Do You Report Your Competitors?

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By profession we, SEOs, always have to compete. That’s an integral part of our daily routine: we come to work and check how our sites are doing compared to our SERPs competitors. Then we scratch our heads thinking how we can outrank them. And at the same time we need to constantly look out for those new guys that might be aiming at outranking us.


In this sense SEO is the most dynamic business I’m aware of. Of course, competition exists in any field but nowhere else things change so quickly as in SEO. That’s actually one of the main reasons why I like our profession so much – that’s its dynamics that never lets me get bored.

Unfortunately, this competition can not always be fair. Your competitors might be successfully using some greyish, grey or black tactics you can’t afford. In this case you can’t fight them unless Google catch them. So my main question is: do you ever report your competitors’ illegitimate tactics to Google?

I can explain why this seems so controversial issue to me.

It feels right because:

  • we all seek fair competition where we all play according to the same set of rules (everyone should be penalized for hitting below the belt);
  • no matter what, but the guys break Google’s law and most probably the site using black tactics can’t be a valuable resource for the end surfer – so thus we are making the Internet better.

It feels not right because:

  • whatever you might say, SEO is mostly about tricking a search engine, we are all (Ok, I’ll be talking only for myself – I am) guilty of trying some greyish tactics (e.g. buying links that are not evident sold links), so am I fair to myself and other SEOs punishing people for doing what I would (probably) do if I were braver?
  • in my opinion, Google often doesn’t play the fair game it tries to promote – so do we really need to help it?

Your thoughts would be highly appreciated.

Image source: The mountain

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • Gyutae Park

    It really depends on how you look at it. If you’re fighting the search engines then sure don’t use the reporting feature. But will it really make a difference?

    On the other hand, if you’re fighting your competitors, then you would do whatever it takes to get ahead. Shoot or be shot.

    I think we’re focusing way too much on Google here.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    If they spam an they are my competitor, then I report.

  • TheMadHat

    If they spam and are my competitor, then I report…as long as I’m not spamming too. Then I leave it alone.

  • Mercy

    In my personal opinion, I try to outrange my competitor in all part of game. So If i do find my competitor doing any black or greyish technique to rank better than me, I would surely report it to Google.

    And Ann,..You have a excellent series on competitor analysis. 😉

  • George Davis

    I think the followup question for this would be :

    Do you report your competitors illigitimate tactics, while fully disclosing the fact that you are in direct competition with the reported company, or do you do it anonymously?

  • WebSite Design Orange County

    Hopefully from Google’s standpoint they will see Black or Gray Hat techniques for what they are – irrespective of the reporting and it’s origin.

  • crimsongirl

    I can’t believe this topic is ever raised. OF COURSE people report competitors – if those competitors are outranking them and if they are doing something worthy of reporting. If you are working for a client doing SEO services, you have a PROFESSIONAL DUTY to report competitors. If you don’t, you should turn in your SEO card and go do something else.

    And whether you also engage in tactics such as buying links is besides the point. I buy links in certain situations. Again, that is part of the job. I expect competitors report me just as I report them.

    The formal reporting of purchased links through Google webmaster tools (the other search engines don’t have anything analogous) is just one way and a relatively recent avenue for reporting competitors. Years ago there were snail mail letters to Google’s president (and Yahoo’s president and Microsoft’s president). Email to search engine engineers. Email and snail mail letters to other webmasters who link to your competitors requesting them to remove the link.

    SEO is just like anything else. You win some and you lose some games. But if you aren’t even trying, you’re chances of winning are lower. You must, must, must report competitors.

  • Ann Smarty

    “I expect competitors report me just as I report them.”

    This thought makes me feel a bit uneasy. As if I am being watched and I have plenty of enemies…

    “Do you report your competitors illigitimate tactics, while fully disclosing the fact that you are in direct competition with the reported company, or do you do it anonymously?”

    This is a good question. And also I like Shady’s comment at Sphinn:

    “Why report them when I can pick their site to pieces, duplicate their tricks, and outrank them?
    If G knows about it, it becomes less useful for me as well.”

  • BottomTurn

    Of course Ann, you are being watched just like you are doing it as well for the competitors’ sites. And I kind of feel like you, I do not like when the competitors are using some greyish tactics to get a better ranking. It is not fair. But the thing is that we do not know really the limits for those grey technics, and to which extent they are accepted by the search engines. There are no clear rules about that, and this is hurting the business..

  • Tron

    I have reported in the past, but only in instances where cloaking was obviously being employed.

    Despite it being such a cut and dried example the site in question still remains in top spot against what has to be one of the most profitable financial key words out there. The 5m back links are also mildly suspicious.

    So, I don’t report sites because it seems not a blind bit of notice is paid to reports.

  • Kevin

    Interestingly I have also written a post on pretty much the same topic last night.

    My take on reporting the competitors is: kill on sight.

    I think it’s a fair game and when someone implements grey or black hat tactics, the person should have anticipated the event and consequences beforehand.

    If the competitor wants to get ahead by using black hats, then it’s all fair for me to gain back the rankings by reporting them.

  • Dev Basu

    For my personal sites, yes, I kill on sight as well. However, it comes down to corporate ethics when you’re trying to make that call as an inhouse seo, or as an agency representing a client.

  • Kiowa Jackson

    I personally have strong dislike for reporting anyone to anything. It’s between whoever sets the rules and whoever breaks them to sort it out. Certain tactics may be considered cheating, but reporting someone could be called sabotaging. If they’re getting away with it, then it means they’re good at exploiting the algorithm, and I feel no moral obligation to go in and mess up the natural order of things.

    HOWEVER, I do agree with Crimsongirl that there’s a professional obligationto report them. As an SEO it’s part of the job to do it, just like it’s a store clerk’s job to report any theft even if he/she on a personal level doesn’t care if someone snags a stick of gum.

  • Jay

    I’m not a big fan of reporting because there’s always another side to the story. Like what if they didn’t do it on purpose but you see something fishy about it?

    Plus, if you’re good enough at what you do, shouldn’t you be able to out-do them with regular SEO tactics and show them who’s boss?


  • TheMadHat

    @Jay – you wanna try ranking for any hyper-competitive terms with “regular SEO” tactics (whatever those are).

  • Mark Lee

    Any Seo technique is used to manipulate Googles rating of your website. Is there truthfully a point where you can draw a line between what is acceptable or not. Google doesnt even give out this information, so the only innocent parties are those that dont use search engines.

  • SEO Canada

    I personally haven’t reported any of my competitors, but I have reported clients competitors. It is definitely easier to rank a site in the top 10 when Google starts pulling sites out of the SERPs. That being said if you ever google the term WOW Power Leveling everyone in the top 10 have pretty luck forum, blog, guestbook, photogallery link bombed their way into the top 10. I’ve turned away two potential clients because there way no way a white hat site could rank, and I didn’t know how Google would feel if an SEO reported 15+ sites….

  • b2b directory

    I have not reported any till now. I would like to know how to report to Google about a black tactic used by a competitor

  • Rob Scott

    I have reported sites that are outrageously in breach: doing things I would never dream of. If I find someone is outranking me doing something that is in the old shady grey area, then I’ll consider doing it myself. Or I’ll back my current tactics. I never consider not shooting for a particular channel based on who is there and what they’re doing. If and when you get the SEO game right, you can put a well ranked site in the top ten for pretty much whatever you want. Want to know how? Don’t we all.

  • Property Queen

    I will not hesitate to report my competitors if I see them doing something wrong.

  • Motorsport Experience

    Well it all depends. Sure if they are spamming.

  • SEO Singapore

    Competition is definitely fierce right now. Sometimes people will do all they can to get their competitors out of business.

    It’s just human instinct.

  • Flora

    Reporting to G is better if competitors follow spam techniques to spoil our rankings.

  • sylvan

    I only do it if im not spamming. Don’t be hypocritical.

  • Posicionamiento Valencia

    I only report sites that are dangerous.I haven’t reported any of my competitors yet.

  • Internet Eyer

    I think that one should only report competitors that are unethical in what they do. By unethical I mean doing something bad purposely.

  • Singapore Seminars

    I only report banned sites or porn sites.