Dog eat dog: A fifth of firms would sabotage their rivals

dogs-1881255_1920Covid-19 may have made UK consumers more caring and sharing but for businesses it is still a dog eat dog world, with one in five firms admitting they would not think twice about sticking the boot in to a rival company – with anything from posting negative fake reviews to hacking their website seen as fair game.

So says a new report from Reboot Digital, which quizzed 1,672 business owners to find out just how many businesses would consider sabotaging a competitor if they thought they could get away with it. The study also sought to expose which industries were more culpable when it comes to attacking a rival.

And, while 81.7% of business owners claimed they would not consider damaging a competitor’s online operation, even if they knew they could get away with it, nearly a fifth (18.3%) would not hesitate to unleash hell.

When it comes to which sectors were the keenest to go on the attack, recruitment and HR ranked first on 25%, followed by advertising/marketing/PR on a close second at 22%.

The top three reasons for such actions were: “I have a better product” (30%); “to make them lose their clients” (18%) and “my competitor is doing ‘black hat’ SEO to get ahead (15%).

Interestingly, just 9% of businesses cited that having a lack of website traffic was enough of a reason that they would consider sabotaging a competitor for, while “I have a personal grudge against a business owner” warranted 7% of business owners to consider unethical tactics.

There are several methods, some more straight forward than others, which companies use to threaten or weaken another business’ website.

The top four are: posting fake reviews on popular review platforms (57%); getting influencers to review a competitor in a negative way (26%); running a negative SEO campaign (14%) and hacking a website (3%).

While there are multiple tactics to damage a business’ online reputation, it can be difficult to identify when this has happened; until it is potentially too late, the report states.

For fake reviews – which are illegal – there are ways firms can identify if they have been targeted. Tell-tale signs include if the review has very little or even no detail whatsoever. This should ring alarm bells, Reboot Digital says, as someone who is genuinely reviewing a product/service will be more than willing to expand on reasons for their negative review.

Firms should also look out for multiple negative reviews that appear on other business’ sites, not just their own, while the use of superlatives, adverbs, and pronouns, are also a giveaway that the review is fake.

Research by Cornell University shows that the reason for using ‘I’ and ‘me’ is to add credibility, whereas if it were a genuine negative review, the reviewer would use nouns.

Fake reviews also often contain spelling and grammatical errors, as they tend to be outsourced to content farms which generate large chunks of text.

Reboot Digital SEO manager Oliver Sissons said: “To effectively recover from someone trying to sabotage your website and/or businesses online reputation, you need to spot it early. By closely monitoring your online reputation and marketing efforts, you should be able to spot and respond to any potentially damaging activity that much faster.”

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