While watching the latest Whiteboard Friday on seomoz.org, Rand Fishkin introduced me to a new term in SEO, negative SEO. Negative SEO is the practice of trying to destroy your competitor’s SERPs rankings by pointing hundreds and thousands of spammy links back to your site using a competing keyword.  It’s a scary realization that others can affect your rankings with bad links.

 

Another scary realization, there are actually sites that exist that can be hired to purposely, as they put it “destroy your competitor”. That is the actual tagline of the site negativeseo.me . Tactics such as spam blasts, splogs, paid links, etc. are used to point bad links back to your site and make your rankings drop. Totally unethical and complete black hat spammy SEO stuff. People are essentially hijacking other sites rankings.

 

 

I was pointed to the Traffic Planet Forum where a case study was done to test whether or not it was possible for a site to rank negatively due to outsider influences. Between March and April they decided to spam blast two sites, one being Dan Thies’ site seofaststart.com and the second site being the site that promotes this tactic, negativeseo.me . After a month of negative SEO tactics directed at these two sites, the results are as follows:

 

seofaststart.com
dan thies – number 1 (still number 1)
seo – not in top 1000 (down from number 11)
seo service – not in top 1000 (down from number 34)
seo book – number 34 (down from number 3)

 

 

 

negativeseo.me
negative seo – number 6 (down from number 2)
destroy your competitiors – number 13 (down from number 1)

 

 

 

What Does It Mean?

Looking at the results from the case study, it seems that negative SEO is very probable and could destroy an earnest company’s website in less than a month, that is if a small amount of not so white hat links already exist.  However, Fishkin has some doubt over whether a wholly clean site can be taken down by these negative efforts. So he has challenged negative SEO guru’s to try and employ their tactics on either his personal blog or the seomoz.org site so that he can bring to light the plausibility of clean sites being hit.

 

The Red Flag

One of the leading indications that this might be happening to you is if you have backlinks that are unaccounted for from paid link sites and very spammy looking pages. However, what about the folks that do not have access to Webmaster Tools or some other software to show your backlinks? Well… it seems like they can wave goodbye to their virtual presence on Google. Destroying a small business can take as little as a month. Bigger companies may take a few months to a year to see the negative affects in their rankings.

 

The moral of this story:

Watch your backlinks! If something seems off and looks spammy, report it to Google Webmaster. In Google’s eyes, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. But the proof is in the pudding, or the case study, negative SEO is real and it is happening. So my shout out to Google and Matt Cutts, start focusing your efforts to figure out how to combat this rising issue of negative SEO.