I work with a lot of small business websites and I can tell you for most of them 60-80% of their traffic comes from Google. Now just imagine that traffic stopping one day to zero… what do you think is going to happen to their businesses…? Yeah, you got it… massive losses in business.
Well it looks like this could very, very easily happen to anyone by one of your competitors using a negative SEO service. Due to Google’s recent algorithm updates with warnings and penalties for unnatural linking building, it is quickly becoming clear that negative SEO may, in fact, work.
Really scary stuff.
Does Negative SEO Work?
Looks like it might. In a previous post I made a few days ago I spoke about it probably not existing, but this recent thread that was posted on TrafficPlanet.com yesterday is making me think otherwise. For those of you who do not want to go to the TrafficPlanet thread, I have re-posted the initial post here. I do however highly recommend you read the whole thread with comments too, including the dialogue that is taking place on Google Webmaster Tools about this matter.
Here is the Negative SEO post:
Pixelgrinder and I conducted a little experiment on whether negative seo was possible in the current climate – we felt it was important to know whether it was possible for a site to be negatively affected completely by outside influences. This experiment was not done with the knowledge or consent of TrafficPlanet.com owners/admin/moderators.
We carried out a massive scrapebox blast on two sites to ensure an accurate result. The two sites we chose and the reasons we chose them are as follows:
seofaststart.com (Dan Thies)
1. He has received a direct response from Matt Cutts on Twitter, so if we were able to affect his site he is more likely than most to get the ear of the right person and show google what can be done (https://twitter.com/#!/danthies/statuses/180389475497676801)
2. A self proclaimed “seo guru” (Hi, I’m Dan Thies. Although I’m best known as the “keyword guru,” I’ve been practicing, studying and teaching advanced search engine marketing strategy and tactics for several years http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/) – it should be harder than most to affect the site of an “seo guru”.
3. If it works, he should be smart enough to profit from all of the publicity he would get out of it.
4. He already has several domains 301d to seofaststart.com without penalty (not a white hat tactic) – we were wondering if he had been ‘protected’ in some way.
5. He is a suck-up-brown-noser, smugly bad mouthing everyone and crowing that “many pants are being pooped and it’s long overdue” – we don’t like him.
1. They are selling services for negative seo under the tagline “destroy your competitors”.
Rankings Before (22nd March):
dan thies – number 1
seo – number 11
seo service – number 34
seo book – number 3
negative seo – number 2
destroy your competitiors – number 1
15th March – Dan Thies posts smug tweets to Matt Cutts and pisses off the entire internet.
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”
24th March – negativeseo.com – 1 million scrapebox blast started – 100% anchor text “destroy your competitors”
26th March – Dan Thies posts in Twitter that he has received an unnatural links message.
Note: 18th March – seofaststart blog posts started. This was NOT US. We had previously decided that it would be risky to ‘out’ the blogs that links were getting placed on and agreed not to include blog posts in our experiment. We don’t know who did this, how many links they built or what network/s they used. We discovered these links in ahrefs and have estimated that about 5000 links where built, probably with ALN between the 18th-23rd March.
Ranking After (18th April) note rankings are still jumping a little:
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)
negative seo – number 6 (down from number 2)
destroy your competitiors – number 13 (down from number 1)
Other stuff of interest right now:
ahrefs seofaststart.com (notice how few of our 1 million scapebox links have shown up!)
ahrefs negativeseo.me (notice how few of our 1 million scrapebox links have shown up!)
Dan Thies begging on google groups
Our personal message to Matt Cutts/Google:
Negative SEO is possible. Sort it out!
Our personal message to Dan Thies:
Next time you want to smugly throw your holier than thou 2 cents into the ring, think before you speak. Every backlink to your site was analyzed before starting this. Don’t think those 301d domains hide what you are doing because they don’t – you are the same as the rest of us – your methods for link bait are, in fact, worse than some of the ‘spammers’ you so often refer to. Now your pants are being pooped and it’s long overdue.
How Can Google Resolve This Challenge of Negative SEO?
Jon Cooper has some good ideas:
“All Google has to do is one of the following:
1) Just ignore these links
2) Let us flag bad links & 301s in Webmaster Tools
For those wondering about #1, think about it. If they’re ignored, the black hats don’t win because those links become money down the toilet, and for us, we don’t lose because we don’t get a penalty.”
Matt Cutts states it is highly un-likley to harm a site with spammy links or with Google Bombing tactics, however it seems of late that doesn’t seem to be true anymore. Watch the video below. Note how Matt Cutts says, that it is possible for a 3rd party to harm a site’s rankings based on spammy links and that Google could solve this problem by allowing you to report those spammy links in webmaster tools. I am guessing this is what Jon Cooper was referencing correcting this problem with the 301s.
Should You Panic and Worry About Negative SEO?
My short answer is: No.
It looks like negative SEO is possible based on the case study above. However, I don’t think it’s that easy to do and most small businesses don’t have to worry about their competitor’s link bombing their sites , especially with stupid Negative SEO campaigns on Fiverr for $5. Negative SEO is not always easy and it can take time, effort, and money. And just like regular white hat SEO, it isn’t guaranteed to work.
For most small business owners, don’t panic and don’t lose sleep over it.
It’s likely Google will reduce these types of penalties and hopefully find a way to neutralize negative SEO.
Other Interesting Blog Posts on Negative SEO:
- Google Bowling, NegativeSEO, & Outing by Aaron Wall
- Negative SEO on the Rise by Ryan Clark
- Negative SEO – Our Nightmares Come True by Sam Crocker
- Negative SEO on the Rise by Pawel Reszka
Let us know your thoughts about Negative SEO in the comment section below. Do you think it’s true? If so, how do you think Google should handle it? What would happen to your small business if your site was targeted by negative SEO and you lost all your rankings?