As with any industry, the field of search engine optimization is not free of unseemly tactics. While it represents only a modicum of the industry, negative SEO has long plagued the reputation of white hat SEO companies. An example of a negative search engine optimization (SEO) strategy would be a website being flooded with a wide variety of irrelevant links and Spammy links in order to maximize link juice to the fullest extent. One tactic that has been employed by black hat SEO workers is to target the site of a competitor and create URLs similar to that competitors site that ultimately redirect to Spammy links, adversely affecting the ranking of that competitor’s site. Google has done its best to combat black hat SEO in recent months through the implementation of the Google algorithm updates Panda and Penguin, and indeed has been somewhat effective. Yet it would be a lie to state that black hat SEO has been categorically removed from the most shadowy pockets of the internet. What is in question, and has been for a long time, is the overall effectiveness of this kind of negative SEO.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Yet, if you were to poll many SEO experts, you would find that many of them would say that while a negative SEO campaign may be able to change a website’s ranking, the change will typically not be seismic enough to warrant excessive concern.
“The only case I’ve heard about is affecting rankings by only a few positions, not major movements,” said Peter Attia, founder of internet marketing blog Cucumber Nebula. “In my opinion, if you have an authoritative site with natural links, you really don’t have anything to worry about.”
Julie Joyce, founder of the link building company Link Fish Media, argues that is pointless for an SEO to employ such negative tactics as bombing a competitor with SPAM when it would require similar energy to simply build up good links for oneself. She also states that such spam building may not necessarily be the culprit of a fall in ranking. “If a site is the victim of a negative link campaign and rankings and traffic do start to fail, I would make sure those bad links are indeed the reason for this,” Joyce said. “Because maybe there’s something else. Links aren’t always the problem.”
There are those in SEO that would debate Attia and Joyce about the effectiveness of black hat SEO tactics. Some, like Alessio Madeyski, contend that negative SEO may not be so harmful to your Google rank, but what it may harm is your site’s reputation from users. Users who stumble on a site that has been the victim of negative SEO may see the collection of Spammy links and decide that the site in question is not up to snuff. Jason Acidre, CEO of Xight Interactive, says that if a site falls prey to black hat SEO and that victimhood is publicized, the damage done can be quite significant.
Still, it’s ultimately hard to discern a definite answer to a question like this. There are so many variables in the conditions that the effects from site to site are going to largely inconsistent. But negative SEO is something that the industry does have to, and always will, be wary of.
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Jesse Stoler is an assistant editor, head writer, content developer and link builder at Page One Power, where his direction has provided dozens of employees with the insight and skills needed to make their clients rank. In addition to online marketing, Stoler is a thoughtful leader and he provides guidance to his team of fellow writers while also finding new, innovative ways to link build.
Outside of work, his hobbies include stand-up comedy, acting and rooting hopelessly for the New York Knicks. You can connect with him on Google+.