The Importance of Hiding Success on a Competitive Network

Brendon Sinclair, one of my leading affiliates, mentioned Ugg Boots in his review of SEO Book. Today I got a blog comment spam for Ugg Boots. Last week a guy stole a friend's site. This week another person stole the same site, then was stupid enough to comment spam the sister blog supporting the site. One of the reasons it is hard to give specific examples of successful SEO is that the landscape is ever-changing, but another equally important reason is that some ideas only remains successful because few people know about them. There are far more entrepreneurs than there are successful entrepreneurs. As a well known SEO (or insert your field here), if you mention your sites publicly you run the following risks

  • search engineer thinking that it must be spam because you own it, without even considering site quality (if you doubt that, read Matt Cutts comment about shoot-on-sight)

  • asshats cloning your sites, then spamming you to promote their copy of your site
  • larger players with older domains, more authority, and more money hiring staff or paying consultants to clone the best portions of your site and outrank you

I have probably been a bit naive with my worldview, but business is exceptionally dirty, so it is best to keep your sites out of the limelight unless they are nearly impossible to knock down. Competitive research tools are making it faster and easier for competitors to find you, but there is no reason to go out of your way to let Google AdSense pay people to steal your content.

Published: August 7, 2007 by Aaron Wall in business


August 7, 2007 - 10:37am

I totally agree, theres the best kept secrets, golden nuggets of info that i let slip to colleagues (Hi Stu), then magically theyre posting a revelation on their blogs and getting notoriety for my hard earned knowledge then BAM the techniques i use are spammed to fek and the playing field is set to level again :(

i love my competitive advantages

Nick The Geek
August 7, 2007 - 11:24am

Completely and totally agree.

Unfortunately, when you're naturally a generous person, you want to help people out and sometimes it backfires on you ...

The last time this happened to me, a friend of mine just said "No good favour goes unpunished!"

I have that printed out and stuck above my desk along with "First Rule of Fight Club ...." to remind me to think before opening my gob!

August 7, 2007 - 4:10pm

Excellent advice Aaron. As a newbie to SEO, I started with your book, and after learning the right method to do SEO as a 'white hat', I experienced some 'black hatters' exploiting what I had done, and it wasn't until I learned some of their 'black hat' techniques that I was able to turn the tables on them and use their tactics against them. I think as Nietzsche once said "that which does not kill you makes you stronger"

August 7, 2007 - 4:37pm

Nick said it, I don't even tell my boss exactly what I do to get the results I get, he probably thinks I call Google and ask them nicely. I have to keep job security in mind as well as not giving too much information to competitors.

And if you have an SOE blog, it is hard to write posts that people want to read without giving your "advanced SEO" tactics. People will only read so much about keyword research and development.

August 7, 2007 - 5:54pm

i have actually faced both sides of this thought.... once i made something really interesting , and tried keeping it hidden from limelight - as u have mentioned. but as fate would have had it ...... my competition, and already built something simmilar and promoted the shit out of his while i was still thinking of making mine with even better features.

August 7, 2007 - 7:04pm

Does this means that reading your blog or buying your book is a waste of time and money?

If I understand this correctly, it means that you write useless stuff about SEO and you keep the real and good tricks for yourself. Is that right?

I thought that the first golden rule to succeed on the web was to write useful content. I guess I was wrong.

August 7, 2007 - 8:05pm

Excellent post that I totally agree with.

Especially when SEO is concerned, I fully believe that some of the best kept "secrets" are just that - secrets. Why would the top dogs give them away when they could continue to cash in with less competition?

That being said, useful content will always reign supreme in my book. Grab loyal readers one at a time.

August 7, 2007 - 8:31pm

If I understand this correctly, it means that you write useless stuff about SEO and you keep the real and good tricks for yourself. Is that right?

If I don't give specific examples of my sites, such that people can steal my work and content then everything I do must be useless. How absurd is that?

August 7, 2007 - 9:07pm

I've probably been a little to cavalry with my success stories on blogs and forums. But then again, how would I build up a name for myself as someone that has been successful and knows what he's doing? Maybe that's the trade-off. You might lose a couple of niches, but you gain authority status and that in-turn results in more business in other parts of your life.

August 8, 2007 - 2:37pm

I had a friend (my wife's boss) ask once if he could talk with me about starting a website. He wanted to know if I could offer any tips or advice for someone just getting started.

I made the mistake of showing him some of my sites as examples.

Flash to 6 months later, my wife (thru google) accidently stumbled across this guys new network of sites.... All clones of my sites. He even used the same logo design, just slightly different name.

So if a "friend" will do this.... Imagine what the anonymous masses can and will do.

August 8, 2007 - 2:44pm

@ Stephanie

Don't be so dramatic, Stephanie. Aaron has lots of useful content. :)

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