What negative SEO is and is not

Today we are starting a six-part series on Negative SEO. The series will be broken into three areas and will show how negative search engine optimization (SEO) has an effect on links, content and user signals.


Positive SEO under this broader view would be any tactic performed with the intent to positively impact rankings for a uniform resource locator (URL), and possibly its host domain, by manipulating a variable within the links, content or user signals areas.

Negative SEO would be any tactic performed with the intent to negatively impact rankings for a URL, and possibly its host domain, by manipulating a variable within the links, content or user signal buckets.

But Google says negative SEO isn’t real

Unfortunately, Google isn’t being entirely honest here.

If you can accidentally hurt your rankings by shifting a variable, then it would logically suggest that an external entity shifting that same variable associated with your site could result in a ranking decrease or outright deindexation.

Over time, Google does attempt to keep certain tactics from causing too much damage, but they are far from perfect. Here is what they say on negative SEO:

Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.

Sounds as if they are trying to admit certain techniques are, in fact, possible.

I should mention as part of my background, I’ve been involved with the four “P’s” of spam (porn, pills, poker and payday websites) either directly or indirectly via client work, which makes for an interesting break from influencer marketing and helping venture capitalists (VCs) with their portfolio companies.

Why does my experience matter? The four “P’s” are widely thought of as the most competitive industries in search, and from my own experience, I’ve seen both attempted, failed and successful negative SEO campaigns on a nearly daily basis.

Not only is negative SEO real, it is happening constantly. As other platforms like Amazon have arisen, I’ve watched product optimizers deploy both positive and negative campaigns there as well. Any platform that relies on negative signaling to ensure quality is going to get manipulated.

While this can be seen in a variety of Amazon categories, this tends to occur more in areas with the intense competition where a single dominant brand …

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Involved in the search industry since 1997, I’ve been fortunate enough to place in most facets of online marketing, managing many thousands of domains and clients. Currently, I am Principal of boutique search agency Digital Heretix and CEO of influencer marketing platform Intellifluence.

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