PJ Chjistie, CEO Founder of Search and Convert, is on a mission to put ethics front-and-center in the field of SEO. He spoke with Site Strategics CEO Erin Sparks during episode 313 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast. Here’s what we learned: 

00:49:10

A Marketing Code of Conduct

Interview with PJ Christie about SEO EthicsThe American Marketing Association (AMA) has a Codes of Conduct and Statement of Ethics. But does anyone ever read it? It’s like a Hippocratic oath for markerters and SEO practitioners. These are the rules everyone in the field should live by. The first three that they offer as ethical norms include 1)Do no harm, 2) Foster trust in the marketing system, and 3) Embrace ethical values. 

If you’re in SEO, what does do no harm mean? It means don’t use these black hat tactics that are going throw your clients into the secondary index, because a lot of SEO people don’t even know what the secondary index is. They don’t know the difference between black hat and white hat tactics.

How do we foster trust in the marketing system? Everyone has to run right at this problem that SEOs are perceived as snake oil salesmen in this industry. We have to talk openly about it and start pointing out the difference between harmful tactics and successful tactics.

What about embracing ethical values? This starts with us as humans, being the kind of humans and business owners our children and our communities and our clients can look up to with trust and confidence. We have to show them how the core values of honesty, responsibility, fairness and transparency matter and guide our work. But if you ask 100 marketers if they know the AMA code of conduct, probably 100 of them have never even looked at it and certainly haven’t digested its meaning in terms of how they do their marketing work.

00:54:52

When to Say NO to Work

If you’re in a marketing or SEO company and you need clients, saying “no” might be very hard for you to do, but you have to uphold ethical standards. The foundational ethical considerations are easy for most – like not doing SEO work for a pornography company. But it’s the situational ethical dilemmas that are trickier to navigate. 

PJ tells the story of how a friend brought him in to help out with her client. The client was trying to sell their luxury audio equipment brand’s products using sexuality and bikinis. PJ and his friend made the argument that sex was the wrong approach for a luxury brand and pitched something more appropriate. The company then eliminated PJ’s friend and asked him to take over her responsibilities. When PJ talked to his friend, he realized the company was just trying to circumvent his friend and get back to their bikinis idea. It was a straightforward choice for PJ because he will always choose a colleague or friend over a paycheck. But it was key to have that conversation with his friend or he might not have known how the company was trying to circumvent her. 

We all have to operate within a community of providers. And to the extent we can elevate our own industry, the work we do, the types of things we’ll say yes to, the kinds of results our clients can expect, we are in a community that will be positively impacted by our own standards, by holding ourselves to high standards.

01:00:31

Talk About Ethics with Everyone

There is a responsibility here for SEOs not to just hold themselves to higher ethical standards, but also to be talking overtly about ethics whenever possible. Lead conversations with clients and with prospects around your ethical standards. The really great thing that happens is when you hold yourself to those higher standards and begin articulating them, good things happen. Believe in karma! When your prospects and your clients respect your ethical practices, they elevate themselves to your level. It produces benefits you could never predict.

PJ likes to explain how his three biggest clients are ones that came in because they were concerned about the ethical execution of search engine optimization. And PJ gets to say he’s the only talking about it openly. He’s the only person in his community who is standing up and speaking in front of people, telling them how to avoid using coercive tactics, how to strive for the needs of their clients. Just the ability to hold your ground and make that statement with confidence. The people who you’re surrounded by will see it, they’ll respect it and they’ll respond with their best selves. And it will bring out the best in you too.

Connect with PJ Christie, Founder and CEO Search and Convert

Twitter: @SearchNConvert (https://twitter.com/SearchNConvert)

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pjchristie

Search and Convert Website: https://searchandconvert.com

Search and Covert Facebook: @searchandconvert (https://www.facebook.com/searchandconvert)

Search and Convert LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/search-and-convert/about

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