top of page
  • Writer's pictureMark A Preston

Playing The Long Game of Ethical SEO Practices

Updated: Mar 14

In the dynamic world of SEO, the temptation to cut corners and adopt quick-win strategies can be overwhelming for businesses eager to see rapid growth. The allure of immediate results from practices like buying links or spamming might seem appealing, especially when competitors appear to be benefiting from such tactics. Yet, as I discussed with Lily Ray, a seasoned SEO expert, there's a critical conversation that needs to be had about the sustainability and risks of these shortcuts. This post aims to unpack that dialogue and offer guidance on navigating these temptations while maintaining a commitment to ethical SEO practices.

ethical SEO

The Temptation to Take Shortcuts

Many businesses, particularly those new to SEO or those frustrated by their slow growth, often observe competitors employing questionable tactics and seeing immediate results. This observation can lead to challenging conversations with SEO teams, where clients question the value of staying ethical in their strategies. They wonder, if others are succeeding by cutting corners, why shouldn't they?

Understanding the Long-Term Perspective

Lily compares these quick-fix SEO tactics to smoking cigarettes: the harm isn't immediately apparent, but the long-term consequences can be devastating. Just like a doctor advises against smoking due to its long-term health risks, experienced SEO professionals caution against black-hat techniques because of the potential long-term damage to a site's credibility and rankings.

Educating Clients on Risks vs Rewards

The key to addressing these concerns lies in educating clients about the risks associated with quick-win SEO tactics. Sophisticated clients and those with a deeper understanding of SEO generally recognize the value of a long-term, ethical approach. They understand that while the path might be slower, it's also safer and more sustainable. For newer clients or those tempted by the fast results promised by questionable tactics, it's crucial to communicate the potential for significant setbacks. These can include penalties from search engines, loss of rankings, and the potential for long-lasting damage to their online reputation.

Actionable Steps for Staying Ethical in SEO

  1. Educate Your Clients: Regularly communicate the value of ethical SEO practices and the risks associated with taking shortcuts. Use case studies and historical data to illustrate the long-term benefits of a clean strategy.

  2. Set Realistic Expectations: Help clients understand that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Setting realistic timelines for seeing results can help manage expectations and reduce the temptation to pursue risky tactics.

  3. Monitor Competitors Ethically: Keep an eye on competitors' strategies, but focus on outperforming them through quality content, user experience, and ethical backlink building. Use these observations to educate clients about the risks and rewards of different tactics.

  4. Highlight the Importance of Reputation: Remind clients that their online reputation is as crucial as their offline one. Short-term gains can lead to long-term damage that's hard to repair.

  5. Stay Updated and Adapt: The SEO landscape is continually evolving. Stay informed about the latest guidelines from search engines and adapt your strategies accordingly. This ensures you're always advocating for the most current and ethical practices.


Navigating the pressures of competitive SEO strategies requires a balance of education, patience, and a steadfast commitment to ethical practices. By focusing on long-term growth and the health of your clients' online presence, you can steer them away from the temptations of quick fixes and towards sustainable success. Remember, the goal is not just to climb the rankings quickly but to maintain a strong, reputable presence in the digital world for years to come.


bottom of page