1 in 5 businesses would consider sabotaging a competitor’s online business

Building a business is tough. But sometimes, the hardest challenge is competing with established businesses, especially if your business has a limited marketing budget. Consequently, competition from other brands in your niche may cause some to act unethically and consider sabotaging a competitor (hindering/damaging the reputation of an online business).

Acts of online sabotage can involve discrediting a business’s products/service with negative (and often fake) reviews, as well as running a link spam campaign to bring on/cause a Google penalty, or even hacking a website.

In light of just how sinister the nature of sabotaging a competitor’s online business and reputation can be, Reboot Digital surveyed 1,672 business owners to expose just how many businesses would consider sabotaging a competitor if they THOUGHT THEY WOULD get away with. Reboot Digital also sought to uncover out of those who had sabotaged, which industries appeared to be more culpable. 

Reboot’s survey can reveal that 18.3% WOULD consider sabotaging/damaging a competitor’s online business if they knew they would get away with it. Encouragingly, 81.7% WOULD’T consider it at all even if they knew they could get away with. 99.7% haven’t sabotaged a competitor, whilst a tiny 0.3% admitted they have! 

The 18.3% of businesses that would consider online sabotage were then asked what the reasons would be (if they got away with it):

·     I have a better product – 30%

·     To make them lose their clients – 18%

·     My competitor is doing ‘black hat’ SEO to get ahead – 15%


Fortunately, there’s a big difference between saying you’ll damage a competitor’s online business and reputation and knowing how you’d do it.

Business owners cited these four techniques they’d use to sabotage a business:

1.     Fake reviews on popular review platforms – 57%

2.     Running a negative influencer campaign – 26%

3.     Running a negative SEO campaign – 14%

4.     Hacking a website – 3%

Reboot Digital were so intrigued by the results of the survey that they sent out a fake email to 87 local businesses offering to sabotage their competitor’s online reputations and the results were interesting.

Ø     Accepted the offer and wanted further details = 13%

Ø     Declined the offer = 35%

Ø     Didn’t reply = 52%


Oliver Sissons, SEO manager of Reboot has provided tips on how to spot if your website has been under attack from negative SEO: Link Tracking Tools

Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Majestic SEO provide up-to-date reports on who is linking to your website and regularly auditing their reports will help you keep an eye on any potentially malicious activity. Google also provides an overview of who is linking to your website in Google Search Console.

If you do find someone pointing toxic or spam links to your website, you should put together a disavow file and submit it to Google. This should help nullify any negative effects the links might have on your website.


Tracking Brand Mentions

Not everyone trying to hurt your business will link to your website. It is possible that a competitor or disgruntled ex-employee is leaving fake, damaging reviews and mentions of your brand online to scare off potential new customers. Using tools like Google Alerts, BuzzSumo and Hootsuite can help you find new mentions of your brand online and decide if they are legitimate or being created to hurt your marketing efforts.

Google Search Operators

By getting comfortable using Google search operators, you can search Google’s database of billions of websites to find those specifically talking about your business. Start playing around with them by switching the example text out with your businesses or website name and details. You might be surprised by what shows up.

Review Advertising Data

If you are running any paid ads online, you need to know how to review the campaigns’ performances and dive into the huge amount of data made available to you. Look out for any sudden spikes in the amount of impressions or clicks from a single area (especially if you are targeting a broader location) and start analysing where the money you are spending is going.

Keep an Eye on Your Review Profiles

You should already be responding to new positive and negative reviews on your website or business. You should know about and have access to all review profiles about your business so you can dispute any fake ones which might be sent your way.

Keep Your Logins Safe

The best way to prevent a hack or recover quickly from one is to keep any login or access details secure and safe. Also, familiarise yourself with who to contact if your website is ever hacked.

Check for Duplicate Content

Sometimes spammers will take your content and publish it on countless other websites to lower the value of your website. Check by taking random strings and sentences from your key pages and search them in Google surrounded by quotation marks. If any of these spammy websites are outranking your own content, you need to find out why. You could look at having the duplicated websites taken down for copyright reasons or might even have to update and improve your own content.

Posted in: Industry News