Advertising on the Net – The ASA’s New Powers & SEO


I woke on Sat morning to news on the radio that from the 1st March the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be giving Internet users the ability to complain about advertising on commercial websites.

The ASA will be able to react to anything on a commercial website or indeed any space that is under the companies control (including Facebook, Twitter etc) that is deemed to be marketing.

“From March 1st, the ASA’s online remit will be extended to cover marketing communications on organisations’ own websites and in other non-paid-for space under their control.”

So for example, if a company claims on their website that they will guarantee you a No. 1 position in Google (which can’t be done – No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google) then the ASA will be able to challenge that claim. Exciting times I feel.

This is of particular newsworthiness to me as it’s always been a massive bugbear of the SEO World to see sites springing up with ludicrous claims that cannot be upheld (for example, guaranteeing a #1 ranking on Google) and I think this will make the ground a lot fairer for all us honest SEO companies (in the UK at least) who refuse to put outrageous claims on our websites.

Here are just a  few claims I found on other SEO company websites that would make an honest SEO company blush:

Even seemingly simple points will hopefully now be questioned. For example, saying on a site that you are ‘ranked at number 1 in Google for X-Y-Z’ implies it’s a constant ranking but as these things fluctuate then it won’t always be fact. So ‘ranked at number 1 in Google for X-Y-Z as of the 1st April 2010’ is surely the more honest and correct way to write this. A small difference in the scheme of things but I would say it was far less misleading than simply ‘ranked at number 1 in Google for X-Y-Z’.

It will be interesting to watch how quickly some SEO companies react and change wording on their websites. For example on carrying out a quick search related to the best UK SEO’s I can see several companies claiming in their search descriptions to be the number one SEO company in the UK?


They can’t all be number one can they? Surely they are contradicting each other with claims like this? And another thing, a ‘Top SEO‘ according to whom? Where does the data come from to make this a fact as opposed to a claim? Is it independent or is it paid for ‘award’? All those questions should warrant careful consideration rather than being taken at face value. There’s an interesting blog over at Hobo that goes into this point in more detail.

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    • PoLRweb
    • 14th February 2011

    Thanks Stuart.

    I've heard of other SEO's reporting sites to Google for 'black hat' techniques in the past but apart from the 'black hatters' site possibly being affected for a short while it seems to be a gamble that some companies are willing to take on the off chance they will reap the benefits while it's not noticed. I think it's a hugely positive step that companies advertising falsely online will now have someone to answer to.


    • Stuart McMichael
    • 14th February 2011

    Thanks for this Lynne. Good article.

    Regarding Advertising: perhaps not so much socially, but defiantly more institutionally – I’d say that this is a giant leap for recognition of digital marketing / advertising credibility in general. So with that recognition, and vehicle for complaint, you would expect it to manifest itself by more ethical and responsible digital promotion?

    Regarding SEO: these claims to be number one in Google etc – I’ve been thinking about this myself a lot recently. I’ve been studying some common ‘Black Hat SEO techniques’ over the weekend (as research you understand) and was quite surprised at some of the techniques being employed, especially with ‘Negative SEO.’

    Good to see the likes of Google & Yahoo becoming more and more intelligent though, in the combat of the Black Hat brigade as everything continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace. Meaning companies employing honesty, integrity and genuinely wanting to have a positive impact on an organisations online presence (companies like POLR) are able to do so more fairly.