The supplementary professional ethics undertakings for 'natural Search Engine Optimisation' assignmentsOne of these supplementary undertakings, relating to 'natural Search Engine Optimisation' assignments, has now become standard further to a decision by the Supervisory Board (involving the consultation of the Code signatories), after 24 months of having been launched on a voluntary acceptance basis (over 30 signatories).
Since 1/7/2010, these supplementary professional ethics undertakings have been made mandatory for all eTIC Code signatories who include natural Search Engine Optimisation assignments as part of their offers to the patrons intended by the eTIC Code (even if these are assignments that are not performed on a regular basis or that are accessory under the terms of the contract, and even in cases where the assignments are outsourced).
These undertakings had been established further to two findings:
- The customer-SMEs lack pertinent information about the way natural Search Engine Optimisation works as well as about the risks involved in inappropriately "boosting" rankings;
- The, thankfully marginal, persistence of unprofessional practices in the area of SEO, threatening to discredit this line of business. The aim of the eTIC Code is to banish such unprofessional practices as unethical.
1 • Strengthening good communication commitments with prospects
1. The supplier undertakes, ahead of the contract being concluded, to explain:
- the conditions necessary for a web page to be listed in the search engine(s) intended,
- the principal elements that influence the ranking in the search engine(s) intended,
- the risks involved in practices aimed at misleading these search engines (spamdexing) to artificially obtain a better ranking.
The supplier shall provide the prospect with a document that summarises his explanations and that also contains the list of unprofessional practices below.
2. The supplier undertakes to establish, in concert with his prospect, a best endeavours obligation to arrive at the best positions, taking into account the site involved, and the customer's reputation and his ambitions.
The supplier shall notify the prospect from the very outset if, for technical reasons or due to the competitive context of the sector concerned, a correct ranking is unrealistic, or if a supplementary effort might bring significant ramifications compared against the site's current ranking.
3. The supplier undertakes to include in his offer services involving the analysis of the exact geographical whereabouts of site visitors and the nature of the traffic before and after his efforts, in accordance with a frequency and terms and conditions to be agreed in the contract, with a view to providing the customer with a tool to measure the impact over time of the service provided and to enable him to optimise / adapt later efforts. If no offer as such is submitted, the supplier shall draw the customer's attention to the fact that this option is available to him, and do so before the assignment gets underway.
4. Before the start of the assignment, the supplier shall provide the customer with a document (or advise the customer in writing that such a document will be made available to him on simple request) which clearly and accurately sets out his working methods: technologies implemented, optimisation methods, ranking procedures, etc.
The supplier is free to put in place the method of his choice to rank the websites of his customers, provided this method is in compliance with the provisions of the present document.
5. If it should appear that the supplier has engaged in practices that have been banished as unethical, he shall be required to reimburse in full all services he has provided in the area of SEO.
In addition, if his services have resulted in the blacklisting of the customer's website(s), and unless he is able to demonstrate that alien interventions to this/these website(s) that were conducted after the time he was providing his services to the customer are at the root thereof, the supplier undertakes, with due haste and at his own expense, to put in place the necessary steps for the website(s) to be effectively re-indexed by the search engine(s) involved.
6. If the rules or practices of the search engine change within 6 months following the services provided by the supplier and are threatening to result in the customer's website(s) being blacklisted, it is incumbent on the supplier to notify his customer thereof to enable the latter to take a decision in timely fashion.
7. When the contract is established, the supplier is to confirm to the customer in writing that he shall assign the intellectual property rights relating to the ranking services provided (such as key word analyses, copywriting, ...) and provide the customer with all elements relating to the work performed within the context of the ranking services so as to enable the latter to switch service providers in the event he was not satisfied with the service rendered. These transfers shall be made to occur automatically as soon as the customer has remitted payment of the services provided, unless expressly agreed otherwise between the 2 parties.
2 • The banishment of practices considered to be professionally unethical
The supplier shall refrain from:
1. engaging in practices that prejudice human rights or intellectual property rights, or that harm the ranking of competitors;
2. promising (guaranteeing) ranking results confined to one application and one search engine, and in a broader sense promising results that cannot be delivered or that cannot be verified by the customer. He undertakes to bring to bear a best endeavours obligation;
4. posting content that is not exactly identical to search engines and surfers alike (the latter may not be deceived as to the pertinence of the search results obtained);
5. unduly polluting the search engines' databases (for instance: through duplicate pages, pages showing content that is different to surfers or redirecting them to another page, pages created on the fly without any thought, etc.);
6. optimising a website under a domain name that does not belong to the customer (unless he is expressly asked to do so by the latter);
7. putting in links to his website from the customer's website, whether visibly or invisibly (unless this has been clearly stipulated under the terms of the contract signed between the two parties);
8. posting contextual advertising by giving the impression that the posting thereof is the result of his natural Search Engine Optimisation services;
9. not assigning to his customers the intellectual property rights relating to the ranking services;
10. evading his liability vis-à-vis the customer on the grounds of possibly having used subcontractors.