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SEO’s our own worst enemies and Negative SEO

SEO’s our own worst enemies and Negative SEO

I just wanted to get this out there and vent a little it’s a little rant fired up by what I keep seeing every single week on forums, blogs etc. It isn’t going to go away, I know that – but I’ll feel better for getting it off my chest. 😀

To any SEO who thinks its cool to file a spam report then, unless it’s around something heinous or illegal then here is the news. You suck. No you really do. If you think that by reporting a site that ranks above your own, or venting somewhere in a forum is cool, then again, just in case you missed it the 1st time around here is the news. You suck.

The upshot is that by being a rat SEO you are doing the job of those who may one day move the goal posts and kill your site. Ultimately the only long term benefactor from all the tittle tattling and finger pointing is Google. If you manage to get a site demoted, if you manage to ruin someones hard work then the only real winner is those who they’ll end up paying PPC fees to. Sure, site in position number 2 and 3 will be happy too, but for how long? How long before they end up in a similar position too, not to mention of course the bigger question of how it can be so damn easy to get a competitor banned (more on that later)

What am I saying? I’m talking about competitive SERPs, those ones that are damn difficult to rank for, at least difficult in the sense of creating the required number and mix of links needed to push ones way onto page one.

My site is more relevant than yours 

The ultimate arbiter of what is the most relevant site for a keyword is of course the algo that puts it where it is. An algo that does supposedly rank sites based on factors that the people who constructed it believe to be the most useful signals in determining what is and what is not a good or a bad user experience. Yet, in a tope 10 SERP, how many sites can be the most relevant for say Loans, or Mortgages or Insurance or any other number of one or two word keywords that people pay huge bucks on PPC for? The answer is of course 10 but there are of course many many more.Every single site that sells or dissects the vertical in which it is in, is in some way relevant to what it is about. Just because the Google algo happens to place too much emphasis on a sites link profile doesn’t mean therefore that every domain that tries to play catch up is in some way web spamming, that whole negative connotation with competing really does need to go away. Christ it’s human nature 101 isn’t it? Don’t we all in some way try and learn from our peers? Don’t we all try and take the best of what our friends , competitors, family, allies, enemies do and in some way learn?

If my friend Bob just happens to have a knack for kicking my ass on the XBOX360 cos he has learned some nifty little 6 button combo that does little shimmies and leaves my players for toast or is glitching his way to success, then am I just supposed to let him continue to do so? Or do I take stock, learn and emulate. If I’m dumb then I do the former and just get used to never beating his ass at Pro Evo or whatever other game he happens to have a move or two on me. Yet of course I’m not dumb so I take the route of observing and learning and finding a way of doing what he does and then some.

What I don’t do is write to Microsoft and complain bitterly and ask them to ban his ass from Xbox Live. Neither do I go to various Internet fora  plastering his Xbox ID all over the shop. Unless of course I happen to be a malicious malevolent S.O.B. I like to think that I’m not

Yet some SEO’s do so all the time. They whine and bitch about how a competitor has managed to accrue so many links in so short a time. They whine about the unfairness of it all, the whole buying of links thing being one such example. They don’t quite get the connection between there being no difference  in a link being acquired for cold hard cash and a link being acquired for cold hard cash. Whatever way it’s sliced and diced someone, somewhere is being paid to influence a decision. Just because Google or Yahoo say that x is bad it doesn’t make it so. Why is it that some people are so thick that they struggle to think for themselves;  incapable of any semblance of independant thought, like monotoned Zombies wandering around aimlessly looking for the next juicy head to stick their teeth into. What’s worse is that when they find a victim they let off this hue and cry that encourages all the other Zombie gang to wade in and take their little piece too, tittling and prattling like fish wives in some 30’s production line. Sooner or later the big feck off Google Zombie comes along and rips out the heart of the tottering victim. A victim whose only crime was to do the same as practically everyone else beneath him in the SERP, only better.

If you make a big deal of something and make a big enough noise and point to an example then a search engine will respond, they will take actions and reinforce their agenda, it suits their purposes on a number of levels. PR, (thats public relations) and profit, why can’t people get this?

 Kill your competitors with Negative SEO

Just to reinforce the point a little further did you know that you can stealthily add links  to any top ranking competitor that you like. You can buy links from a link broker in a steady as you go way and after a month or two, silently slip in a little anonymous or overt blog post, or comment somewhere in the right place and get that business penalised. Just go Google for ‘negative seo’ and see how many firms are even offering this as a service.

Why would you try and help a site positioned above yours with link buying? Simple really! If they gain any short term benefit, then it doesn’t matter in the link numbers game, because they are above you already. If you do it properly and examine their link profile and present your case to the right people in the right way then…bang you can kill them, just like that.

Shut it Rob it’s business  

I’m not so naive in my thinking that I’m not aware of the whole ‘hey this is just business Rob, get used to it’ line. It’s part of the territory that goes with the whole free SERP thing, but for the love of something a whole lot bigger than I, can those of you that continually buy in to the whole ‘SERP fairness’ angle that the search engines like to feed us just wake up and smell the coffee? Can you just try and remember that the search engines exist to generate huge levels of profit for their shareholders via a little mechanism called PPC. Can you just please wake up to the fact that it is in the direct interests of the Search Engines to paint SEO as a risky hit and miss strategy that may or may not work and has many potential pitfalls. Can we all just stop adding fuel to the fire and close the whole gasbag factory down.


Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios

51 thoughts on “SEO’s our own worst enemies and Negative SEO

  1. Jayson

    Well put – I didn’t really think a lot of people tattle tell but I guess enough do. It really is a joke – these people are just making it easier for search engines to nip one problem in the bud and move onto the next optimization tactic. Soon enough, thanks to these children, there will be nothing that helps.

  2. Matt Keegan

    Well said, Rob. There should be no room for using tactics to bring down another site’ position on the internet (unless, of course, it is Microsoft 😉 ) and to do so shows the lowest behavior of that person.

    But, it is the Almighty Dollar/Pound/Euro that drives some to consider that “all bets are off” when it comes to online ethics. I don’t know whether to whack so a person or to have pity on them.

  3. SEOTrends

    Quality of a website should be linked directly to that of the people who are responsible for it, all other negatives, should be pushed down by SEs.

  4. Igor The Troll

    Ha, Ha! Rob, Evil Google and Dr. Evil Matt Cutts with his MiniMe Adam Lasnik are out to get you, and there is nothing you can do! You better rent a cave next to Bin Laden, because you are going to be Nuked in the apocalypse..:)

    Jokes aside, it does hurt when some nasty bugger reports you to Google for some perceived infringement. It happened to my business Website once, and I was screaming Bloody Hell until I was let back in the index! No Black Hat for me since then, not even Gray Hat! Like Matt Cutts said one time, “Do not mix your White Hat sites with Black Hat one’s!” It is just not healthy!

    But if you do have some Asswipe nibbling at your heels, just catch the Sucker and take him to the Tower of London, and chop off his head! Or let me know who it is, and I will Troll him to Death…

  5. Igor The Troll

    Rob, I just visited your fine imperialistic country, and payed my tribute to your Queen. Freaking Lodon, is so fucken expensive!

    The place has a nice atmosphere, but the food sucks big. Maybe I just did not know where to eat, but the Indian restaurunt I went to, really sucked. The Curry had no spices in it. It tasted like diarrhea!

    I went to the SES, but did not find it worth the visit.
    I tried to Troll Adam Lasnik but he gave me the slip.
    He is a nasty leech to get one’s hands around..:)

    But I will keep tying, time is on my side!

  6. Mark from QuoteMyAuto

    Howdy Matt – Great post! I’m in total agreement, this is a B.S. way to get your site to rank. The thing that sucks though is that Google is not an algo based SE any longer and it seems very human edited for the top verticals… I just wish they would admit it and allow submission of sites like ours to be considered for the top 10… hell, at this point I would settle for being in the top 1000. Most competition in the insurance verticals are spammy sites, but we do NOT report them, we just trudge along trying to create new content, images & video which we believe will someday net us a coveted top 10 spot.

    Keep up the great work here!

  7. David Leonhardt

    I can’t say there is much to disagree with here. It really is a waste of time and a bit of a spoil sport to do negative SEO. But I also wonder if it’s really that big an issue. I mean, who bothers doing it and do they ever succeed?

  8. Kit

    You make a lot of sense Rob. One can only hope that those gains from nasty deeds will eventually backfire as Google and co. find ways to reverse the damage. When all things are equal, people who spend their time on dirty tactics are wasting energy they could be putting into building a better website.

  9. Geek Mother

    Hi Rob

    Glad to be back reading your quality stuff after a short break. Funny thing is some of the time has been spent trying to undo the work of a ‘jealous guy’ and I know which ferry he should be on! I cannot disagree with your sentiments. I fear things will only get worse as more and more people try to take a slice of the online advertising pot.

    Geek Mother

  10. Igor The Troll

    Rob, I have been editing Wikipedia for 9 months now. Recently I have been blocked and now undergoing mediation process on my talk page. If you want to see the inner working of Wikipedia I welcome you to come take a look at Wikipedia.

    I think it will be a very interesting experience and will shed some light on the Dark Side of Wikipedia.

    If you or your guest have advice as to Wikipedia and would like to share it with me and the other guests of my blog please post it on my blog.

    Thank you,

  11. robwatts Post author

    Igor – wikis can be funny places. Similar in some respects to places such as resource-zone or any othe place ran by people who are paranoid about being ‘gamed’ in some way.

    Hi GM – thanks bud – we’ll have to adpat of course 😀

    Ned – good luck with it all, especially in that niche 😉

  12. Energy Conservation

    Negative SEO is comparative to fraud. It should be out right banned, any company that practices it should be knocked off the SERPs. Its this kind of behavior thats no different then framing your competitors business for selling and buying crack from junkies in the offline world.
    But I don’t believe it’s too prominent of a problem to worry Marketers in general, and the SE’s have many protective services (IMO) that can prevent such a thing from happening and if not, they should be pressured into doing so.

    BTW beside your Sphinn button this error appears: (Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Too many…)

    First comment on your blog from me, I’ll be dropping by again :).

  13. robwatts Post author

    Hello Energy Conservation, thanks for your POV and the error warning notification.

    I think the exponents would say that all is fair in love and war. But yes, I agree with your general sentiment it’s not the most honourable way to behave either but it’s certainly here to stay. I guess from a SE POV it’s not so bad as it adds to the whole FUD thing around can you really afford to engage in ‘dodgy’ practise especially when the eyes of the competing SERP world are upon you.

    That’s by biggest probelem with it though, especially on the paid link thing. A competitor should NOT be able to do things that affect your position negatively (in a reporting snitchy sense) today April 20 2008 they can and do. That’s not good. Apart from doing a deal with the brokers themselves I really dont know how a Search engineer could know who was or wasn’t responsible for a paid link deal.

  14. Energy Conservation

    Well Google could step up to plate and enforce what they believe in, no buying/selling links. I don’t particularly agree with that rule but if they’re against it they might as well enforce it and just knock down the major players in that realm and get them taken off asap like before one could get as large as TNX or something. That way any new players in the marketing world will have to do some major searching before they get any ideas on where they can buy links.
    Or the buy/sell link company’s could just do a whois check on the website, contact the webmaster by email and that’d be that.

  15. Chloe Baby

    I am completly with you in this post.
    Another thing that really gets me is google can’t do jack shit about link comments unless people conform to their ‘nofollow’ rule… why do people conform to googles rules when as you said, they can change the goal posts whenever they want.

    By penalizing blogs for example that make money of blogging by putting on some links on the side, their saying ‘your allowed to put adwords their, but not normal advertising’ .. there is so much wrong with how google is acting about this, it really winds me up !

  16. robwatts Post author

    Hi Chloe Baby

    You aren ‘t the 1st to get narked by the Goog, I doubt you’ll be last 😀

    Nice blog, good idea.

    Hi EC

    They do enforce things, you just dont get to hear about every instance. Trust me on that one 🙂

  17. Peter Egan

    This was an excellent piece about a subject that far too many people would be content to just sweep under-the-rug.

    Forbes published a phenomenal article in June of 2007 about this very same subject. The article was entitled “The Saboteurs of Search”, and the url is:

    I highly recommend reading the Forbes article if you care to learn more about negative SEO or if you’re just curious about how the mainstream media is covering the topic.

    I can’t help but get the feeling the internet will inevitably have to undergo a civil cyber-war before the disputes between White Hat SEO’s, Black Hat SEO’s, SEO Saboteurs and spammers are settled definitively.

  18. Jewels Manora

    If it is true, as some say, that google is more human oriented and not as reliant purely on spidering, I just can’t imagine hown their hand reviews can be more than a drop in the bucket. To think that the Y! directory was where EVERYONE went at one point and they would hand review all…amazing. Was that better? There was still a search, but I still like drill down for a lot of things. But back then the amount of content being put out was nothing compared to the volumes of today.

  19. web design

    The way some goes to report at google is really retarded, but imo google has some ways to track things with their algo and don’t just ban anyone just because of a spam report.

  20. Jeff - The Abunza Guy

    Hi Rob

    Glad to be back reading your quality stuff after a short break. Funny thing is some of the time has been spent trying to undo the work of a ‘jealous guy’ and I know which ferry he should be on! I cannot disagree with your sentiments. I fear things will only get worse as more and more people try to take a slice of the online advertising pot.


  21. robwatts Post author

    Jeff – if ever the maxim ‘survival of the fittest’ were true it’s certanly applicable in this game!

    Just another reason why people should look to keeping building brand, content and quality.

  22. John

    Paid Links Bad! Very Bad!

    Oh hang on a minute, aren’t those little boxes all over Google paid links back to folks sites?

    How did that happen?

    Can’t be right can it?

  23. Niche Store Writer

    Wow this is all so new to me. I did not realize that this happens on the internet. Don’t people have to have a valid reason for reporting a site? What can one do to prevent this from happening?

  24. John

    They do have a valid reason for cutting your throat…you are their mortal enemy!

    It’s a jungle EVERYWHERE!

    Competition is to the death not the finish line.

  25. Igor The Troll

    Are you guys Victims of Black Hat SEO?

    While many people think that for SEO to be successful it must be Black Hat! I disagree with that and I am sure Rob will second that.

    One great way to increase your Website popularity is to get inbound dofollow links. Many old forums and some blogs provide dofollow for links left in comments!

    I do not recommend going from forum to forum posting the same stale message with your Website links, that will get those comments deleted and get your Websites on Spam lists, like the PHSDL Spam list I run

    I definitely do not recommend posting affiliate links, if you run an affiliate program.

    The way to do this, is to become a member of a forum or blog community and to post creative original comments with a link or two to your Website. If you are running an affiliate program, have those links on your Website, not drop them in forum comments.

    I welcome all Webmasters and Marketers to post on my

    Travel in Asia forum

    Try to find an appropriate area, if not, Link Promotion thread is fine. Do not post in General, because that is where the Spammers go. My forum is PR 4.

    It is a travel forum, but if you make a nice original and useful post you can post about anything.

    It is a travel forum so you can help me build it buy hanging around and posting a few travel stories. I am sure you have traveled, even it is only in your country!

    Do not try to be a Smarty Pants commenting with the same Website url under different user id! I will find that domain name and will nuke all your posts with one click!

    I have written a customized PHP routine to delete comments by domain, IP, or user id with one click!

    This is the Secret Art of SEO. If you follow this mentality you can run SEO campaigns not only on my forum but other forums!

    Remember it is not about exploiting the system as a Black Hat, but about contributing to a community with relevant resources and information.

    Become a member not a User!

  26. Craig

    I’ve heard about this before but I thought Google had introduced procedures in place to protect webmaster’s from these rogues?

  27. Maurice (TheCaymanHost)

    Hey Rob,

    Been absent from your blog recently but came back tonight just to see what you’d been up to. Nothing to add other than the fact that I love these posts of yours, a real tonic.

    Stalking you on Twitter now too 🙂


    Haha…just noticed the qualifier under the comment box. I definitely need to spend more time here!

  28. robwatts Post author

    hey mo – long time no see! ive been kinda busy lately no real time to blog it’s all deadlines deadlines deadlines. 🙁

    Craig – I wish I shared your optimism for google and its take on small site owners.

    Igor – big comment dude. I think our definitions of BH might be a little different but I certainly hear what you are saying.

    John – ha! nature of the beast kill or be killed? 😉

  29. Tim Hawkins

    Rob, I find your post rather nieve. You seem to be condoning people to continue breaking the rules? Correct me if your not? What really hacks us SEOs off is not someone beating us but having been beaten by a site who are clearly broken the rules. After all if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about right? However their are clearly quite a few SEOs out there who are not just happy to purchase the odd high PR link but are happy to blatantly cheat their way into the rankings.

    Unfortuanately from what I perceive of Google recently their main tactic in combating spam and black hatters is to let the SEO industry police itself, ultimately whether you agree with an SEO doing that doesn’t really matter, there’s only one way things will be heading. I’ve seen a recent example of link farms that are getting the links on it ranked and the thing that alarms me is they all run adsense campaigns. It’s so spammy and obvious it’s unbelievable, the company involved haven’t even bothered hiding their details in their domain registration who is details. Ultimately there will be always be the odd roque who plays dirty, ultimately who cares? Google are a multi billion dollar organisation, for me they are quite happy to turn a blind eye as long as no-one notices and it results in profit for them. But if your also telling me they’re not that intelligent to work out that this kind of negative SEO goes on and they haven’t figured it out all the way to adjusting their algo, then sorry but that’s just too nieve for me!

  30. robwatts Post author

    Hi Tim –

    Lots of words there interlaced with ‘cheating and ‘dirty’ and ‘fairness’ and ‘rules’.

    My post naive? Perhaps so! Or maybe not even. It all depends on your perspective I guess. 🙂

    When it all gets dark, there will always be more than 10 relevant websites/pages for a query. Any SEO who doesn’t try to meet the criteria of an algo that puts those pages where they are just isn’t doing the job properly.

    All this talk of ‘cheating’ and ‘rule breaking’ is a bit of a nonsense really. Google move the goalposts practically at will, when it suits their business objectives.

    I see websites that break the rules succeed every day of my working week, it’s just the way it is. I don’t think my time is well spent doing Google’s work for them.The whole paid links debate is but one example of them protecting their model. They made it a terms of service violation not because it ‘weakened’ relevancy but because if left untouched it would weaken their business model. If you don’t subscribe to that view then that’s your prerogative.

    Google isn’t whiter than white, and lets not even start on the issues around why one private for profit company should have unfettered control over which companies live or die on the internet.

    For me, the net is an imperfect system with big winners and big losers. It’ll probably get a whole lot worse before it get’s any better too.

  31. Tim Hawkins

    In terms of ‘rules’ there’s a fair chunk of advice in Google’s help section in don’t do this – look for an seo whole do this. There is only really one rule – that is if your constantly playing the black hat game you’ll get caught out, and when you get caught Google will hit you hard.

    Should be noted you can always get away with a bit of spammy link building, it’s built into the algo for negative seo reasons.

    Our attitude at the company I work for is to look at the Google algo as a friendly guide not a brick wall to get around. Any search engine algo has between 6 to a dozen key concepts in it, depending on the engine and who you’ll talk to. For me you can blow any black hatter out of the water by doing the keyt things – by doing the key things successfully you’ll always get far better results in doing what Google are looking for rather than cheating your way around the system.

    Black hat will only get worse, which means the complaining will get worse and in my mind Google will get worse.

    i don’t think Google changes it’s algo that much just tweeks it, the big changes in recent history is dealing with spam in whatever guise that may come across, wether it be spamdexing, keyword stuffing your alt tags or just getting nasty links of spam farms.

  32. John

    I hope you can hang on to your benevolent rose tinted view of Google as long as possible, perhaps until you have to explain to a client why a site like mine lost 400K pages, 90% of it’s traffic without changing anything about it.

    Oh yes and it has no artificial links, no directory listings, no article exchanges, no reciprocal links, no key word stuffing, no hidden text, no mod re-writing.

    I does have organically grown content, super relevancy and even backlinks from Google it’s self! Your turn will come.

    Google sometimes just plain screws up or screws you up because it has one priority only, REVENUE. as a publically listed company it can only ever now report rising earnings, profits, revenue per share, revenue per empoyee, roi whatever you want to quote, they all gotta go up. Your business and my business don’t count one jot to Google, they are completely neutral to our fortunes. Being a good SEO’er or not being a naughty boys doesn’t come into it. It’s the numbers that count. If a tactic pushes up your numbers ride it for all it’s worth because that puts cash in your pocket.

    Being compliant to Google’s whim won’t protect you from chance and being wiped out in the blink of an eye.

  33. John

    Hey Rob, you have to laugh sometimes.

    I enjoy posting here, it’s one of the few blogs that I really have a good look round on and find multiple topics worth a few minutes to contribute to. I don’t consider it to be any part of my SEO activities…however…

    Just did my round robin of checking a few stats, factoids and figures and low and behold YackYack is screwing up one of my sites SEO! Brilliant! Actually that’s a compliment to you Rob. In my Webmastertools, “What Google Sees”, YackYack is all over it like a rash showing how well your blog is indexed. Only trouble is I didn’t use relevant anchor text on my initial post as I didn’t expect to be back here so often. Dooh! Any chance of a little tweak of your MSQL? Now that’s an offer I bet you’ve never had before!

    Anyway, either I shall have to go cold turkey on YackYack or I will have to turn into a “DoFollow with anchour text” whore after the next 100 day rollover.

  34. Tim Hawkins

    until you have to explain to a client why a site like mine lost 400K pages, 90% of it’s traffic without changing anything about it?

    That’s link building for you! Google are constantly trying to hide what their doing with inbound links (and there’s a good reason for that!), I see it every time I link build. It just shows the very close relation to links and getting ranked in Google.

    Google don’t have a personal vendeta against anyone – we all play on a level playing field in that to Google we’re just a site. Maybe a good site they love, maybe a bad site they don’t particularly like, but still a site.

    Ultimately Google is a search engine it’s not a company and it’s not peoplen. It’s a massive network of computers that run’s on an algorithm – maths to you and me, a very complicated formula but it’s a formula none the less!

    If Google has suddenly decided it doesnt like your site so much anymore then there has to be a reason (in the formula) for that.

  35. phil b

    Is there any evidence that Google even pays attention to this report spam, etc.? If I were Google I’d stay out of the business of human arbitration, its better to develop code to determine these things.

  36. seo

    I was just telling somebody to quit reporting his competitor because his competitor decided to register a .com version of the same domain and now ranks better. The dude was going crazy…

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