PageRank assassination and other nefarious acts of competitive online warfare

Summary:I'm not an advocate of search engine optimisation techniques--beyond the basics. Because I believe you should optimize your site for your customers and not the spiderbots.

I'm not an advocate of search engine optimisation techniques--beyond the basics. Because I believe you should optimize your site for your customers and not the spiderbots. Let the search engines optimize themselves to find the right content--it's their job.

However,  the techniques of search engine optimization have potential application in the reverse: they can be used for PageRank assassination. [PageRank is the relative importance Google assigns to a web site] You can apply SEO techniques to potentially cripple an online competitor by making it seem as if it is engaging in forbidden SEO practices.

Google has strict policies on what you can and cannot do to make yourself visible to its spiderbots. And other search engines also try to root out web sites that are using SEO techniques to try and trick them into a higher PageRank.

Google will dumb-down the PageRank of a web site if it believes it is engaging in non-prescribed SEO practices. And it has even banned the web site of a large corporation, BMW in Germany, to show that small and large companies can be banned from its index.

The potential for competitors taking potshots at each others' online reputation is just too tempting. And such activities can be easily disguised.

And there are many other strategies of online competitive warfare that could tempt companies, such as renting a zombie network for an afternoon or two to mount a DNS attack on a competitor.

But it doesn't have to be sneaky. Public companies are vulnerable to scrutiny by the media and investors. A competitor could encourage the scrutiny of certain weak business groups, as an example. Bringing attention to problem business groups within a competitor can be easily done in many ways, not all are obvious and not all necessarily have to be covert.

And there are other techniques of competitive online strategies currently being developed, that are very creative, and test ethical limits if not the legal statutes; at least not yet.

You can also see interesting online social experiments emerging in the realm of online characters whose existence is likely fictional  but whose content is very compelling and attractive. These online sites are written by online personalities that are most likely composite characters created by cadres of smart writers.

I don't want to draw too much attention to these sites because I want to watch the elegant social design, the way the writers can snag people's social sensibilities, how they can lure people towards them in a siren-like fashion, and how people will nearly dash their online reputations on the craggy content of these sites (my regular readers on SVW can probably guess which ones I'm referring to. . . :-)

Let me know if you come across any signs of PageRank assassination or other nefarious acts of information warfare.

Topics: Enterprise Software


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

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