Google states that it is not possible to directly and negatively influence rankings of others websites. This debate has been hotly contested in SEO circles for quite a while.
The basis of the debate stems from factors like the ethics of hurting someone else’s business/website by degrading their website, if negative SEO work can it be proven, and if it does work why can’t Google prevent it from doing so.
Below we will talk about Negative SEO practices and in no way do we condone any of them. It is very unethical to intend damage to someone’s website and in effect their livelihood.
Not only do you risk hurting their digital properties but you risk your websites from getting black listed as a result.
Why would you use negative SEO?
- To push competitor’s rankings down. - This can be done using SERP building, making your site rank higher than a competitor. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you are using white-hat SEO practices.
- Targeted Negative SEO (TNS) – this can be for many reasons, usually financial, personal, or political. There are many companies that are willing to hire a black hat SEO firm to provide them with any advantage over a competitor.
What are some examples of negative SEO?
- Removing content
On forums where your company is referred to in negative posts you can request that the comment be removed. Usually blog owners or forum moderators will happily remove content that is damaging.
- Add positive content to refute negative.
If you can’t remove a bad review or negative content, create your own positive content and promote those pages to rank higher than the negative material. This can be referred to as Google Insulation.
- Google Bowling
This technique removes a site from the SERPs convincing Google that the site is spammy. One way is to add links to the site from other bad sites and spammy pages. This will trigger a spam alert if there are thousands of them linked in a few days. Also you can show Google that a site has many duplicate content pages by posting similar urls around link farms, forums, blogs, and directories shedding light on a common mistake of the site.
- Give the site a virus
If the site is infected with a virus it will be flagged in the SERPs.
- Turn a site in
Inform Google of a guidelines infraction. Claim copyright, theft report, paid-for-links, etc.
- Guilty by Association
Create a website and make it super spammy then copy the competitors website meta-tags and use the same domain/hosting services. Get your site banned than redirect your 301’s to the target site making them spam related.
Copy a competitors content as soon as they put it out there, then submit a sitemap before they do and your content will be indexed before theirs. Thus making them look like they are duplicating your content.
- Denial of Service Attacks (DOS)
Use multiple computers to jam up their bandwidth so when DOS happens, the site is unreachable by Google. This will creative negative consequences for their rankings.
If you have the time to find your competitors Adwords and click on their ads, this reduces the chances of a genuine click. It is very hard to impact a competitors site doing this but on a small scale, ad campaigns could be effective.
- Black social bookmarking
Use social media sites to create a fraud account then use keywords that red flag spam to associate that content with the target site. This would work now that Google includes social networks in SERPs.
For more examples and a more detailed description of Negative SEO here is a great video that outlines them for you.
These tactics may work to damage short-term ranking, but it is very hard to bring down well-established clean sites with good link profiles.
You should never use negative SEO tactics to hurt another website, because you risk your site being banned as well as the moral implications associated with those actions.
Since March when Google rolled out their new updates, it has stirred the pot on the debate even more so. A couple of them come from Google notifying webmasters and warning them for selling / buying links. And again at SXSW when Google announced they will start cracking down on people over-optimizing.
Dan Thies, a well-known in the SEO community, has claimed that negative SEO can work. For an overview of the conversations going on between Dan and Google’s Matt Cutts, check out this forum.
Below are some excerpts from the forum explaining what happened to Dan’s SEO sites after his smug message to Matt Cutts. Dan stated that his rankings drop had nothing to do with supposed negative SEO efforts.
- 15th March – Dan Thies posts smug tweets to Matt Cutts and makes the entire internet mad.
- 18th March – seofaststart.com – blog posts started – anchor text “seo” “seo service” and “seo book”
- 22th March – seofaststart.com – 1 million scrapebox blast started – 100% anchor text “Dan Thies”
- 26th March – Dan Thies posts in Twitter that he has received an unnatural links message
In another forum thread on TrafficPlanet.com, they go after Dan more because he congratulated Matt Cutts for penalizing the blog networks and it made a lot of people mad.
The problem with proving negative SEO is that it is often claimed when there is an update or SEO bomb that can drastically change Google’s algorithm.
Until there is some real scientific proof this debate will still be raging on about if it is possible to destroy a competitor’s site ranking using negative SEO.
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About the author
Eric Wagner is a online marketer and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, motorcycles, technology, and spending time with family and friends. Connect with him on Google+ .