Ethics in search engine optimization is a hot topic mostly because it has been hard for any SEO organization to define what behaviors are considered ethical and what are considered unethical. Barring any well-defined criteria, we have tried in this section to lay out what we believe to be some ethically questionable practices in search engine optimization.
Cloaking is the practice of creating one page of well-optimized text for the search engine/s and serving up a separate page for the visitors. Through cloaking, your visitors can see a great design with lots of graphics and little text. They will never see your ugly page of highly-optimized text. On the other hand, your search engine will never come in contact with your beautiful, prize-winning page of dazzling graphics.
What is wrong with this? Well, first is creates an uneven playing field among the competitors for the top position. Most web designers and web site owners do not know how to cloak and thus are at a disadvantage for those who do. Second, cloaking breaks the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) rule that most webmasters cherish. One, web page, one URL is seen the same by all the same way. Third, because most people view this as an unethical practice, it is an unethical practice. If a search engine discovers you are engaging in cloaking, many will bury your site deep in the results never to be found again.
Doorway or Gateway Pages
Doorway or gateway pages as they are sometimes called are a part of another ethically gray area. These pages also violate the WYSIWYG fair play or even playing field rule. The part that is ethically questionable is not that they exist, but that they are hidden from the visitors with an invisible link on the homepage. If this were an ethically acceptable practice then why hide the pages? The doorway pages are hidden because they are ugly pages laden with keyword heavy text, which have two reasons for their existence. First, they are used to get to the top of the search engines. Second, when a visitor clicks on these pages, he or she finds little real content and directed to venture back to the homepage or further into the site.
Doorway pages have been very popular for the last several years. Some people see the practice as ethically acceptable and so be it. It certainly does not rank up with cloaking as an ethically questionable practice. A better way to build a website, however, is not to have hidden links and pages. Why not make every page on your website a visible doorway page that visitors will want to spend time on and that search engine spiders will easily index?