Is Outing is a Sleazy Black Hat Marketing Strategy?

Rae Hoffman nailed it:

Is your Web site and marketing strategy really the best it can be? Focusing on what everyone else does and why your organic SEO life is so unfair distracts you from doing what will benefit you most - improving YOURSELF. The best thing you can do for your Web site is to focus on IT and not spend all your time whining about your competitors.

Reporting your competitors is no more an SEO strategy than a heavyset person complaining about what good genes her skinny friend has is a weight loss technique.

Life is never about being fair. Either you focus on what matters or you do not. If people are beating you with low grade spammy stuff then either you are not very good at marketing or you are not putting your full potential into your projects. Outing others because you are not good enough to compete is simply a sleazy business practice.

See also: Why SEO outing is bad + The SEO Police

Published: August 7, 2009 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


August 7, 2009 - 5:21pm

Should pass this along to @graywolf

August 7, 2009 - 5:27pm

Loved the metaphor, that said it all. I think perhaps the search engine standpoint on this is inevitably going to differ but I think these points are valid. Seperating black hat and white hat can be a thin line a the best of times and almost everyone is guilty of something.

August 7, 2009 - 8:59pm

Amen to this. Can't stand do-gooders who go out of their way to expose BH tactics when their own SEO is just a lighter shade of the same tricks

August 8, 2009 - 2:05am

Well, I gotta disagree. If I see a competitor consistently creeping up in the search results and 100% of their links are 100% spam (seems like fake blogs are the weapon of choice these days) I am going to go ahead and report them. It's not like I'm going to spend time out of my day everyday getting angry about it and reporting them over and over.

I think it's OK to just raise a flag and let google decide for themselves and I think it has the potential to help improve the algorithm (if only just a tad bit)

And yes, I'm sure my competitors also report my sites as well.
August 9, 2009 - 10:06am

thank you for the delicious link

August 10, 2009 - 5:37pm

So what's the difference? If leaving redirect links on legit blogs, there's no problem with them, right?

August 15, 2009 - 1:48am

No, life's not fair, but engaging in Blackhat SEO isn't remotely close to being born with "good genes." That wasn't an analogy, it was a rationalization.

A far more accurate analogy would be comparing those who feel entitled to engage in Blackhat SEO tactics to Athletes who break the rules by taking steroids to gain an unfair advantage over their competition. And what happens to those who get caught? They get thrown out of the game.

It's cheating, and no one wants to play with a cheat!

If you can't play by the rules, then I don't want to play with you--and I sure don't want to buy from you either. If you don't have any problem cheating your competitors, then why should I believe you would treat your customers any better?

Reporting cheaters isn't a "blackhat" strategy, it's consumer protection.

August 15, 2009 - 2:36pm

It's cheating, and no one wants to play with a cheat!

Well nobody wants to play with a rat either. While holding that thought in your head...think through this situation:

  1. my affiliate program links counted for years
  2. Rand subscribed to our website and read our affiliate linking tips. he then outed my affiliate program for using 301 redirects
  3. my affiliate program stopped passing PageRank
  4. Google engineers then publicly stated that 301 redirected affiliate links ***should*** count + pass PageRank

In other words affiliate links can count, and should count, but should not count for my site ***if and when*** outed by a competitor in an attempt for them to try to improve their competitive position.

What I just described was not theory. It was not abstract. It was a sequence of events that is critical to understand if you want to understand how sleazy SEO outing is.

There was no attempt at "consumer protection" in the above sequence. It was just sleazy marketing by a person trying to go out of their way to try to screw over a competitor.

Kompani Group B...
August 16, 2009 - 2:45am

The two things that I hate. Outing and copying. Specially when it comes to design. We have a miami website design firm and have had a number of our websites stolen. Also had a client outted by a competitor. We however have an issue when the big boys jack a keyword even if its traffic is super low just to try to get in that market. We are talking about target jacking a keyword of a company they don't even carry. Imagine you have a small furniture store in a city and then find that target is throwing and ad word that says. Find "xyz" furniture at our store. That's the only time we have outted.

August 20, 2009 - 6:29pm

They want my ranking and will do whatever it takes to get it.

I've earned my rankings, legitimately, and will do whatever I can to protect them - within the bounds of the search engines guidelines (yeah, call me a goodie two-shoes, but I'm in this for the long-haul).

So I'll call their link-building techniques into question and maybe they stop cutting corners? Probably they don't.

Its all part of the game - some of us are willing to roll the dice and some of us are ready to roll up our sleeves. Part of the gamble is praying that the search engines don't catch on. Doesn't matter how they find out, really. If you can't live with the consequences, then don't make the gamble.

And as you've said time and again Aaron, if Google is that important to you as source of traffic and/or revenue - maybe its time to wean yourself from the teat and build traffic from other sources.

July 31, 2012 - 12:08pm

Is there a way to figure out the identity i.e. company name of sleazy search engine optimization companies and/or the companies who hire them? For exampe, if you get repeated visits from a certain city and country that frequently land on specific pages (link partners, certain articles), is there software that can identify which company is doing it? Since the Penguin algo was released and lots of sites lost PR, my health website has been receiving frequent visits from India, and certain cities in the US which use Google SSL or no referring links that always ALWAYS land on the exact same pages; often times within minutes of each other. I know it's a competitor who is outsourcing to some overseas SEO company; I'm interested in knowing more about them.

July 31, 2012 - 4:12pm

...use gift cards (or some other form of payment where they pay for it using cash on one end) to do their purchasing, use a throw away email in communications, access the web via a proxy, buy the service on Fiverr, etc. ... at some point tracking down the source can get pretty expensive & practically impossible.

The problem is largely one inside the Googleplex. If they make negative SEO more profitable than regular SEO then some segment of the market will go after the easy money. But then Google also knew that in advance, so they are of course the ones at fault.

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