The Importance of Ethical SEO in Content Marketing

Are you familiar with cheat codes in video games? These are backend codes that video game creators added to games for special purposes, such as helping them test the game.

However, gamers learn these codes and use them in regular gameplay to beat the system when they feel stuck or don’t want to invest the time required for regular gameplay.

Search engine optimization can often feel like a video game where you’re trying to level up your content’s ranking. SEO requires time and effort, so some people look for cheat codes to increase their ranking without the work. Marketers call this unethical SEO.

On the other side is ethical SEO, which are practices that follow the rules. With Google continuously cracking down on unethical SEO, doing it right the first time pays off.

We’ll walk you through the best ethical SEO practices that will grow your brand through higher search engine ranking.

Ethical SEO follows the rules. When we say “follow the rules,” you might picture some magical rulebook all digital marketers must adhere to.

However, it’s not quite that simple.

Most marketers consider Google the ultimate authority on SEO because it holds 91.54% of the global search engine market.

But even Google doesn’t provide a black-and-white list of dos and don’ts. Instead, they keep SEO practices rather vague. And there’s a good reason for that.

Google’s primary concern is the user’s experience. Users come to Google to search for helpful content. If Google posts a checklist, Google realizes that marketers will treat content creation like a list of boxes they need to fulfill.

Google would rather content creators focus on the audience than a checklist. They provide guidelines, like the well-known E-E-A-T acronym (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).

They also provide small insights in their regular updates to help marketers understand what Google considers ethical practices and what they will penalize for. However, they won’t spell it out for you other than reminding content creators to write FOR the audience.

Google’s algorithm functions in two primary ways:

  • Prioritizes Quality Content: Google’s algorithm identifies the most relevant and highest-quality content to rank it higher in search engine results.
  • Avoid Spam Content: While Google promotes quality content, it removes spam content from the search results. Spam content seeks to fulfill Google’s search requirements without considering the audience, so it doesn’t offer actual value.

The Google ranking system specifically prioritizes valuable information. If content doesn’t offer value, no matter how optimized it might be, Google doesn’t want to recommend it.

If you create content for your audience rather than for a search engine algorithm, you’re more likely not to create spam content. However, if your content strategy revolves around ranking in search engines and you are cutting corners in quality just to check those boxes, you might be performing unethical SEO practices.

Some common examples of unethical SEO include:

  • Keyword Stuffing: Using too many keywords to rank for a term rather than using it naturally to educate the audience will cause Google to penalize your content and drop your ranking.
  • Bad Links: A backlink from an industry leader gives your content a stamp of support from that leader. While you can earn those links, some people resort to paid link tree sites that generate backlinks without that authority behind them, which Google penalizes.
  • Expired Domain Abuse: Not everyone keeps their domains forever. Spammers often snatch up old domains that already have authority and use those sites to promote spam content.
  • Cloaking: Spammers will often create two pieces of content. One is to gain Google’s approval, and the other is the actual content spammers show the audience, which might not even relate to the original content.

These are just some of the most common unethical SEO practices. Just ask yourself if what you’re doing improves the user experience. If it doesn’t, it might be unethical SEO.

Google’s Scaled Content Abuse Update

Scaled content abuse is one of the latest additions to Google’s list of unethical SEO practices. This is significant because, unlike the other items, not everyone sees it as unethical.

Scaled content abuse is when AI or human authors mass-produce poor-quality, optimized content to boost your ranking without investing in the content and user experience.

For example, if you publish twice a day, every day, mainly sharing repetitive content that offers very little new information, you’re likely abusing scaled content. Your goal in creating that much content is to rank for more keywords and generate more traffic, not educate your readers.

Because so many websites have been using scaled content, this Google update has negatively impacted about 40% of websites.

If you’re one of those sites, you still have time to update your content strategy and switch out algorithm-centric content for customer-centric experiences.

Ethical SEO offers several benefits for your website, including:

  • Improved search engine ranking by adhering to Google’s ethical SEO standards.
  • Established trust and credibility with customers who find value in your content.
  • Nurtured leads that you educated about your business and services.
  • Increased traffic due to more readers wanting to learn from your content.

Use these tips to create a strong and ethical SEO strategy. This strategy will help increase your SEO ranking and establish you as an authority.

1. Focus on the Customer

The customer is at the core of Google’s algorithm. If you create content personalized for your audience, you’re creating customer-centric content.

You’re writing about customer pain points, offering actionable advice, and infusing value into your content. Everyone who reads your content should come away with something they didn’t know before.

2. Emphasize Quality

Always put your best effort forward when creating SEO content. Whenever you think about publishing, you should invest the time and resources to build that post properly. That might mean you can’t post as often. But, in the long run, quality content wins.

3. Be Authentic

Authentic SEO is about being what you say you are, which builds trust with your audience.

Being authentic also means being transparent about your goals and tactics so customers don’t feel you’re trying to hoodwink them.

4. Research Keywords and Intent

As you research keywords and topics, look at the intent to understand WHY customers are searching those phrases. That way, you create content around search terms and address the purpose behind the search.

The primary search intents are:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Commercial
  • Transactional

5. Use AI Strategically

Artificial intelligence is not a heartless monster here to take over content marketing and transform it into an unfeeling shadow of what it once was. It can be quite valuable for content creation.

Google wants to encourage people to switch off AI autopilot and invest more time and effort into creating quality content.

Keep in mind that AI isn’t the only culprit for generic content. Humans can also fall into autopilot mode, mass-creating generic content based on what’s out there rather than adding their own twist to the ideas. So, simply switching from AI to humans is just the first step. The people creating content must also commit to creating quality content with AI to help them improve that quality further.

Some ways you can use AI include:

  • Generating outline ideas
  • Researching topics
  • Creating Q&As
  • Refining H1 and H2 headers

AI works best when it works alongside trained, knowledgeable writers.

6. Create an Enjoyable User Experience

The content should be fun!

Content marketing shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you have fun with your content, it will feel more personable and friendly, and create a more enjoyable experience for those reading it.

Having fun also helps you move beyond an algorithm and create a conversation with your audience that will build trust and increase your conversions.

ethical seo content creation

Search engine optimization has always felt like a mystical beast. It has never had a single form or concrete rules. However, if you focus on the customer rather than trying to unlock the mystery of SEO, then you have the power to rank higher and connect with more customers.

Are you ready to take your content above the mediocre masses online and be the type of content Google prizes?

Let us show you how through our personalized SEO strategy services.

Contact us to learn more about our SEO services.


Justin Staples

For 15 years, Justin has guided businesses on a transformative journey through strategic marketing and design to craft their unique online identity.