Thursday, July 2, 2009

Internet Marketing, Google and Ethics

As an Internet content provider, I write what my clients ask me to write. If I am directly writing on their web site or blog, of course I know where the content will appear and I know what they are doing with it. There are other instances, however, when they ask me to send them some articles in a .doc file, and once I do this I have no idea what they are going to do with the content. I have done my job and violated none of Google's guidelines in writing it, so in a very real sense it is none of my business how they use content that they have purchased from me.

I recently had the experience of getting a pretty big, time sensitive article writing project for a client. I had done similar work for him, and I just submitted the articles, got paid, and that was it. One day when I was in the middle of this assignment I got an email from the client with the heading "Google caught us." He told me to stop writing the pieces, saying that "Google isn't running the stories anymore." I don't know exactly what he meant by that or where he was trying to post the articles, which were perfectly well written and not even stuffed with keywords. There was just a little call to action at the end of the pieces suggesting that people visit his site.

He then asked me to write a couple of articles per day for his site. At this point I didn't really want to work with him, but I didn't want it to seem like I was judging him, so I did it.

Then, yesterday, he told me that he had more work for me. He said he had come up with a "truly original idea" that involved spamming Craigslist. As he was talking I knew I wouldn't do it, but once again, I didn't want to offend him. I told him that I was a registered Craigslist user and that I can't post more than three legitimate ads per day. He said he had many different Craigslist accounts. I told him Craigslist will recognize the same IP address. He said he has an IP scrambler, and then kind of trailed off into how he'll get another person to post, but he would ask me to write the content. He changed the subject before I could respond.

I wrote him earlier today and told him that I couldn't work with him any longer. I won't even write for his site. I told him I was too busy because I didn't want to preach to him, but I would guess that he understands the real reason. He had also recommended me to a friend, and I assume that I won't be hearing from him, but that's fine.

Turning away customers is difficult, because as I learned in college, customers are good for business. But I'm in this for the long haul and I am going to stay within Google's guidelines, remain true to my own ethics and make the 'net a little bit better by providing content that doesn't suck. The Content Dude won't abide spammers, and hopefully, you won't either.

(I am adding this a month or so later: dude stiffed me for the money he owed me to boot!)

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