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Getting Competitive: Think like a Dirty Bastard™

I am a consultant. People hire me to think for them, and communicate my thoughts to them and their “enablers”. They tell me what to ponder, and I ask that they introduce me to their people (those enablers… the people who work for them, you know, enabling them to be rich and successful and whatnot). I insist on meeting the enablers because I am a very good judge of people, and often they are more capable enablers than anybody has yet realized. It’s always easier to fix the engine when you have good tools at hand.

The big topic lately is competition. How to compete. Where to compete. When to compete. It is often surprising just how non-competitive a team is. They can be doing very well and still, when you take a look at the details, they are not very “competitive”. Many times it is because they are too nice.

Sometimes to be competitive you have to think like a Dirty Bastard™.

No, I didn’t say you had to ACT like a dirty bastard! PLEASE don’t do that! But in order to SEE where you are not competitive, in order to RECOGNIZE your soft spots, you have to have the perspective of a competitor. And let’s face it, the worst competitor out there is the mean old Dirty Bastard™. Nobody wants to go up against the Dirty Bastard™.

Back in the 90s when Cendant and Sapient and all those other ‘ENT consulting firms were making the board members of brick and mortar companies feel bad for not having promising Internet strategies, I listened to one 22 year old that I will never forget. I am sure his presentations was scripted by a senior partner, but I credit him with it anyway. He showed a slide of a Humvee blasting through the side of a tractor trailer on the highway, zooming out of the other side of the smashed trailer. To this he said

“if someone is going to drive a truck through your business model, it might as well be you”

Hah. Funny. Not exactly true, but clever. He had a good point though – sometimes you have to think like a Dirty Bastard™.

How would a Dirty Bastard™ try and steal your customers? How would a Dirty Bastard™ submit repeated customer service inquiries via your website to sidetrack your staff? How would a Dirty Bastard™ determine your campaign mailing date, and pre-empt your offer with a better one the day before? How would a Dirty Bastard™ raid your online database during the wee hours of the morning? How would the Dirty Bastard™ set up a web services delivery model to satisfy the market you created, simultaneously obsoleting your software product? Ho would the Dirty Bastard re-publish your RSS feed with ads for your competitor? How would the Dirty Bastard™ list your 800 number on an adult chat forum so it was flooded with callers looking for a “limited time offer – free phone sex for the first 1000 callers”, once a week, for months? Okay, I made that one up, but you get the idea.

The web is an interwoven network of cooperating services, and built into that network of cooperation is a great deal of trust. And everywhere there is trust, there is a potential exploit that can be utilized by your competitor. The system that is the Internet has already externalized as much of that risk as possible. Everybody who knows better has innoculated their systems and servers to defer that trust-related risk back out onto the Internet. More is being pushed back out onto the copperative network every day. They pass the risk along to those who are openly “cooperating” without such safeguards in place. Is that you?

Can another webmaster link to your site in a way that hurts your ranking in Google? The latest research suggests YES. Can you protect yourself against that? The jury is still out on that question, but there are some very good ideas floating around.

While this may sound like “security”, it is really competitive webmastering. As a competitive webmaster, I have to know a great deal about security. But I also know to involve security experts when the time comes. Security is a process. Competitiveness is a process. SEO is a process. Public Relations is a process. Sound familiar? Everyone on the team must be aware and active in maintaining a secure and competitive web environment.

Don’t let the Dirty Bastards™ drive a truck through your profits. Take a fresh look at your web operations. Are you competitive? Do you even know how to tell? I wonder what questions come to mind when I say that… the comments link is right below. I love to hear your thoughts.


  1. john andrews wrote:

    I’d like to add a note about the links above. Sometimes it is best *not* to link to places that describe exploits. Obviously, a Dirty Bastard™ might be reading this and there is no need to give him more weapons. Less obviously and perhaps more importantly though, is the fact that much of what gets written on these topics is incomplete and potentially misleading. A *hint* or a *clue* of a vulnerability may be very telling, but unless you know how to tell that it is only a hint or a small clue (and not the entire story), such a link could be misleading. Some things are best left to the experts (including, in my opinion, SEO and Security).

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  2. Ben Wilks wrote:

    My latest is to email webmasters politely explaining your url has changed and why. I feel so dirty, ooooooooohhhhh.

    Editor’s note: This thread  earlier today suggest the same tactic. Here, I was discussing how to *think* like the competition, so as to be prepared for what may ensue. This is not a thread for cracking/social engineering exploits, thanks. In my SEO practice I do recommend clients maintain a spreadsheet of valued back links and maintain some communication with friendly webmasters, but not to any extent that could protect against this sort of game. Seems like a pretty high maintenance anti-competitive tactic that would be easy to trace if discovered.

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006 at 1:35 am | Permalink
  3. Ben Wilks wrote:

    John, the TW post is mine.

    “Seems like a pretty high maintenance anti-competitive tactic that would be easy to trace if discovered.”

    {think like a dirty bastard here for a second}

    would you really make it traceable? or might you use someone elses domain (perhaps a compeditor??!?)

    This post is really another example of the bullshit Search Engine’s deal with on a daily basis.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 4:22 am | Permalink
  4. john andrews wrote:

    Hi Ben. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. By traceable, I meant that it is fraud, with an obvious intent to interfere with someone’s business. Such a tactic is prosecutable. There is little if any plausible deniability. Given a case like that, it’s not difficult to subpeona IP records and such, including making a general mess of things for all parties involved. Sure you can cover your tracks, but is it worth that much maintenance? That’s all. Your point is well taken, though.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

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  1. […] Not everyone likes competition, which is fine, just as not everyone likes rain and not everyone likes growing pains, yet those things (like competition) are essential ingredients of life. Just because you don’t like them, you can’t safely ignore them. I wrote “Think Like A Dirty Bastard” to remind people that they need to assume a perspective of a competitor to “see” their weaknesses. Now that SEO has matured in this age of one search engine, we don’t need to imagine the Dirty Bastards anymore. They are hard at work attacking us, and we can see they are proud of it if we read Internet Marketing web sites comments like this one: There are two kinds of link work: offensive and defensive.  Offensive involves getting high quality links pointing to your target website.  Defensive involves getting good links pointing to your competitors’ sites removed. Defensive work as I practive it involves emails or snail mail letters to webmasters suggesting removal of links or pointing out that the site they are linking to might not be what they think.  Also, letters to executives at search engines. Not only defensive links work good and effective practice; it is obligatory for an SEO consultant who has his or her client’s welfare in mind.  The point is not to have more or better links; it is to have more and better links than the competitors. […]

  2. […] on ME to negotiate out of the mess that I had nothing to do with in the first place. When I think like a dirty bastard, I imaging all sorts of cute ways this could be used as an anti competitive  tactic in the […]