A Code of Ethics for Online Marketing

EVERYONE WITH AN ONLINE PRESENCE wants to drive traffic to their site. Whether we use Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-mail marketing, online public relations, advertising, social networking or buzz tactics; we all want Internet users to see our message and take action of some sort. Because we are all vying for the attention of available Internet traffic, there is a tremendous amount of competition online today. Unfortunately, competition can cause some people to resort to practices that cross acceptable lines of engagement. All might be fair in love and war; but all is not fair or acceptable in online marketing. Black hat SEO, Spamming, click fraud and deceptive advertising are some of the illicit methods used by some marketers to grab the attention of people online. In a way, it is not unlike an unruly child who acts up because he doesn’t get the attention that he craves.

While rules of engagement already exist, with regard to legal requirements for e-mail (Can-SPAM) and online marketing (search engine rules); they don’t necessarily prevent us from taking short-cuts that involve crossing the lines of acceptable behavior. There are speed limits on highways, but people still speed. There are anti-discrimination laws, but people still discriminate. The truth is that legislation doesn’t necessarily change behavior. A code of ethics won’t necessarily change behavior either, but it might cause people who straddle the line to consider their actions in terms of social responsibility and fair play; rather than complying to a set of complex rules and regulations that are often complicated to understand or misinterpreted .

To that end, here is the beginning of a Code of Ethics that online marketers should consider…more…


Post Script: Seth Godin discussed Marketing morality on his blog.

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