google’s enhancements (which did make their search engine work better, just not for affiliates) made the time involved in managing a Google Cash style business, to be way in excess what the diminishing returns would compensate.

So I changed my approach. I started to build websites and learn about search engine optimization. I still used PPC marketing, but to drive traffic to my own websites while they optimized in the organic search terms. The result for me was half a dozen highly optimized and profitable website businesses. Of these, only one has its own product. The others either promote affiliate programs or sell advertising space.

Over the 6 years I have been active in internet marketing, I have picked up quite a few clients who wanted help with their web presence. I never promoted this service, they all came to me on referral or by word of mouth. They all had two things in common. Firstly they wanted a website that sold their product. Secondly they had been ripped off by an unethical internet marketer who took their money and left them with a website that didn’t work.

There is a real issue with the internet industry, it is packed with these bogus operators. There are graphic designers who put together internet masterpieces, charge a fortune for the website, yet no-one can find it. There are marketing professional who apply all their skills, yet they know nothing about the internet so their message doesn’t find an ear to fall on. Our industry is unregulated and we are largely self trained. Unfortunately this has left the industry open to the unscrupulous and ignorant. Our clients have been damaged and the industry suffers also.

Every week I see how these charlatans work. They prey on the assumption that their clients are ignorant. Despite the fact they know so little themselves, they assume their clients know less and therefore can be baffled with a few technical phrases and a pretty graph.

For example, my tourism business hires out surfboards on Australia’s Gold Coast. Do a Google search on “Gold Coast Surfboard Hire” or even just “surfboard hire” for that matter. I’m sure you’ll find me, mine is Gold Coast Surfboards. Clearly for the product I am selling, I am very well optimised in the search engines.

Despite this I get the so called “professionals” writing to me every week trying to sell me their SEO services. “We can put your business on steroids” they tell me, getting you on the first page of Google on such terms as “Surf Board Accessories” and “Holiday Rentals”.

You can see exactly what they do. They find a small business website with the assumption they will know more about the internet than the websites owner. (He after all will be busy running his business) They will look at the main products and then trawl through Google to find a search phrase that the website doesn’t compete well with. Then they try and scare the business owner into signing up for their services.

This sort of thing really scares me. It makes me realize that there are people in my industry who manipulate our clients to make a quick buck. They are quite happy to modify a website to attract irrelevant traffic in order to make some money, with little care of the damage this does to the customer’s business. To embellish, if I had have listened to these hard selling con men, my website would either be attracting lots of people who needed surfboard wax or fins, or in the Holiday Rentals case, people who are looking for hire cars or accommodation at goodness knows which destination. One thing is for certain, people visiting the Gold Coast would not be hiring my surfboards.

If you are a small business owner and get approached by an internet marketer who is going to “turbo boost” your business by getting it up to the top of Google, look carefully at the words they are suggesting they will do this for. There are lots of phrases which anyone can get to #1 as there is no competition for them. This is because no-one uses them to search. So before you sign up an internet marketer, try and get a good understanding of what your clients search for on Google when they are looking for your product.

If you are thinking about using the internet as a way to promote your business, ask around. See if you can get a referral for an internet professional who has built and marketed a website for someone else in a way that brings them business. The good professionals run their businesses on referrals with little self promotion. When asking around though, be very clear with people. Tell them you are looking for someone who markets websites, not someone who builds websites. There are just too many people out there who will charge you a small fortune to build a masterpiece, one though which no-one will ever find.

Finally, if you are one of those internet marketers who abuses our great industry by running around, trying to extract a pound of flesh from every business you come by regardless of the value you add, change your ways. This industry is big enough for everyone so there is a place for you. But skill yourself up and don’t sell your services to businesses that don’t need them. Only sell your services where the person paying for them will benefit from them. Your reputation, your business and our industry will flourish if you follow this code. (By the way, its called being ethical)

Damian Papworth, appalled by the lack of ethics displayed by todays internet professionals, promotes honesty over greed. Free reprint available from: Ethics and Internet Marketing.

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