How can I tell if my competitors are cheating and what can I do about it?
 by Casey Markee

How can I tell if my competitors are cheating and what can I do about it?

  • What are some ways to identify black hat SEO techniques that my competitors may be using? What should I be looking for when researching their sites and how do I report this abuse to Google? I just want a level playing field for my company.

Answer: The only reliable way to really identify so-called "black hat" SEO techniques on your competitor's site is through good ole competitive research. This means;

  1. view the HTML code of suspect pages,
  2. use our SSI tool to review the backlinks for the suspect site (use this month's password to access the Site Strength Indicator),
  3. highlight the page copy (CTRL+a) on a web page to see if they're inserting any "invisible" keywords that may be intended solely for the search engines to see but not for the site's visitors,
  4. look at the Google cache version and compare the two, realizing that the page could have changed.

Any search in Google using the phrase "common black hat techniques" will bring up relevant information with examples for what you are seeking. Bear in mind, however, that we tend to shy away from labeling strategies as black hat or white hat because the so-called "rules" are in the eye of the beholder and rarely are they evenly enforced.

For example, both Google and MSN have been know to "cloak" their content in certain instances. And, while this is strictly against Google's terms of service (TOS), it is indeed tolerated on many "trusted" sites across the net for a variety of very good reasons. Instead, we suggest that you study what your competitors are doing and make an informed decision whether or not it's worth the risk of matching their strategy.

As to turning them ...

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