When people post content online, they should know by this point it will never truly disappear. So imagine all of the pictures people post with you included in it, all the things you have done in your past, either good or bad, will all appear online somehow. That is why it is important to understand the concept and importance of online reputation management. It alters what people see about you online so naturally there is some kind of ethical dilemma attached to this.
Content is a vital part of search engine optimization (SEO) but also for online reputation management (ORM). Writing articles for readers first and search engines second is the rule in SEO. But it is the different for ORM since the goal is to suppress negative articles down on search engines and and push up the positive. There fore the question becomes does the investment in good content worth it to be able to do all this. Think about it, not only are you pushing one result up but multiple so you constantly need content to be able to get to your goal.
Now the issue becomes what are people or businesses trying to hide from the public? Where do you draw the line? Would you take on business from someone who is a known sex predator? Every job you take on has some ethics attached to it. Some situations clearer to see than others. As you know not all cases are the same so there are a few questions to ask yourself beforehand like what is the company and the purpose of of the job? If you take on a job from someone, would it harm stakeholders if they are not made aware of certain information?
Keep in mind that not everyone is perfect therefore mistakes are made and some can end up online where it can be damaging to a brand or a person. In the cases where hiding the content will not be damaging, that is where ORM can come in handy.
Keep in mind that people have personal biases will make them decide if they want to take on a job. Having a foot fetish is not illegal but it is placed in a grey zone where depending on the person’s religious or other beliefs might not want to take on a job associated with that topic. ORM in and of itself is ethical if done properly. There isn’t much of a difference between SEO and ORM since you are still link building, responding to reviews and writing good content. Just the scope of the work has multiplied from the amount of results you are doing SEO on.