Hippocratic Oath for SEO Agencies

I was talking to a doctor friend of mine over the weekend, and the conversation turned to prioritisation and trying to meet unlimited demands with limited resources.

As you may be aware, the “hippocratic oath” is something that every medical practitioner in the UK has to take, and it represents a summary of the values they are expected to adhere to.  There exists an ancient (as originally taken by Hippocrates), and also a modern version, but both seem a bit too “wordy” for me to grasp the fundamentals of how to use them as a practical set of ethics to guide decision making and prioritisation.

However, my friend neatly summarised the oath  in to four basic principles:

  • Autonomy – Respect the patient’s choice (even if it means they might die)
  • Beneficence – Do good
  • Non-Maleficence – Do no harm
  • Justice – Use limited resources wisely and balance the need of the individual against the needs of the collective

Now maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but this sounded like a pretty good description of what it’s like to undertake an SEO campaign for a client…

Autonomy is the most important principle in medical ethics, and this seems to translate to “the customer is always right” within the business context.  I can suggest, give advice & insight based on my experience and even try and estimate “survival rates” for on-line businesses, but at the end of the day I have to do what the client insists I do!

Beneficence (do good), is obviously the main aim for Search Engine Optimisation in terms of increasing search engine rankings, traffic and sales conversions, but it’s interesting to temper this with non-maleficence (do no harm) – There are a lot of agencies out there that do a quick 5 minute search on Google’s keyword tool and then “jump in” to optimising a site!  To ensure the digital “patient” is not harmed in the search engine operating theatre, it’s necessary to fully understand the client’s products, their competition, the value of their digital content, and their online competitive advantage.  It is key to understand (and measure) how ill the client actually is in order to subscribe appropriate treatments and medication.

Justice – How do you balance the unlimited elements of potential SEO enhancement that could be undertaken, with the limited resources available (primarily time and budget)?  The key here is the same as it is in the medical world, prioritisation is based on clinical effectiveness.  If something is relatively easy to do and will have a significant impact on health (or Search Engine rankings in this analogy), then this should be done first.  Expensive treatments that achieve much smaller results need to be further down the priority list.  Where the NHS have NICE to regulate the point at which the cost is not worth the benefit, as SEO practictioners we have to work this out for ourselves on a case by case basis using website analytics and Return on Investment (ROI) calculations.




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