Search Engine Marketing – Ethical Issues

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a reliably new channel of marketing and is yet to be standardized. The methods are still evolving with the changing perception of attaining optimum profit by the hosts. Therefore, the practices involved in SEM often appear to be contradictory from the investors' perspective. Thus, ethics plays an important role.

The ethical issues can be classified into two categories depending on perspectives of –

1. The Investors and
2. The Users.

A. Ethical constants from investors' point:

There exist three areas of clash of interest among the investors.

i. Placing paid search campaigns on search engine result page has been generated sufficient controversy. Finally, in 2002, Federal Trade Commission intervened to make a mandate of disclosure of paid advertisements on search engines.

ii. Vested interest groups are narrowing the range of definition of SEM by using them synonymous with "pay per click" campaigns; since they tend to exclude Search Engine Optimization from the span of definition of SEM.

iii. Infringement of trademark by third party bidding has long been a heated discourse.

Remedies: So far, no general consensus has been developed yet in this regard. Because law of the land varies from one national territory to the other and so does the perception of ethics. Since search engine marketing has never been linked to a single national territory, the ethical constants persist.

B. Ethical constraints from users' perspective:

There exist two security and privacy issues concerning SEM. They are as follows:

i. Some advertisement contents include external applications. Such applications often affect users' browser settings, show pop-ups in non-affiliated pages, and can be spyware.

ii. The privacy or anonymity of user can strictly be compromised due to use of third party cookies. This is because the address of browser can be traced by an advertiser by using hosting images and / or banners and using third party cookies.

Remedial measures: Any remedy is yet to arrive for this kind of ethical issues.

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