How can you spot if a competitor is attacking your business online?

Image Credit: David Clode

Running any kind of business effectively and successfully requires a lot of patience and hard work as well as the ability to foresee what your competitors are doing, and outsmart them accordingly. 

Unfortunately, the very nature of business itself is intense, no matter which industry you’re in – this often means that competitors will try a range of tactics to upset the success and stability you’ve achieved by attacking your business online. 


How do competitors attack a business online?

Staying on top of your industry is tough business – some of your competitors will do almost anything to outrank you online and outperform you in every way possible. This often means resorting to dirty tactics including:


A string of negative reviews online

You’re doing everything right, your employees are happy, and your customers especially are very happy – so what’s with all the negative reviews suddenly popping up on review sites and social media?

You can certain a competitor is hard at work, spamming your website with spam comments and negative reviews to promote competing products or business, and often going as far as to include dubious links – such as those going to pornographic sites or online products in direct competition with you – just to make you look bad. 

Now, you can certainly remove this negative content from your website and social media pages, but if they pop up on, say, TripAdvisor or someone else’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, then you may have a problem. With that said, you can still report it and, perhaps, even approach the original poster to try and settle the matter. 


Your online reputation is sinking

One way of determining the relevance and quality of online content is for search bots to analyse the links which are attached or point to it. As long as those links are coming from relevant and reputable origins, you will build online authority for your website and other channels. However, if a malicious person hired by your competitor sets up links to your content which originate from dubious and low-authority sources then this could seriously damage your reputation, as discussed in the previous point. 

Imagine your site getting linked to thousands of online piracy sites, gambling sites, or pornographic sites, for instance. 

By regularly monitoring the quality and relevance of your inbound links, you can ensure that no one is creating bogus links to your website, which has nothing to do with your products or services! However, this is certainly not a permanent fix. 


You’re a victim of ‘click fraud’ 

Click fraud has, unfortunately, become a common form of attack which competitors often perpetrate to bring businesses down. This is when a competitor with unethical intentions clicks on your pay-per-click (PPC) ads on purpose to increase your ad budget. So inevitably, you will not only end up spending more but also start wondering if your PPC strategy is working – this doubt can cause you to change an otherwise successful strategy or even abandon it altogether after seeing the ‘bad results’ – thanks to your competitor.

A reputation management company can tell you more about how to protect yourself from click fraud and the strategies you’ll need to identify it early. 


You’re being ‘attacked’ with negative SEO 

A cutthroat competitor who has no issues crossing moral and ethical boundaries will use negative SEO to seriously hamper your otherwise positive online rankings – and this one can be especially damaging if you have little understanding of how SEO works. 

On the one hand, Google may argue that this isn’t an issue to worry about – on the other, it’s really easy to get penalised for having links coming from low-authority or questionable websites. We touched upon this briefly in the second point and it’s very easy now for anyone to attach or point links from banned and/ or suspicious websites to your site. 

You can certainly use Google Webmaster Tools to get alerts when you get penalised, but it shouldn’t even come to that to begin with. If this isn’t dealt with early on, you could even get removed from search queries altogether due to having multiple low-quality backlinks directing people to your domain name. 


Paying third parties and/or setting up channels to bad-mouth your business

Some competitors may even stoop as low as to target your current employees and customers with ‘negative stories’. They may be able to acquire your employees’ contact details through your website and social media channels or even get in touch directly with your customers via their social media accounts – to ‘sell’ them stories about why they shouldn’t work for you or buy from you. If you notice a sudden change in your employees’ behaviour for no explainable reason or customers suddenly changing their buying pattern, it could be a signal that someone has been selling them negative stories. 


How to fight back

Competitors who choose not to ‘fight fair’ will constantly try to come up with ways to bad-mouth you and seek to ruin rival businesses. By speaking to a reputation management consultant, you can immediately identify if you’ve been the victim of an online competitor attack. Early intervention and preventive measures are the best defence against these unethical and often illegal competitor tactics.

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