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Mark Schaefer thinks it is. Quite frankly, I think it’s been ugly for a long time.

The practices described by Mark at WebProNew, fake comments and the like, have been going on for as long as I can remember. They’ve been going on in blogs ever since SEOs have discovered that blogs are good SEO tools. Before that, forum comments were all the rage. In fact, today, the gray hat SEOs will hire people to write fake blog and forum comments that work together.

It’s a seedy practice, no doubt. And there is an ethical fine line. I mean, if a professional blogger likes your comment and tries to e-mail you with a response or to solicit a deeper relationship, that can lead to a real ugly scenario real fast. Do you respond as if you are a real person and lead them on, or do you come clean and tell them you are a fake? Either way, you lose. And so do they.

That’s not to say that all SEOs are bad people, nor that all SEOs are shady characters. Most are doing a good job. But I’d like to draw your attention to one of Mark’s comments:

This is a slippery slope that will lead to regulation. All it will take is one high-profile case that blows the lid off these practices. And we will all lose if we have to endure new rules and the cost of compliance.

I can feel Marks’ anguish. And he’s right. All it will take is one high profile case, a client who hires an SEO firm in good faith only to be made to look like a fool when the news breaks that thousands of blog and forum comments were fake. The only question is, Which Fortune 500 company will it affect, which industry? When it happens, it will affect all of us. What will the SEOs say then?

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