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povertywhyInternet and Web Development

Nov 18, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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The Ethics of Search Engine Optimization

The use of search engine optimization by various websites hoping to have a higher ranking in Google
(
and other search engines
)

is both a logical result of how companies can manipulate technology for
profit, as well as a form of manipulation over what is viewed as a “fair” and “accurate” ranking of
websites
that correspond

with any given search.

Search engine optimization is a
technical skill and companies may hire an SEO

(Search Engine Optimizer)
,
or someone who
se

job responsibilities include figuring out how to get higher rankings on search
engines.
On their website,
Google discusses what makes someone a legitimate or unscrup
ulous CEO
(
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291
) . Of course, this
discussion is biased toward how
Google

want
s

users to set up
sites they create
.

In the past, Google has defended disturbing search results. Using t
he potentially derogatory term “
J
ew”
rather than “Jewish” in Google leads users to a site called “jewwatch.com” which under a pretense of
“current and historical
Jewish

news” leads to a markedly biased and anti
-
semitic website. Google
reasonably suggests
that the results are based on an algorithm and a fair result for that search. And yet,
given the ability to manipulate results with the use of SEO techniques, one may question whether or not
Google has a responsibility to at least consider what those tech
niques may lead to.

Furthermore, each
search engine indexes a different quantity of the web

so no results are entirely accurate anyway.
(
http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/20
05/06/how
-
much
-
of
-
the
-
web
-
is
-
indexed/
)

Consider an analysis of the six keys:

Product: The G
oogle search listings

Technology: any web browser, but specifically the algorithms used by Google and other search engines
to produce results

Industry
: Compani
es wish to have their websites “at the top.” It makes sense for them to strategize how
to do
just that and make use of the skills of SEOs.

Money: Companies want business, and attracting people to their websites helps achieve that

Government: N/A

People
: Users expect/assume Google results are accurate and the best. This leads to manipulation of
the results, with most people unaware of this happening.

Ultimately, despite ethical considerations whether or not sites manipulate search results, search engin
e
optimization is going to happen. Google results are based on human manipulation regardless of what
Google wants users to think. To this end, the best answer may be education: letting people realize that
Google results are based on Google’s specific alg
orithms and their
subsequent
manipulation by website
creators.