If Your Competitor Jumped Off the Brooklyn Bridge, Would You?
Ian Lurie Jun 16 2008
In internet marketing, following the crowd, even if they’re successful, can get you in trouble.
A Little Introduction
[Skip to the next section if you don’t like to read background stuff.]
How many people here grew up on the East coast? (Ian raises hand)
How many people heard this quote from their mother, father or grandparent?
If your friends [insert stupid act here] would you, too? (Ian raises hand)
Mine typically involved the Brooklyn Bridge or Empire State Building. They’re big, gravity is a harsh mistress, and generally my parents though it’d make me stop and think. Cough.
In the never-ending progression towards becoming my parents, I now apply the same great quote to search engine optimization and internet marketing.
Don’t Cheat Just Because Your Competitors Do
You just hired an search engine optimization firm. You know your competitor has the top spot for ‘custom made cardboard automobiles’. It makes you mad. It burns you up. Every day you go to sleep with a Google results page bouncing around behind your eyelids.
Your newly-hired SEO pro tells you the competing site is smaller, poorly-optimized and has far less history than yours. They’re ranked #1 because they purchased 200 links that are blatantly for sale. They also did some other highly questionable cloaking/redirection/geek stuff.
Your reaction: Buy me links, damnit! And do that questionable stuff! Now!
Stop. Breath. Think.
If your competitor jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?
If the answer is yes, stop reading please.
Weighing The Risks
I’m not actually saying you should never, ever cheat. I’m a marketer and a lawyer. I don’t know if I’m physically capable of saying that.
But you must weigh the risks and benefits, independent of your competitor.
Just because they got away with it doesn’t mean you will.
Just because it helped them doesn’t mean it will help you.
Plus, you have no idea whether they did what they did on purpose or by accident.
See That Hammer…?
But the best reason not to follow your competitor off the bridge and start engaging in shady practices is this: The search engines may figure out what the competitor is up to tomorrow. Or, they might skip the competitor and come straight for you.
It’s not always fair. And it’s not always consistent. But see that hammer? It’s being swung by companies that are the corporate equivalent of a precocious toddler who’s just eaten twelve candy bars. There’s no telling where they’ll strike next.
In Internet Marketing, Everyone Is Standing On Their Own Bridge
The moral: You’re on your own bridge. Actions taken by your competitors may have a completely different impact on you and your business.
So make your decisions on your own. Don’t [insert stupid act here] just because they did.
By the way, the Brooklyn Bridge quote never worked on my. I jumped off the roof of my house holding a sheet over my head as a parachute when I was 8. I blew up our back yard when I was 14. I augured my mountain bike into the side of Mammoth Mountain at 40+ mph when I was 24. All following the group. I have wised up since, though…
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More