Australian Officials Move To Regulate Shady SEO Industry

Australian Officials are pushing for new regulation that will monitor the burgeoning search engine optimization (SEO) industry, which critics have derided as being riddled with fraudulent activity and boisterous promises to small businesses which go unfulfilled.

Senior official Kate Carnell of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has called for Australian small businesses to come forward and report their lackluster experiences with the SEO industry, which she believes is misleading entrepreneurs who are unfamiliar with nascent digital technologies.

According to Search Engine Land, Ombudsman Carnell has decried the SEO industry for “over-promising and under-delivering” results to small businesses which regularly receive its pitches. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is being opened up for small business owners who are being directed to report their fraudulent SEO experiences to officials in an effort to push for new legislation.

While the ASBFEO lacks the authority to generate new regulations itself, the oversight and public awareness generated by the agency could push elected officials to take more stringent action against the nascent SEO industry, which continues to grow rapidly as the economy moves in a digital direction.

Research from Borrell Associates predicted that businesses in the United States spent roughly $72 billion in search engine optimization services in 2018, according to Forbes, demonstrating the upward tick in digital spending. This was also seen by Australian SEO reseller services. Critics contest the growth of the SEO industry, however, asserting that it’s filled with shady service providers who are simply looking to leech of businesses.

Major tech companies like Google have been forced to take major action against some services, with the search engine behemoth having recently sued the Supreme Marketing Group, which resulted in the company being put out of business. Google attested that the company mislead customers by falsely claiming its services were associated with Google itself.

Google has issued strict guidelines for businesses in the SEO industry, warning that those who engage in “blackhat” practices will be barred from the search engine. The company recently established a complaint center so that violations of its terms of services can be reported.

The renewed emphasis on SEO legitimacy being pushed by Australian officials could deter startup SEO services and major businesses alike from bending the rules in their favor. According to investigative reporting from the New York Times, for instance, BMW was caught utilizing a black-hat strategy in 2006 and suffered the consequences.

Khurram Aziz is a web entrepreneur who trained as a journalist. He is a freelance writer, runs online ventures, and consults on WordPress and Magento web development.