I was plowing through the myriad of blogs yesterday and found a couple of things I found interesting in Rand’s post called Identifying and Calling out Web Spam on Engine Blogs. While I find the endless online discussion of marketing spam, what it is, where it is, and the ethics of spam to be as about as dry a topic as there is, worse than reading the tax code, there was a couple of points in this post worth comment. One had really nothing to do with spam theory, but was generally good online SEO advice, but I did take issue with this point.
Rand states there is some unspoken, yet understood code of conduct amongst SEOs, that they simply do not report one another for spamming techniques used by some to improve site rankings. Silly. Rand doesn’t proclaim to be educated in the art of competition or business, but in SEO, so he gets a free pass on this affront to the very basics of competitive theory. To those of us who are running our own non-SEO business, if we find our competitors are benefiting in the rankings by utilizing spamming techniques, then we owe it to ourselves and firms to report them. I do not consider myself to be a SEO, just a business person who uses SEO techniques to help our businesses do better online. And I believe most of our readers are in the same boat, just business people trying to make a living. Unfair competition is never allowable, and the “aw shucks” response is rarely successful. Every one of us needs to join the fight to level the search playing field, making it as fair as possible for everyone to be successful if they compete respectfully online. If your competitors are up to no good, and gaming the SERPs, report them, and continue to report them until the problem is addressed. The unwritten SEO code of conduct can be adhered to by that little group, but it makes no sense in business, it is bad policy. Spamming is bad for the net, bad for the economy and flat out cheating in every sense. I am looking forward to the day when spammers are picked up and prosecuted in a court of law, just as is done daily to other lying, cheating, greedy people in the offline business world.
I would go so far to say, if you know your competitor well enough, and are friendly with them, it might be worth a phone call or email just to let them know what is going on with their site. If the competitor has an SEO working for them, they may not be aware the SEO is using spamming techniques to improve the company’s search rankings. This heads-up might solve the problem right there, and it will keep things friendly. If you aren’t friends, or don’t feel comfortable communicating directly, then report the offenses. When your competitor’s pages disappear into supplemental purgatory, and their rankings fall, I am sure your competitor will have a nice talk with their SEO guy to figure out why. 🙂 Which will be where the SEO blames the SE algo, the tides, and global warming for the instant drop in the SERP results.
On a more positive note.
Rand claims his firm only reports on spam inadvertently in their blog posts, and gives four reasons. The 4 points really don’t matter to most of us, so its not big news. But point #2, taken as general advice, is an excellent reminder as to where we need to focus our online marketing efforts. He states:
You’ll have a far greater return on your productivity time optimizing your site, building content, getting links and conducting press & marketing than you will reporting your competitors for what looks like a paid link.
Okay, as mentioned above, forget the garbage about not reporting on your competitors concerning spam, it doesn’t take much time, so just do it for Google here and Yahoo! here, and protect yourself and your business. But when the majority of our online marketing efforts is spent working and implementing good solid SEO techniques, then we are going to see results and better our ranking over time, and these benefits become long term. That much is very true and it is very sound advice, it is nice to see some established SEOs suggest we focus on the basics.
Build your online business, as you have built your off-line business. Focus on quality, service, branding, and SEO the site the right way, and a sustainable, solid ranking is very probable. But make sure to protect yourself if competitors attempt to slime their way in above you in the SERPs, report them, and continue to report on them until they are buried in supplemental oblivion, where they belong until they get their act together.