CAAMP: Our SEO techniques are clean

by |

CAAMP is fending off allegations it is has broken its own conduct rules with search engine optimization techniques deemed “unethical.”

The technique used by the association “is not unethical…because users are not misled or misdirected,” Jim Murphy, CAAMP president and CEO, told MortgageBrokerNews.ca.

The association came under fire from brokers this week following an article in the September issue of its Mortgage Journal which details CAAMP’s rules on how members can and cannot use a competitor’s name to drive traffic to their websites.

In that same article, CAAMP also announced that it was negotiating a settlement agreement with one member whose Internet advertising was found to have violated those rules. However, some brokers reacted by saying the organization was in fact “breaking its own rules.”

One reader reported that an SEO keyword analysis of CAAMP’s own website revealed that the association is using the term Seneca (a Toronto-based college) to drive traffic to the CAAMP website. Seneca and CAAMP offer competing  relicensing courses for Ontario brokers.

The reader provided the following link to a screen capture to prove the point: http://screencast.com/t/xNDn377JUftK

But Murphy told MortgageBrokerNews.ca that CAAMP’s use of what it calls “search term targeting” is not unethical and that problem only arises when the search results are altered to display information designed to mislead the user as to what site they will actually forwarded to in clicking on those search results.

“The discussion underlines the difference between search term targeting, dynamic keyword insertion and the improper use of any of these online tools,” said Murphy, in a written statement to MortgageBrokerNews.ca. ”However, search term targeting techniques which are designed to increase the frequency of search results for Brokerage A (even if the user searched for Brokerage B) are not unethical because the user is merely presented with a link to Brokerage A’s website as one option among the many search results, but is not misled or misdirected when selecting from among those results.”

The CAAMP president also provided an explanation for when dynamic keyword insertion can be considered to be in violation of the association’s code of conduct rules.

“If the link includes a name or trademark of Brokerage A, but actually directs the user to the website of Brokerage B,” said Murphy, “then this would be unethical because the user is being misled.”

 

  • White Hat on 2012-09-21 4:42:19 AM

    I find it amazing that Mr. Murphy can defend such a clearly unethical position.

    Keywords are designed to tell search engines what the article is about. In this case, the word Seneca is not even in the article, and the article is clearly not about Seneca; it's about CAAMP's mortgage agent course.

    The question that Mr. Murphy must therefore answer is:
    Why is the word Seneca in your keywords?

    The answer appears to me to be obvious. CAAMP is trying to trick search engines, like Google, into thinking the article is about, or relates to Seneca College. Seneca College is a competitor. Therefore CAAMP is trying to get web traffic that would otherwise be going to Seneca College.

    The fact that Mr. Murphy took the time to think of his response, then put it in writing, and I assume have someone review it, is all the more appalling. This defense was not a mistake but a clear case of arrogantly dismissing legitimate criticism.

    I assume he can also defend his having an AMP designation when he's never brokered a mortgage. In my humble opinion this is another case of arrogance. How can one believe he deserves the same designation that others must work to obtain?

    He, and CAAMP, clearly don't understand ethical competition. I call for a boycott of CAAMP and their arrogant business practices.

    And Mr. Murphy should consider resigning. P

  • Back in Black...Hat on 2012-09-21 4:53:23 AM

    Mr Murphy states that, "search term targeting techniques which are designed to increase the frequency of search results for Brokerage A (even if the user searched for Brokerage B) are not unethical"

    That is basically THE definition of unethical!

    If someone wanted info on Brokerage B, why should they be tricked into seeing anything about Brokerage A??

    Mr Murphy, this is not illegal, but it is clearly unethical. What a shame that this is what CAAMP has become.

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 4:57:56 AM

    Someone should probably tell everyone involved here that the meta=keywords tag hasn't been used as a ranking signal for YEARS. Even if they intended to scoop on Seneca's traffic, they could never accomplish it that way.

  • Jordan on 2012-09-21 5:09:10 AM

    Do you think Seneca agrees that this is ethical?

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 5:10:43 AM

    Joel K, just because the unethical practice may not be wildly effective, it's still unethical!

  • philip on 2012-09-21 5:15:33 AM

    meta keywords?

    those hasnt worked since 1998

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 5:16:39 AM

    And for anyone who wants proof of my previous comment, allow me to point you here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html (Google themselves say so).

    This is much ado about nothing. The meta-keywords tag proves only that CAAMP wanted to be found for that phrase, not that they actually could be.

    If you look at the back links pointed to the site (A ranking signal that actually matters), "Seneca" isn't used as anchor text in a SINGLE ONE. The on-page content of the site isn't targeted towards the phrase either. You're all getting upset about something incredibly superficial and meaningless.

    Anyone with 5 minutes of current SEO training can quickly see that they were NOT making an aggressive move on this phrase, at least not one that would be effective for the past 10 years.

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 5:43:36 AM

    Incompetent and unethical, then?

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 5:48:24 AM

    Joel K., you're missing the point. Are you okay having an association that tries to play dirty but just isn't good at it?

  • Joel k on 2012-09-21 5:52:44 AM

    Is it unethical for footlooker to target "Nike shoes?" - Seneca traffic will always find Seneca first when they search for them by brand. It would be unethical for caamp to pose as Seneca, but not to TARGET that phrase. Is it unethical for best buy to have pages of content that compare their prices to future shop in order to try and rank for the futureshop brand name? No. The info they serve up clearly comes from best buy and is comparison based. Caamp did not attempt to mislead, only to have a presence for that phrase.

  • Joel k on 2012-09-21 5:54:08 AM

    Targeting a competing brand name isn't "playing dirty" if it is clear and obvious you are not that brand. Period.

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 6:03:19 AM

    I disagree. You have to ask yourself the question: why are they targeting Seneca? If it is of no benefit to them they wouldn't do it.

    Footlocker advertises shoes they sell.

    By the way, CAAMP didn't compare. That would be fine and a reason to have Seneca in their keywords.

    But there is no reason to have a keyword that isn't in your article. The intent was clearly to increase traffic, even if they failed at it.

    Unethical. Period.

  • Joel k on 2012-09-21 6:14:38 AM

    So what if it WAS to increase traffic!? If they turn up in search results for "Seneca", then how exactly is that a violation to Seneca college? You mistakenly believe that websites are "owed" search result real estate or that they deserve to own the entire discussion about their brands in the search result space. It is no less ethical for caamp to target competing brand names than it is for a hot dog vendor to set up outside of a McDonald's restaurant. Most, if not all searchers who type in Seneca are looking for the brand and any reasonable surfer will know which site is Seneca's and which is not. That caamp would be one option of the results to click on that phrase is not an unethical move so long as they are not deliberately causing confusion for users or posing as the brand.

    What you've just told me is that it's okay for caamp to target that phrase so long as they draw comparisons, but it's NOT somehow if they don't? Can you not see the only difference their being the means by which they target the EXACT same phrase? What makes one right and the other wrong? The outcome would be the exact same.

  • Paolo Di Petta | dipettamortgage.com on 2012-09-21 6:21:48 AM

    I wonder if CAAMP would find it ethical if a non-AMP Mortgage Professional used AMP as one of their keywords...

    I think CAAMP has just made the situation worse. Rather than owning up and fixing the problem, they've gone ahead and tried to justify it. All that does is hurt their credibility, and quite honestly, the credibility of the industry.

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 6:29:55 AM

    Honesty is what makes one right and one wrong. The outcome isn't as important as the intent in this case.

    If I wanted to compare my site to yours, I would want people who searched your site to find mine so I could show that comparison. An honest reason.

    If I just put Kate Middleton in my keywords, or in my article, or wherever, just to try to get a high page rank, that is dishonest.

    If you knew that Verico was more popular than your site, would it be okay to put them in your keywords and articles just to get a higher page rank? CAAMP's site has NOTHING to do with Seneca!! So why do it?

    Joel, shouldn't a professional industry expect more from a professional association?

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 6:42:57 AM

    I'm not in your industry, to be clear. I suppose we will need to respectfully disagree on this point, though.

    Let's agree to these facts, then:
    1. Even if it was in a horribly outdated and ineffective way, CAAMP intended to come up for "Seneca"

    2. Users determine what they click on. They scan results. Even after they arrive on a site, if they didn't find what they came for, they leave. A reasonable surfer is able to tell the difference between CAAMP and Seneca, even should CAAMP appear for the Seneca keyword phrase.

    So while I can completely see where you're coming from, I simply don't agree with your conclusion.

    Targeting a competitor's brand name while remaining a presence entirely distinct from that brand isn't unethical. It's not a worthwhile SEO strategy for a myriad of reasons (not the least of which is how difficult it is to be seen as relevant for your competitor's phrases given that search engines take hundreds of factors into account when ranking sites), but it's not, in my opinion, an unethical one.

    Misleading people is unethical, but search result space is not owed to a company simply because they are that brand. It might not be the friendliest play, and it may be inappropriate for a governing organization to do for that reason (maintaining positive relationships with its members), but it is not, again, in my opinion, unethical.

    Misleading would be dishonest. But targeting a competitor's phrase is not an attempt to mislead.

    In any case, I find it somewhat telling that you would have no problem if CAAMP was actually making the MORE aggressive, more effective ploy of targeting the phrase by making comparisons. Perhaps it would feel a more 'honest' means, but isn't their end goal - to rank for "Seneca" - by your definition - STILL unethical?

  • Brendan on 2012-09-21 7:06:38 AM

    I agree that it's not an attempt to mislead. It is, however, an attempt to increase page rank in search engines by leaching onto the reputation of someone else. That's typically what someone does when they don't feel they can compete on their own merits. Therefore it is unethical.

    Re your last paragraph. If CAAMP did a comparison between it and Seneca then that is fine. Using Seneca's name would be relevant and topical. I would assume that they'd be doing it to show that they are better than Seneca. Maybe that's why they don't do it.

    Regardless, if you were a blogger and had something to say about Kate Middleton then using her name is fine because it's relevant. But CAAMP putting Seneca in its keywords is not relevant because the article has nothing to do with Seneca. Simply a clear attempt at benefiting from someone else's reputation. A reputation, by the way, that costs millions to create and maintain.

    That's why I think this is a dirty tactic.

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 7:18:06 AM

    Please don't take me as rude, but I do want to check and make sure we're talking about the same thing. "page rank", if you're referring to it in the "Google page rank" sense, has nothing to do with keywords at all. Just targeting a keyword doesn't give your site authority, ranking value, or "page rank". At all.

    In the very BEST case scenario for CAAMP, they would come up for "Seneca" based on the fact that they had built authority in Google's eyes relative to that keyword. It's not like I can type 'poker' into my title tags and improve my site's overall visibility. It takes a whole lot more than than.

    Also, I applaud your choice of kate middleton for this discussion.

    The good news is, if CAAMP isn't relevant for "Seneca", then they won't come up for the phrase. Google is not a brainless algorithm, it is changing constantly and the factors it evaluates are far more sophisticated than "keywords" in isolation.

    So, is CAAMP trying to pull traffic off of another person's brand name? Yes. But we disagree on that being wrong - and it's fairly clear we're not going to agree even though I think you have excellent points.

    Search results pages reflect conversations. If CAAMP can be relevant enough to that phrase to rank for it, without misleading people, then there's nothing wrong with it. It's a fallacy to think that CAAMP could "Steal" traffic in this way - people would still need to CHOOSE to click on their site even with the clear knowledge that they aren't Seneca.

    Either way, I think we've hashed this out quite enough by now. We won't agree, and that's okay.

  • Nick on 2012-09-21 7:46:42 AM

    It does not matter if Meta Tags work or don't work. There action is unethical, imho. I am pretty sure if the meta tags on anyones website indicate, fake employment letters, CAAMP will have an issue.

    JIM MURPHY say you are sorry, remove Seneca from the Meta Tags and call it a day.

  • Not A Broker on 2012-09-21 7:51:43 AM

    I think Joel K and Brendan are both right.

    What I believe Joel K is saying makes sense in the manner that companies & entities do these things all the time and it isn't generally thought of as unethical. Brendan, in my opinion, is also right in his expressions towards CAAMP because it is my understanding that CAAMP had labelled these practices 'unethical' and gone after brokers while they themselves have been found to at least be trying to do the same. I believe the two are arguing apples & oranges.

  • John on 2012-09-21 8:09:49 AM

    As I read through your comments Joel K, I have to say; the point here is that CAAMP is being hypocritical, not whether or not you agree with Brendan. The fact is CAAMP is disagreeing with themselves. Who cares who is right or wrong, CAAMP is clearly being hypocritical with this response.

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 8:25:32 AM

    As I understand it, CAAMP defined their "rules" by saying this:
    -------
    There is possible trademark infringement and violation of tort law if a consumer searches, for example, member John Doe or Brokerage XYZ Mortgages and the dynamic search results “show John Doe or XYZ Mortgages in bold on the first line of the search result, but with a link that takes the consumer to a different member’s website…”
    That could “constitute a trademark infringement or a violation of the common law tort of ‘passing off’ and could lead to a CAAMP ethics complaint or worse a lawsuit,” CAAMP warned. “Members should take care not to infringe trademarks or be guilty of ‘passing off’ when advertising,”
    -------

    If that's the case, then they're not being hypocritical because they're not infringing on someone else's trademark by simply targeting that phrase. They aren't attempting to come up "on the first line, in bold" or to mislead people into thinking they are Seneca.

  • john doe on 2012-09-21 8:28:08 AM

    joel k you don't by chance work for caamp, do you?

  • Joel K on 2012-09-21 8:31:41 AM

    Hahahaha. No. I was actually referred to this article by someone in your industry on account of the fact that I do SEO for an agency. I found it compelling because the argument was over an extremely antiquated SEO approach (meta=keywords tags), so initially I just wanted to clear up for people reading that this isn't even a technique that's used.

    If I worked for CAAMP, you can rest assured that their SEO would be significantly more current. I also wouldn't be bothering to target Seneca for sheer fact that it's not a good target in any case (no amount of traffic from this phrase is likely to ever convert), but that's a completely different story.

    If anything, I stuck around because it's fun to play devil's advocate, but at the same time, I think there's an incredible misunderstanding of what SEO is, how it works, and what is or is not "ethical" in the online sphere.

  • @kiltedbroker on 2012-09-21 9:23:05 AM

    Cookie Jar, Red Hand, Excuse. The End.

    Please scroll back up through the comments, reread what Paolo Di Petta posted - He nailed it.

  • Mark Delleman on 2012-09-21 1:32:41 PM

    When a broker who has been in the industry for 2 months can get (BUY) an AMP designation what kind of credibility does that lend to the title? CAAMP breaks their own rule and then is arrogant enough to try to justify. What a joke.

  • Sua Truong on 2012-09-22 7:28:08 AM

    Paolo Di Petta said it best. Any consumer would see it is wrong. Why would I want to be associated with an organization that is a hypocrite? Do as I say but not as I do? Excellent parenting skills.

  • Sua Truong on 2012-09-22 7:33:40 AM

    Reminds me of how bad parenting starts: Do as I say, not as I do. As a mortgage adviser, I have made many mistakes, none of them were intentional. However, I always own up - regardless of the situation. Finding an excuse or blame shows what kind of character you truly are.

Broker news forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions