Anyone who has ever run any type of business knows how fierce the competition can be at times. This is just as true on the web today as it was in the brick-and-mortar world of yesterday. Unscrupulous webmasters will go to any lengths to sabotage their competitors’ websites, often resorting to a practice known as “Google bowling”.
Here are some of the dirty tricks your competitors may resort to:
Stealing Your Content
While Google is quite capable of filtering out duplicate content, this doesn’t always work to your advantage. The first version is the only one that gets ranked, which means you have to help Google figure out that your version was the original.
Unscrupulous competitors can monitor your site with your RSS feed and rip off your content as soon as it’s posted. Their site will then have an identical version that can easily be indexed first.
This can ruin your backlink footprint, since your duplicate will be seen as spam. Using canonical links makes it easier for Google to identify the original source.
Getting Your Site Banned
Community sites like Reddit and Digg are getting better at filtering out spam. While they’re unlikely to ban a specific URL, they can flag it, preventing traffic from getting to the page.
It is possible for a competitor to use a phony account to submit your worst content, then vote for it repeatedly with several other accounts that are linked to the same IP. This gives the impression that you’re artificially promoting your own content, which can get you banned from certain sites.
Hijacking Your Site
301 codes have long been used by legitimate webmasters to tell search engines that their sites have moved to new locations. This comes in handy when you’re switching to a new domain. Unfortunately, your competitors can use these same codes to destroy your ranking.
If they’re able to redirect your site to their domain, they benefit from stealing your traffic and search engine ranking. You may not even notice the problem if they’re using archived pages.
Similarly, 302 codes can cause a competitor’s site to show up in the search engine rankings, rather than yours. By placing a 302 code on their pages that points to yours, some visitors will automatically be redirected to their site, since it’s mistaken for the original site.
Setting up an AdWords campaign involves pricing your bid according to your anticipated conversion percentage. Unfortunately, this percentage can be dramatically lowered by a competitor who repeatedly clicks on your campaign. You’ll find yourself paying for the extra clicks, while maintaining the same conversions. Before you know it, your campaign will lose its profitability.
The competitors behind the click fraud are often bidding on the same keywords, hoping to eliminate the competition by making their campaigns unsustainable.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is a denial of service (DOS) attack. Competitors saturate your server with external communications requests, either forcing it to reset or making it impossible to serve your legitimate visitors. If this were to happen during an important promotional campaign, your site could lose a ton of traffic.
Although there are many forms of DOS attacks, they’re highly illegal and easily recognized. As a result, this form of sabotage is uncommon in the western world.
Damaging Your Link Profile
One of the easiest ways for a competitor to sabotage your site is to submit it to a directory that’s a known source of spam. While Google has taken action against these sites before, there are still some out there. Your backlink footprint will be damaged by ending up in one of these directories, lowering your trust ranking.
As if that wasn’t enough, they can take it further by reporting you for link buying, even though they were the ones who bought the links. This can result in getting completely banned from Google’s rankings.
Spamming With Your URL
One of the best ways to build your site’s reputation is to leave comments on other blogs that are related in some way. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy for competitors to leave spammy comments under your URL, damaging your backlink footprint and your online reputation. For information on restoring your online reputation, visit http://www.nklik.com/.
Malicious Click Attacks
For a large number of site owners, Google AdSense is the most important source of income they can rely on. Surprisingly, competitors can easily get you banned with a simple click attack campaign.
Repeatedly clicking on your ads will alert Google of illegitimate clicks, causing them to flag your site. They will assume you are attempting to inflate your payout, which will quickly get you banned with no warning.
It’s worth noting that Google does have a form you can use to report malicious click attacks. Unfortunately, many victims maintain that the form is useless, since it is often ignored.
Google bowling is clearly unethical and immoral, but it is also highly effective. Google would like you to believe that their algorithms are firmly under their control, but these loopholes do exist and you can expect nothing less than for someone to exploit them. The end result could be a drop in your website’s ranking that may ultimately spell ruin for your business.
Sean Sheppard has worked as a website designer, has experience in coding and SEO and is now a business consultant for small-medium business owners who have e-commerce stores. His articles talk about a range of website matters.