There's no handbook out there that can predict all the different types of shady competitive tactics you might need to anticipate. Often these situations come out of the blue, so it's difficult to be prepared. Learn from our experiences, so you will know how to respond if you are a victim of similar attacks. Here are four common tricks competitors may play on you--and how to handle them.
1. Phishing Scams: Hire An Expert.
Phishing is usually in the form of copycat websites that look just like yours, so customers, and even employees, get tricked into entering their sensitive information. The data collected on fake sites can be used or sold often for malicious intent.
Cleaning up a phishing attack is tricky but important to act on quickly. Hopefully it goes without saying, but don't fight fire with fire--retaliation will just make you a shady businessperson too. The best thing to do if you experience this kind of attack is to hire an outside expert to address it quickly.
2. Fake Customer Reviews: Reply Professionally.
Competitors will sink to posting fake negative customer reviews on places like Trustpilot, in a malicious attempt to bring down your business. Fake reviews can be challenging to spot, though it helps to look for reviews lacking in detail, many first-person pronouns, and frequent use of verbs to try to 'set the scene.' A clear giveaway on Trustpilot is if the review is not verified.
Always have a designated employee monitor customer reviews on a regular basis, so they can spot issues quickly. Immediately reply to those reviews publicly, with a professional response that has been crafted by your PR team, if you have one. Call out how you are certain the review is fake, with specific detail to back up your claims. Do not make accusations about who you believe put up the review, just be clear as to how you know it is not a real one.
3. Fake Employment Reviews: Dispute them.
It's hard to imagine, but competitors will go about undermining your business, pretending to be a scorned employee on sites such as Glassdoor. If you have a small team, these are easy to catch. In larger teams, it's more difficult. Similar to customer reviews, having your HR team proactively reading each review is key, so you can spot these issues early on.
Whereas getting a fake customer review taken down can be tricky, getting a fake employee review taken down can be more viable. Look for facts that are easy to prove, like if someone says they were hired in a certain month, and you made no hires that month. Then share that information directly with your account representative.
Maintaining a good relationship with the employment review sites is important. If you have an account representative that knows your brand, you will get straight to the person who can help rectify the issue.
4. Low-Quality Fake Links: Disavow them.
Another below-the-belt tactic is when competitors send thousands of fake low-quality links onto your site, known as negative SEO attacks. If kept up, this can trick the Google algorithm into believing your website is low quality. We've seen this happen at a rate of up to 60,000 links a month.
The only action can do is to have your SEO professional or website manager disavow the links by making a list of the spammy links or linking sites and sending them to Google in a specific format. Doing so tells Google that you do not vouch for them and will ask Google to ignore them. The best offense here is a good defense: having lots of high quality links helps to minimize the impact.
Don't Get Consumed By Competitive Tactics
When we face unfair competitors, our first impulse is to sound the alarms internally. However, sounding alarms will allow the fire to grow and the business to get consumed by the problem. Instead, delegate response tasks to only a few team members. That way, the rest of your team can focus on continuing to grow--rather than just protect--your business.