I am a firm believer in leaving people alone unless they’re doing something detrimental to children and/or animals, trashing Joe Strummer’s good name, or harassing my favorite Viking. That being said, it should come as no surprise that I am firmly against turning in your competitors for violating webmaster guidelines. First of all, it’s an extension of tattling as a child. Secondly, it’s just bad karma. You’re going to do something bad at some point and you’re going to really wish the person who turned you in for it was nice like you should have been when you turned someone else in for something asinine like using doorway pages to rank one spot ahead of you.
I’ve worked with SEOs who choose the path of least resistance in getting ahead in the SERPs, which usually means digging around on a higher ranking site and reporting on findings when turning them in to Google. That technique might clear the path for you a bit, but it’s a sign that you obviously don’t know how to get ahead without hurting someone else, which, to me, says you’re not a great SEO. You might, however, think about going into American politics.
We all know that Google frowns upon cloaking. Still, if your competitor IS cloaking, figure out how to beat him at his game without resorting to tattling on him. You may have skeletons in your own closet, after all, and in many cases it’s going to be apparent to someone who’s been doing the tattling. I have dealt with clients who would give me the names of competitors and ask me to dig around to find out if I could turn them into Google for anything. In most cases, I have indeed found something, but I’ve never turned anyone in. I also have never transported Dracula at night or eaten a candy apple. There are lines I will not cross.
Analyzing how your competitors do things is a key part of SEO, and it’s helpful to figure out WHY they’re ranking higher than you are. However, once you ascertain that they’re doing something that violates Google’s guidelines, for example, just keep it to yourself please, as full of yourself as you are. When you use this information to harm someone else you’re the equivalent of the office arse-kisser, tattling on coworkers in order to get in good with the big boss. It’s horribly ill-mannered behavior, and it’s not something that a good Southerner does.
It’s been my experience that the black hats of SEO are the ones who inspire my utter awe. I am completely fascinated by black hat techniques, especially the really hardcore ones that involve writing code that I couldn’t possibly begin to imagine how to do. These people have serious talent, and I don’t really care how they use it. If they’re ahead of me in the rankings, kudos to them. If these black hats were working on coding the search engine algorithms, maybe we wouldn’t need all the spam reporting tools, because the engines would be smart enough to catch spam without relying on humans to do it for them.
Turning in your competitors is not an act of improving the internet for the rest of us either. That’s an argument that’s making less sense the more I hear it. Honestly, the ideal of doing SEO with the goal of simply making the web a better place where kittens can frolic is lovely, but I really do not believe that it’s anyone’s true desire. We do SEO because we want to make our sites do better than everyone else’s.