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Real World SEO: Burning your competition

May 4th, 2010 | | SEO Management

I have stated before that effective SEO is outranking your competition. It’s like the old joke that goes like this:

Two men are in the woods and the first man is retying his fancy running shoes. The second man says “Why are you wearing those ridiculous shoes out here in the wilderness?” The first man retorts “It’s in case a bear starts chasing us.” The second man laughs and says “You know that no man can outrun a bear don’t you?” The first man smiles and says, “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you.”

SEO is about ranking your web pages higher than your competitor’s during searches. This blog and others share common practices and techniques on how to properly have your site be relevant and indexed correctly by Google and other search engines.  We wear the white hats.

Getting an Edge

Beating the competition involves finding out what they are doing and doing one better. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, sometimes it is quite the undertaking. It’s all about how fast they are running (to elude to the joke at the beginning). Does the competition have a website with relevant and current information? Do they just have “Home” as their homepage title? Is their site built in flash? Do they advertise their URL? Do they have keywords in the right
places? What is the extent of their online presence? How do they rank for products and services you sell?

These are questions to answer to see where you might gain an advantage quickly.

Don’t be evil

The past two weeks have had me thinking about unethical SEO and web practices out of sheer vengeance. This isn’t black hat stuff.  It’s just mean stuff.  Let me first say that I did not follow through with any of these techniques. I have taken the high road as a white hat SEO practitioner should. But I should provide some context to why I was thinking this way.

One client of mine had a manager who was very in-tune with the business and marketing model for close to 8 years. With his expertise and industry knowledge he turned a near-bankrupt company into a behemoth in the local market place. He zigged while other zagged, dodged when others jumped. Competition was either drying up or was beaten to a distant 2nd. Then the boom was lowered. The manager left the company under false pretenses and is starting up a competing business one town over. Armed with our business secrets, methods, tactics and goals, we face an upstart with a ton of knowledge and very little overhead. Through a contact, I was able to find the name of the business that will be started one town over that will aim to take a piece of our pie away. What do I do? Well, what do I know? I know a name and I know an industry …

Dancing with evil.

Ok so if I was to be evil, how do I go about crushing a threat such as this?

Evil Tactic #1 - URL Squatting
I went and searched to see if the appropriate URLs that could be matched to the business were available. They were. I could buy every single possible URL tied with the business name and city and laugh confidently like Micky Rourke from Iron Man 2.

Backlash -The ICANN law revision in 1999 not only would force me to hand over the URL to them, but I would have put the my client in a position to pay out “damages” as determined by the court if I was acting in bad faith. That doesn’t sound happy.

Evil Tactic #2 – Optimize for the Business Name
If I can’t get the URL, then I could feasibly go for the business name. Several pages with the business name in different headers and titles but also linking to my pages. Bwa Ha Haaa.

Backlash - Trademark violations and a whole lot of wrath from the Google Gods once they realize what’s going on.  And it’s also really hard to do. This was a big thing with meta tags when they once meant something.

Evil Tactic #3 – Social Media Slam
If I can’t get the URL and I can’t optimize for their brand name, why don’t I create antagonistic pages on Facebook or Myspace? I don’t own the pages?

Backlash -This is actually really stupid. Not only are you going out of your way to put your competition in the mire, you risk your own credibility that could spread like a wildfire in your locale.

What do we do then?

Betrayal is hurtful and can really make one feel spiteful, but nothing is better than playing it smart. In this aspect, it’s better to stop the fight before it actually begins. Protecting a business is much larger than an SEO campaign. Like every other aspect of a business, an SEO campaign should only do what it is meant to do. Outrank Competition. Protecting a business comes in the form of contracts signed by people before they begin working for you that contain non-disclosure agreements and non-compete agreements. What will happen is that the betrayer will get slammed with a law suit or be given a cease and desist and then they are reduced to slug through the legal mire while you continue to optimize your own site.

SEO isn’t reactionary, it’s purpose driven. Your competition is there to keep you on your toes, improve your game and maintain what is truly important to your overall success – repeat business.

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  • Nate

    OK, you win. I’m a comic book fan and a web designer interested in learning more about SEO. Can’t feel more at home than here! Excelsior!