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The Ethics of Profile Peddling

Profile Peddling. I don’t know that it’s really a word but I don’t really honestly know what else to call it. It is the practice of opening up accounts at supporting services such as Flickr or MySpace in order to funnel traffic to a blog or website. It’s been a common practice of search engine optimizing firms for a long time.

SEOMoz writes on this topic today and raises an interesting ethical question: Is it unethical to use this kind of “profile peddling” to enhance a bloggers own profile? The question is further complicated when you think that an unhappy competitor could completely infiltrate your web presence with negative publicity by using profile peddling to funnel negative publicity your way.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. When speaking with webmasters, “ethics” is a word best written in quotes :)

    I think it is ethical. I also think companies might have to pre-register profiles in order to save their names. That’s just how the modern internet is.

  2. Lyndon says:

    The ethics of SEO and just where is the line between the black and the white?

    I would agree with SEOmoz on this “Obviously, if you were a competitor of Otis’, writing about the same subject and you chose to smirch his online reputation by creating misleading or negative pages about him, you’d be in unethical territory.”

    There is a potential in such systems being used for unethical purposes. If your intention to harm becomes real and quantifiable harm, then the action must be unethical. But, if your intention is merely to gain personally and no real harm occurs then possibly it is ethical, tacky but not morally questionable.

    Can actions be judged devoid of the intention? Is it not what is in a persons heart that makes the action unethical, or is it simply natural law that is applied solely to the action.

    Ethics and morality are fascinating and now you have made me spend far too much time on this site. But that is the Power of Darren!

  3. Eitan says:

    Ethical, yes. Unless you’re doing it for unethical reasons.

    Nothing’s ethical if you’re doing it to besmirch others. If you only are doing this to draw more attention to yourself, then go for it.

  4. Ken says:

    I don’t think it’s unethical. Just like anything, marketers can go overboard with it and turn it into spam. But if you stay within the realm of common sense, it’s actually one of the things that profiles are designed to do. Why else would they have spaces to add your home page, AIM name, email address, etc.?

  5. Leon says:

    I think its a good idea. I might just use it to drive traffic to my blog.

  6. selfstarter says:

    Only the web service that you use can determine if your profile is unethical.

    If I have something to say on Flickr or MySpace (and that something just happens to be my brand) then I feel I am legitimatly using that service. If I decide to use every new service that crops up that is my business.

    The great thing about bookmark/tagging and social news/network services such as reddits, digg, del.icio.us, rawsugar and others is that they encourage everyone to make a profile. Your participation (branded or not) in that service strengthens the service and your profile, provided you are abiding by its terms and agreements; it is a win-win situation. This is how the playing field is being leveled or, as Thomas Friedman would say “the world is being flattened” so that regular people like me can actually compete with a major newspaper or magazine.

    To deny youreslf any inviting new web service is to deny a new way to interface with new people on the web.

    Should I restrict my use of new webservices just because someone else thinks that “profile peddling” is unethical? No. My use of webservices will be defined by the service not a “blog elitist” but by the web service itself.

  7. Shirazi says:

    I see no harm in painless self promotion.

  8. pcunix says:

    I’ve never joined anything for the sole purpose of promoting my blog, but if I’m joining anyway, you had better bet I will promote it!

    So.. I don’t have an account at MySpace (too old and no interest) or Flickr (I barely own a camera) but if I did – yes, I would :-)

  9. soxiam says:

    I think there’s a slight difference in the question you are raising vs. scenario described in SEOMoz. You are talking about self-promotion through available means and the original article is talking about the ethics of usings these means to outrank someone else (or their products or service). I see no harm in self-promotion for traffic, for serps, etc.

  10. To be honest, I’m not so much talking about self promotion so much as using these methods also opens the door for the devious to ruin you.

  11. razib says:

    I agree with selfstarter that socail bookmarking websites are providing us level playing fields. Hardly any blogger has the ability to carry out promotional activities. These websites have given them the scope to promote in just spending the shortest amount of time and without any expense. If you have quality then there is a good chance that you will be noticed.

  12. jhay says:

    I think it all depends on how one would use ‘profile’ sites like MySpace, it is after all another source of in coming links. Here in the Philippines, Friendster is king and most Filipino bloggers, at least the ones I know of and visit, have their blogs tied to their Friendster profile via links and those ad-on html scripts to display on their blog.

    Some are even using their Friendster blog to promote their own main blog, like using it as an update bulletin containing post teasers that are linked back to their own off-Friendster blog.

  13. Renee says:

    SEO aside, ethic aside, moral aside…. If I own a blog and I don’t promote it myself, then who will? I’m not going wait for someone to discover ‘me’ by chance. So long it isn’t a spam blog be it healthy or filthy topics, then I shouldn’t be ashamed neither should I be worried to do so.

    pcunix: you don’t have to be young to be in MySpace. I’ve known ppl who are in their 40s going there for various reasons. Some just happened to have blog/site caters to youngsters interest like gaming stuff, while others (older men) have ulterior motives…which needs no further elaboratio. ;P

  14. John Curtis says:

    I put my blog address in almost every flickr photo I upload to make it obvious where people can go if they are interested in reading more from me. I have no idea if google is noticing this or not, but I figure it’s google’s problem to weight these links appropriately.

    I promote my flickr site on my blog, so it seems to make sense to promote my blog on flickr.

  15. blogalore says:

    I don’t think that companys should register profiles to do marketing, but as an individual, I see no reason not to do it. It’s just another way to tell something about yourself.

  16. pcunix says:

    I just did a “digg” of one of my own posts.

    I’m not going to reference the post here because it is completely unrelated to blogging, but I do want to talk about the ethics.

    Ordinarily, I wouldn’t digg my own stuff because it just wouldn’t feel right to me. In this case, however, I had been running around in circles for three days trying to figure out how to do something that actually turned out to be easy. I could find nothing on Google, I made posts at the newsgroups, but got no useful answrs: I kept hitting blank walls.

    Once I DID find the answer, I wrote it up and published it. I “dugg” it because I really want to share that with the next poor sap who runs around banging his head.

    Of course you need LOTS of digs to make it to the main pages, and that may not happen anyway, but I did want to at least give it a kick to get it started. I do NOT think that’s unethical – do you?

  17. Bruno Amaral says:

    Allow me to take this subject away from the ethics discussion:

    If I publish content on the web or in a traditional media, I want people to trust it. The only way that will happen is if I put my name on the line and assume responsability.

    Anonymous content on profiles or any other kind of webpage will still have an effect on Search Engines. But the viewer isn’t a blank slate, he will read and ponder what credibility to give that text, video or any other webcontent.

    If a client comes to me planning to smudge someone else’s profile, web page or product I have to say no. It’s not a matter of ethics, it’s about preserving everyone’s credibility. If something isn’t true or can’t be backed up with hard evidence, we don’t say it, we don’t comment and we don’t jump into conclusions.

  18. v31v6j1zy7 says:

    vonojluk

  19. Galaga Gal says:

    Sure its ethical. It takes way too damn long to be unethical. That’s some major grunt work to update all those profiles. And I agree with Ken… the fields are there to be used.

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