Can Your Site Lose Its Rankings Because Of Competitors’ Negative SEO?

By: Chris Crum - April 25, 2012

Rand Fishkin, the well known SEO expert and Founder/CEO of SEOmoz, has challenged the web to see if anyone can take down his sites’ rankings in Google by way of negative SEO – the practice of implementing tactics specifically aimed at hurting competitors in search, as opposed to improving the rankings of one’s own site. Fishkin tells WebProNews about why he’s made such a challenge.

Do you think negative SEO practices can be effective in hurting a competitors’ rankings, even if that competitor is playing by all of Google’s rules and has a squeaky clean reputation? Let us know what you think.

First, you’ll need a little background. There’s a thread in the forum Traffic Planet started by member Jammy (hat tip to Barry Schwartz), who talks about an experiment run with the cooperation of another member in which they were successfully able to have a hugely negative impact on two sites.

“We carried out a massive scrapebox blast on two sites to ensure an accurate result,” Jammy writes. I’m not going to get into all of the details about why they targeted specific sites or even the sites themselves here. You can read the lengthy forum thread if you want to go through all of that.

The important thing to note, however, is that the experiment apparently worked. BUT, Fishkin maintains that the sites in question weren’t necessarily in the best situations to begin with.

“In terms of negative SEO on the whole – I think it’s terrible that it could hurt a site’s rankings,” Fishkin said in the forum thread. “That creates an entire industry and practice that no one (not engines, not marketers, not brands) benefits from. Only the spammers and link network owners win, and that’s exactly the opposite of what every legitimate player in the field wants. Thus, I’m wholeheartedly behind identifying and exposing whether Google or Bing are wrongly penalizing sites rather than merely removing the value passed by spam links. If we can remove that fear and that process, we’ve done the entire marketing and web world a huge favor.”

“I’ve never seen it work on a truly clean, established site,” Fishkin tells WebProNews, regarding negative SEO. He says the examples from the forum “all had some slightly-seriously suspicious characteristics and not wholly clean link profiles already, and it’s hard to know whether the bad links hurt them or whether they merely triggered a review or algorithm that said ‘this site doesn’t deserve to rank.’”

“If negative SEO can take down 100% clean sites that have never done anything untoward and that have built up a good reputation on the web, it’s more concerning and something Google’s search quality engineers would need to address immediately (or risk a shadow industry of spammers popping up to do website takedowns),” he adds.

When asked why he would antagonize those who disagree with his view by offering his own sites as targets, Fishkin says, “Two things – one, I’d rather they target me/us than someone else. We can take the hit and we can help publicize/reach the right folks if something does go wrong. Other targets probably wouldn’t be so lucky.”

Perhaps there should be a Good Guy Rand meme.

Good Guy Rand (Fishkin)

“Two – if this is indeed possible, it’s important for someone who can warn the search/marketing industry to have evidence and be aware of it,” says Fishkin. “Since we carefully monitor our metrics/analytics, haven’t ever engaged in any spam and have lines over to some folks who could help, we’re a good early warning system.”

So what happens if challengers are successful at taking down either SEOmoz or RandFishkin.com?

“SEOmoz gets ~20% of its traffic from non-branded Google searches, so worst case, we’d see a 20-25% hit for a few days or a few weeks,” Fishkin tells WebProNews. “That’s survivable and it’s worth the price to uncover whether the practice is a problem. Our core values (TAGFEE) dictate that this is precisely the kind of area where we’d be willing to take some pain in order to prevent harm to others.”

When asked if he’s confident that Google will correct the problem in a timely fashion if he’s proven wrong, Fishkin says, “Fairly confident, though not 100%. I have my fingers crossed it won’t get too messy for too long, but my COO and community manager are a little nervous.”

Fishkin concludes our conversation with: “I’d say that the evidence on the Traffic Power thread is strong that if a site already has some questionable elements, a takedown is possible. But, it’s not yet proven whether wholly clean sites can be brought down with negative SEO. I hope that’s not the case, but I suspect the hornet’s nest I kicked up will probably answer that for us in the next month or two.”

Word around the industry is that Google is making SEO matter less, in terms of over-optimization. Google’s Matt Cutts talked about this last month at SXSW, and that discussion had led to a great deal of discussion and speculation as to just what this would entail.

“The idea,” he said, “is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit, so all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, ‘over-optimization’ or overly doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little more level.”

One thing’s for sure though: If negative SEO can truly impact clean sites, that’s not quite the level playing field Google is aspiring to create.

Fishkin’s experiment is going to be an interesting one to keep an eye on. If SEOmoz can be severely impacted from this, who’s to say your site can’t? Do you think it’s possible? Tell us in the comments.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Amy B

    Just another example of Google being a defective product… Would be nice if Google focused on improving their search engine instead of trying (and failing) to compete with Facebook.

    • Robo D

      Soon it will be exposed that organic SERPS are by hand arranged by google employees/contractors who are thoroughly corrupt.

      Recently we are observing google employees/contractors “desperately” editing owner verified 100% accurate google place listing to mangle it by changing the address, phone numbers, map marker etc. Why should google allow low level employees to edit owner verified google place listings?

  • http://www.onerightclick.com Daniel

    I will wait to see how this plays out. As much as Google is trying to level the playing field, I can’t imagine that they would let these kind of tactics play out without doing something about. Even with Google looking into penalizing sites for over-optimization, SEO will still continue to be an important part of any well thought-out marketing campaign.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertE Robert Enriquez

    better title

    Rand Fishkin offers $10,000 to whoever can bring down SEOMoz site

  • http://www.click-finders.com Mike Glover

    I think everyone in the search industry owes Rand and SEOMoz a huge thanks for taking this on. If the initial indications we are seeing with link issues are true, this will bring it to light and hopefully Google will correct ASAP. If not, the worries will be quelled and we can all go back to work!

    Thanks Rand!

  • http://www.snappromotions.com Jason

    It’s very concerning that negative SEO can lower the SERPs for a website. Virtually NOBODY has a completely clean / white hat link portfolio to their site. There’s been an underground business for negative seo for years, but recent changes in google’s algo apparently makes it much easier to effect the SERPs of websites belonging to smaller and medium sized businesses. Matt Cutts has said in the past that it’s nearly impossible to negatively effect somebody else’s site. This is apparently no longer true. Everybody in SEO and SEM needs to read the post on Traffic Planet.

  • http://www.greenlaneseo.com Bill Sebald

    Ah, this topic again. I’ve never seen it hurt a site, but I’ve seen it backfire and help a site. Maybe Rand secretly believes that 😉

    I don’t think the over-optimization algo is going to change that. Google is conscious of this tactic. Can’t imagine they’d want this headache of throwing the babies out with the bath water. I give them more credit (this time).

  • http://www.360ecommerce.nl Oeds Hiemstra

    I wish Rand good luck against Google, who seems to be the real opponent. I’m also curious where the other visitors of seomoz come from if there’s just around 20% traffic from organic results.

    • Cyrus Shepard

      The 20% accounts for non-branded organic searches. In addition to that, there’s also a fair amount of branded organic search. Even so, total organic search traffic makes up far less than 50% of the traffic SEOmoz receives. The rest comes from referrals (including social media referrals) and direct traffic. A very healthy balance.

      Rand has published these stats in various blog posts, so I don’t feel I’m revealing any secrets.

  • http://www.seoimage.com/ Alan Rabinowitz

    Would be nice if he offered a site that does not have 1Mil backlinks according to MajesticSEO and 63,000 pages indexed in Google.

    As Google “may” calculate by percentages this would be a much harder site to take out than a typical non-authority domain. Seems a bit unrealistic to me.

    Additionally since Google “may” have manually positioned sites ranking in the TOP 10 for some keywords it is again not a realistic target IMHO.

  • http://www.highlyrelevant.com alex becker

    i think the bigger issue here is that search needs to be regulated. google is a crooked company, and honestly so is bing and all the other search engines. tv and radio went down the exact same path before the government came in and regulated them.

    my big problems with google stem from their subjectivity, them “playing favorties” with certain sites and their undeniable greediness.

    basically, what google is telling people to do is to buy a bunch of exact anchor match links with copied content and link back to their competitors site to hurt their rankings? because that’s what this seems like could be possible with a stupid update like this.

    go rand!

  • http://www.evandavis.org/ Evan Davis

    Google’s recent updates remove value from bad links so they no longer give a benefit and the site that depends on them drops off the search map. There are no negative indicators attached to links. However if Google perceives you are doing something shady, they will manually remove you until you repent. The new online religion, pray to Google!

  • http://www.searchsatisfaction.com Josh Steele

    The problem is that the “experiment” would be way to public.

    Too many eyes for Google to allow a screw-up.

  • http://www.macgizmoguy.com Russell Baer

    Aside from the fact that the crew at SEOMoz are master Link Baiters and and have the klout to generate buzz on ANY SEO topic they wish to… Well go ahead, Rand – be the ‘Sacrificial Lamb’ who gains a ton of backlinks and buzz just by putting your head on the imaginary marketing chopping block. Even if Negative SEO could ‘bring you down’ – you’re so high-profile anyways that a courtesy call from Matt Cutts telling you everything’s been ‘fixed’ and the rankings you clearly deserve have been restored wouldn’t be surprising.

    As for the rest of us LITTLE PEOPLE… I’m quite capable of inflicting -50, -200 and total deindexing penalties *on myself* as I’ve proven time and time again. I’m sure any good Black Negative SEO professional could do the same, far more quickly and efficiently.

  • http://twitter.com/abeen abeens

    bad links are bad links ! bad links should not be a ranking factor,

  • http://www.grow-sun.com Tom Hargrave

    Since I rely almost exclusively on my web presence for marketing this would be a good data point to know.

  • http:/www.Identifind.com Lauri Johnson

    This new theory would certainly explain WHY our site has really gone downhill in orders! It’s not just lately, this has gone on for months now. Our site has been up for years, all rules have been followed, and yet we’ve almost disappeared on the face of the earth. Just figured the ‘paid ads’ took major precedence over small business like ours, but this explanation certainly explains why such a dramatic change in orders!
    In Friendship ~
    Lauri A. Johnson, Owner & Co-Founder
    IdentiFind Iron On Labels

  • http://www.frannleach.com Frann Leach

    I thought this immediately when I heard that google was penalizing sites with links from sites they don’t approve of

  • http://www.fernandoveloso.com/ Fernando Veloso

    Well, I am anxious to see what Google will then answer about all those TRAVEL spammers – Yes, those same big brands creating backdoors and no-content just to create more internal links. This has been going on for years, and Google seems to avoid this subject like the plague.

    If Google is so interested in a “clean up” or “level the playing ground a little bit” they could start by some of the biggest search engine spammers: airline/travel companies.

  • http://www.boostyourleads.com Glen Kowalski

    My concern with these changes, is for the small business owner who had no idea of what SEO really is. They just knew that they needed it in order to justify the cost of their new $2500 website. They hired an SEO company for 6 months or a year or two, and just left it at that.

    Chances are many of these companies have at least some questionable link building, etc, done. In the early days of a website, its not going to get a lot of organic links. Some may have even gone really overboard when a friend told them they could get 10,000 links for 5 bucks, and they didn’t know any better. Or they responded to a link builder ad from India in their inbox. Maybe they even did those activities a long time ago, and have since stopped.

    So, these companies are trying to “market” their site for a few hundred bucks a month. They have very few links (because they are a small local company), and then the big Walmart of their industry comes into town with a $100,000 marketing budget they are going to dedicate to removing all the little guys in the industry with some negative SEO. It would be very easy for them to “tip the scales” on ratio of good links to bad.

    Do I think negative SEO can hurt SEOMoz, probably not, they are very well established. But Joe’s Widgets? I think it is more of a concern, and they have more to lose.

    Thanks for doing this study, I know we are all waiting to hear the results.

  • joe david

    Let’s not be naive, Google is simply the “new” Yellow Pages. You would never expect to get a free featured ad in the Yellow Pages, so don’t expect a free ride from Google. Search is just a by-product that makes no money for Google, to wit the first 2 years of their existance, where they made zero money. In fact no VC wanted to buy all of Google for $750k when it was pitched by Kholsa (look it up). Search is tweaked ever so exquisitely so that you get decent results–not great most of the time. This forces the rest of the 90% of sites to use AdWords. Google could improve their search by a factor of 200% if they wanted, but they don’t. SEOmoz is just another cheap publicity stunt, the likes of Ashley Madison, where the media goes crazy when they “reject” their ads for the Super Bowl, knowing in advance that they would be rejected anyway, and grateful for the free publicity worth millions. I’m not impressed, as SEOmoz is the wrong site to test this, as it has way too much weight.

  • http://www.medlawplus.com medlaw

    >>“I’ve never seen it work on a truly clean, established site,” Fishkin tells WebProNews<<
    This guy doesn't get around much. It's plain to the naked eye.

  • http://www.joyoga.org.uk Basingstoke Yoga

    Surely they would be better havng zero value on a bad link than a negative one? This leaves any site open to attack.

  • joe david

    Actually most sites, SEO suppliers, and millions of other jobs in developed countries around the world will be lost within a few years to sites that offer sufficiently adequate similar services for $5 from teen providers, who are quite technologically savvy, or other providers in under-developed countries where $5 is a day’s salary. Most of our skills are/will be simply commodities. Once millions of people in each country are out of a job because of the internet, they will demand access to it be restricted for scientific research and basic information (pre-adwords) days. I see this happening every day in conversations with people I’m involved with in several fields. The explosive growth of the internet up till now, was the result of going from zero to 60 in a decade, so it felt good as it created millions of jobs, however, the future is written on the wall. Google will all but disappear, Facebook will be the default virtual family nuclear unit, where everything happens and where in the absence of commercial search engines–word by mouth referrals will take place. SEO is dead, because it doesn’t make money for the search engines, it’s quite simply, actually. If I was head of Google, I’d kill SEO–(though I would pretend to support it). Seriously, what country in the world is going to be able to sustain itself when it can’t collect taxes on the teen computer whiz who remotely from Romani fixed your PC for $5? Don’t think “today”–think about this in 10 years. The exponential growth of remote services from regions where $5 is a lot of money will completely drain most professions that can be done abroad, such as: accounting, legal, design, architecture, engineering, tutoring, SEO, PC support, customer service, travel information, writing services, medical diagnostics, x-ray analysis, laboratory work, languages…ok, so I can’t get a haircut or buy an ice cream online–not yet anyway. Google is the least of your worries. The $5 per job sites is your real nemesis, and they can’t be slayed. I fear for the future of work, why, because I’ve personally seen how my own field has been totally decimated in a period of 5 years or less, and I’m just the canary in the mine.

  • http://www.duckduckgo.com Patricia

    the short answer is YES, in fact i know some companies doing this as a business for a living.
    I have been victim of this for a long time, but since i’m not an adwords customer i can’t get my voice heard from google.

  • http://www.metanym.com/milton-keynes Mark

    Sounds like an interesting experiment but SEOMoz could benefit from some ‘good links’ from this as well – sounds like a good strategy to me!

  • http://Krackalakin.com Dan

    I would be willing to bet that Rand is going to be sorry. I have two domains that I recently registered (my bad for not researching them), they were both previously banned by Google for spam. Try getting a hold of someone at Google to help you when its a new site that was impacted by someone else. Honestly it would be easier to get President Obama on the phone. Best of luck Rand.

  • http://topsourcemedia.com Rob

    I know for a fact Negative SEO exists. I personally own around 500 websites.

    I had a found a keyword that was blowing up on google insight. bought the EMD domain Made the site was on the 1st page 1 spot for a while.

    A few months down the road I notice the site just dropped like a rock for not rhyme or reason.

    Than a few months later again. I ended up meeting a few other people who do a lot of SEO. One guy was saying how he did negative SEO to a site to get his friend to rank for this keyword. I asked which keyword/site and ended up being mine. :/

    Mind you this was 2 years ago as well. With each Panda update I think it makes it easier to do Negative SEO where as 2 years ago it wasn’t nearly as easy.

    I’d personally like to see a Real Test. Not on a established site but one that is 2-3 months old. I could literally name like 10 things off the top of my head that could get that site knocked down past page 100+

    I personally would never do anything like that to a site though but I know tons who would.

  • http://lots0cash.com lots0

    Oh it works well.

    No one is going to go after Fishkin’s site, there is no money in it.

    The ONLY way to recover is to beg google to help and usually the googlers don’t bother themselves.

  • http://www.masteringyourwebsite.com/ John

    This probably will not work or even be a valid test becuase 1) the negitive activity and characteristics would have to out weight the positive activity and characteristics and with Rand’s sites this may take a good while to accomplish. 2) Most site owners who would ordinarily suffer from negitive seo do not have a massivly powerful site like Rands (maybe 1% of the authority), so I don’t think this test is going to be a worthwhile experiment IMO. There is a very good posibility that even with a brutal attempt, it will not be effected like an average site would.

  • http://www.seo-websitedesigners.com/ Radko Aleksandrov

    Over the years Google has always stated that what others did, in particular, with bad links, can’t hurt your sites rankings. Many of us knew differently, but it was always kept somewhat behind closed doors. It wasn’t written about nor openly discussed. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that. That’s been changing though. Why? No idea. But it has.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    Chris, I do hope you don’t drop this matter and report back in a month or so as to what transpired and please, Google aside, really report what happened (attack or no attack, fix or no fix).
    Thank you.

  • Dale

    No. It’s more due to things like this. Google creates programs to “look” at websites. A company trading close to $600 a share cannot afford to hire people to physically look at websites and determine if they are spamming or bogus. amazon and aws.amazon have already been caught by the FTC for deceptive things, but it was ignored. Wowrack works with Google and puts your business in a trap and tears you up.

    A fixed system for United States Corporation. Not small business. Wake Up.

  • James

    This ‘experiment’ is completely biased and the results will not prove anything. A very well known site like seomoz or, let us say, TheWhiteHouse, wouldn’t be manually taken down. The major issue here is smaller businesses which will become the target of spammers now that google are penalizing sites for backlinks which in many cases they never created.

    Rand is publicly asking people to target his site, which presumably waives most of his rights in this regard under law. Second, in the event that a review was triggered it will be immediately clear that he asked for it and why he asked for it. If anything he will get a bunch of new quality links to his site from this from valid news sources which google will index and merely ignore the spam. Clever stuff!

  • James

    BTW does anyone know how long these unnatural links penalties last for?

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Daniel

    I have known of sites that seemed to be squeaky clean, yet, they were hit hard in the rankings by what seems to be bad links. Though, these are mid level sites, not ultra successful…

    Using tools like scrape box and blasting links in theory should have negative affect on a site(according to Google’s stance on bad link building methods–and/or linking to bad sites). Though, this and many other practices would have been used, both now and in the recent past, by established and non established sites.

  • http://life4care.blogspot.com adad

    I Need SEO

  • http://www.nufc.me brian

    If you are a SEO expert you would know how easy it really is to impact a site. I have seen sites get hammered in SERPS because they were being negatively affected by someone else. The frightening this is, this is so easy to do, and it works.

    I will not explain how to do it here, or every scriptkiddy would be trying to bring down sites.

  • MarcosSEO

    dd

  • MarcosSEO

    These is indeed a way to get SEOmoz delisted however very dangerous for whomever attempts this type of bowling. Furthermore, the site may only be delisted/taken down for a short period of time whilst the authorities investigate.

    Hey Rand, your challenge is definitely good PR

    All the best

    MarcosSEO

  • http://www.InternetMarketingBusinessGo.com Jawad

    Guys, it’s holly possible that negative SEO can not only taken your site down although can kick you out from the entire Google search results. One of my site was outranking high authority sites Hubpage, Amazon and Google’s own shopping results and got #1 spot just with my own pure handed SEO. Yes, I have been doing SEO on that site myself and had placed every authority links manually to it and I was able to get top spot #1 position outranking everything. Then any of my BUSTED competitor HIT that site hard with negative SEO two/three weeks ago and from that day my site has vanished from #1 spot to nowhere in the search engines. Heck what Google is doing??? Can’t they monitor these kind of shit happening?

  • http://Wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    Congrats to Rand Fishkin on two levels:
    1. Great public service and
    2. Brilliant link bait!

  • http://www.herrickconstruction.net Gregg

    I have been managing my website since 1998. I have always been within the first three pages of google, bing, and yahoo. I follow all the rules and now my site is not even listed. Is it true the keyword meta tag is not even looked at, as far as placement. That would explain my why my site has fallen off.

  • Daniel

    I found this post because I have a competitor doing a negative SEO campaign to my sites. First I had a $40k offer for 2 sites I own, and when I refused the offer, I noticed tons of links being built to my site that wasnt from me!

    I had Then I sent a message to the competitor asking if they were building links to my site. They replied back and said “should have taken the offer ;)” They have built over 10k links to my sites in the past month. My traffic is now cut in half because I fell from the rankings. I have had very stable rankings for over a year now.

  • mcl

    not set to rules for website i will fine these website set website back to A+rules. no more pigging out from the rest of the othere’s websites, if your clean stay cool. if not i am only one person and time is time. but my only guide is google rules. The seo companies are the biggest golden rule changers. I am look to change there ways.

  • http://www.salegreenhouse.com Darline

    I would like to say, they may target a clean site, but I would pray that if everybody is doing their job it would not be taken down. At some point in time everyone will see negative comments about them because you can’t please everyone all the time.

    However, the negative comments, when addressed immediately and properly, will have a reverse affect. Therefore, ultimately will not have the negative impact that the person was hoping for and in turn create a more positive effect for the site attacked.

    Always be prepared for an attack and you’ll be safe with your counter-attack approach. It’s a war on the internet and I would pray the under-handed people have not gotten the upper-hand on the good guys.

    I will really be interested in following this study and learning the results. Also, thank you Fishkin for your help in this issue.

  • http://www.tvspiegel.com Wandspiegel

    Seriously it was a bold move by Rand and at least someone is willing to put up a strong domain for a test…

  • http://www.2meterpeter.com Pete

    Ranking penalty or not. If anything it’s just a clever way of getting loads of people in the SEO community blogging a ‘newsworthy’ story about the SEOMoz

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    I agree with Rand. I think that if you’re site has a clean and strong reputation, it would be nearly impossible for negative SEO to hurt you. I think that most sites with a good online brand understand the need to continue their SEO campaign, even after they get the results they were looking for. Their white hat efforts would run counter to any negative SEO a competitor could feasibly do and help prevent a take down.

  • http://www.potpiegirl.com PotPieGirl

    Hey Chris =)

    I’ve been following along with that drama. While I do think it would make for an interesting case study, a true test of this nature can NOT be carried out in public. There are way too many variables that would make anything ‘proven’ by the study irrelevant.

    I don’t doubt that negative SEO is possible. If I can destroy a site I own with back linking, why couldn’t I do that to another site?

    The degree of difficulty and the success rate depends on the sites current link reputation. Rand’s site has an excellent link reputation…and it continues to build on a daily basis. It would take a LOT of cr@p links and a LOT of time to even put a dent in that.

    Oddly, I had someone attempt that with my PotPieGirl.com site. They had gone out and created a mass amount of p0rn forum profile links to me (yeah, you can imagine my face when I came across all that! lol!) But those links didn’t cause any issue to my site or my rankings. And that was about 2 years ago when my link profile and link reputation were both much weaker and more vulnerable.

    In the end, I think that a site with no reputation and/or a site with an artificially created reputation CAN be taken down – and probably quite easily.

    But a site with an organically strong reputation? No… I don’t see it. Their reputation will still continue to grow organically while the attacker is trying to destroy them artificially.

    Just my thoughts on all that =)

    Jennifer
    ~PotPieGirl

  • http://scholarshipsngrants.com/ Scholarship Man

    For those that don’t think Negative SEO is possible, you have some serious wool over your eyes.

    Let’s look at the facts.

    FACT #1: We now have irrefutable proof that Google penalizes for links (their new popular penalty message). We don’t have to speculate anymore, they send out the penalty message about links, and said site drops in rankings.

    FACT #2: Google has NO WAY of identifying who placed what link to a site. Unless they have spy cameras installed behind every person building links, they simply can’t identify who placed a link. They can guess, and some situations are more clear cut than others, but the bottom line is they can’t know 100%.

    Add those 2 FACTS together, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize negative SEO is possible.

    If links can harm you, Negative SEO is possible. It’s as simple as that.

  • http://scholarshipsngrants.com/ Scholarship Man

    Also, doing a case study on SEOMoz or Rand’s site is probably one of THE WORST sites to try this one.

    99.9% of websites do not have the clout or reputation his site(s) have.

    It’s analogous to doing a case study on a new heart medication, and administering it to pro athletes. 99.9% of the population are not pro athletes, so why would they do a case study on pro athletes?

    The same holds true for SEOMoz and Rand’s site.

    If we want to do a TRUE case study on negative SEO, gather a group of middle of the line, mediocre sites..with average clout and reputation – and see what happens. I guarantee the results will be FAR different than if we were to try it on SEOMoz.

  • http://howardperks.com Howie Perks

    Huge thumbs up for Randy and the crew to take this on! There is so much talk about about this out in the forums.

    If it does happen, then this tactic and Google will be in the spotlight for having a huge flaw. However, I doubt it will because if I found this thread (or 1 of th many others) then I’m sure Google is way ahead of the game on this type of negative SEO strategy!

    Looking forward to checking back for the results!

    In Success,
    Howie Perks

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  • http://legacymarketingservices.com/ Carla

    This probably will not work or even be a valid test becuase 1) the negitive activity and characteristics would have to out weight the positive activity and characteristics and with Rand’s sites this may take a good while to accomplish. 2) Most site owners who would ordinarily suffer from negitive seo do not have a massivly powerful site like Rands (maybe 1% of the authority), so I don’t think this test is going to be a worthwhile experiment IMO. There is a very good posibility that even with a brutal attempt, it will not be effected like an average site would.

    @John,

    Exactly, Fishkin’s reasoning has got to be the stupidest rationale I’ve read in a long time.

    The average business site does not spend ALL of their time living, breathing, and thinking SEO and how to get links.

    And some of the negatively impacted sites “didn’t have a good link profile to begin with?” . . . Please.

    Again, most business don’t spend hours analyzing if particular types of links are “right” for them.

    SEOmoz has good information and tools, but the holier than though attitude wears a little thin.

  • william

    This is easy

    1. Google + the site with 1000 votes in 48-72hours

    2. Get sitewide/blogroll links on 100 blogs

    You have to have “Google Webmaster Tools” on sites to get best rankings, but then it also alerts Google to possible “bad practices”

    Google + is possibly the worst idea right now for Google to use as a determination for ranking as it can be issued by “seo terrorists” as a means to take down rankings along with other basic “bad link-practices”

  • http://Pets4You.com Marty Martinez

    I feel this is what happen to me. I am being penalized big time for inorganic links pointing to my site, I did not place these bad links, nor would I. Yet I continue to try and get them removed to have Google reconsider indexing my site. I am at a loss, determining good from bad links.. I continue to feel someone’s SEO affected me. Anything my bad experience can lend your efforts please let me know. This has been hard on me and my clients.
    Marty
    520 404-2277
    Here are my communications and efforts.:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: “The Google Search Quality Team”
    To: “Marty”
    Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:01 AM
    Subject: Re: [#951560385] Reconsideration Request for http://www.pets4you.com/

    Hello Marty,

    Thank you for your request.

    As you noted, there are still many inorganic links pointing to your site.

    We know that perhaps not every link can be cleaned up, but in order to deem a reconsideration request as successful, we need to see a substantial good-faith effort to remove the links, and this effort should result in a decrease in the number of bad links that we see. You might consider pushing back on the SEO company you used to get more sites which need to be contacted.

    Once you are confident that you have done everything you can to remove these links, please reply to this email with the details of your clean-up effort.

    Sincerely,

    The Google Search Quality Team

    From: “Marty”
    Subject: Re: [#951560385] Reconsideration Request for http://www.pets4you.com/
    Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012 09:42:48 -0700

    I have worked hard. Please say I have complied to your satisfaction. Please Reconsider Indexing or Reinstating Pets4You.com.
    I have worked hard to make corrections (Between 2/06 – 3/15/12), reviewing each site on google.com/webmasters/tools/, trying to determine bad links – finding emails, sending out emails (950) with live links attached, requesting link removal we emailed all who have not responded a 2nd & a few a 3rd time), some have private emails and we get no responses, some emails are no longer any good. Over 150 responded OK to removing links, some removed the links without responding, so far we have had 153 responses to links removed and 100s of links to Pets4you.com have been removed. An SEO Co. we used agreed to remove links they placed. I sent out emails daily on 2/10 – 2/16/12, 2/20, 2/24, 2/25, 3/1, 3/2, 3/4, 3/5, 3/6, 3/7, 3/8, 3/9, 3/10. 3/12, 3/13, 3/14 and 3/15/12. I have kept a detail log of my efforts to comply and show all I have done.
    1) Since 2/6/12, I have put in 138 hours and removed over 153 links to Pets4you.
    I Reviewed 1000 sites and 1000s of links, located emails (most through whois a few in view source) and sent out a total of 950 emails. So far 154 replied OK, that links were removed, several do not respond, some have private emails and we get no responses, some emails are no longer any good. 84 Returned mail – addresses had permanent fatal errors. 15 returned, 4 returned from , 2 returned from , 3 returned from , Several links in google.com/webmasters/tools/ were not good or no links found.
    2) I asked questions on http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters?hl=en, with little to no responses.
    Prior to 2/6/12 efforts to comply.
    1) 1/14/12, I Sent 290 emails to all participants that joined our previous link exchange program located at http://www.pets4you.com/breedersdirectory/ to please remove our link. – because we had asked for a link back. Most have not replied, 74 removed the links.
    2) I removed our link banners we offered and all mention of link exchange from Pets4you.com.
    3) I have eliminated my old sites and placed 301 redirect to Pets4you.com site.
    Breederlink.com
    AAAPets.com
    ABCPets.com
    AnyPet.com

    4) I removed all links to Pets4you from my other sites:
    Breedersdirectory.com
    1stClassBreeders.com
    Dogbreedsource.com
    Catbreedsource.com
    Gods-Pets.com
    Guess I goofed big time, this has hurt my business, employees and clients and was not intentional, but a lack of supervision and knowledge on my part. Knowingly I would have never authorized link farms and have no recollection of adding them and remain suspect of other involvement, to no avail. Regardless, I have worked hard to do as you requested. ( After Panda, I paid for SEO for 1 month (10/2011), then I realized I goofed and stopped, also an employee placed banner links with more then 1 link on each, not knowing if these were bad we removed most. I am paying the price. I have never felt so penalized. I continue to believe in Google’s effort to improve searches. Please say I have complied to your satisfaction.

  • http://paversonline.org Carol Kellerman

    hm… Even with this news google update? http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.br/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html I’ll think about something tricky =)

  • http://www.legal-marketing.co.uk Evolved legal

    Rand is a genuine nice guy but also a highly shrewd business guy – this is great publicity, well done Rand. However your site is not like the millions of others impacted by google. Yes, you’ve earned your brand and status and well done, but it would be easy for google to see negative seo on your site as it’s so trusted.

    As other people have pointed out, this is not a good test for the general millions of other webmasters out there furious with google and it’s policies. A good test would be a small site with no brand and clear history behibd it.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/117895169424507660944 Andy Keel

    This is for real, it’s happening to me and I’m glad someone with more reputation than myself is finally looking at this issue.

    After those sites showed up in our Google Webmaster Tools account (see below) it was like the “Panda” update all over again without the algorithm change, about a 25% drop in organic traffic. The domain keyword is “county jail inmate search” so you can see which of the toplinkers are related by domain. Some of these have tons of Clickbank (or similar) ads with generic looking results that truncate the URL of the page they link to which causes A LOT OF 404 ERRORS because GoogleBot tries to follow them (I believe that’s a secondary tactic).

    askives.com 4,754
    county-jail-inmate.info 3,438
    pizzasaversclubcard.com 1,048
    gotprinters.com 988
    crimeparasol.com 304

    After checking today, 2 of the lower linking sites have suspended accounts so I may be able to report back on increased/decreased SERPs. It would suck if we lose traffic, but some of the sites that are in those sites with ours have since fallen out of other SERPs we rank for so I’d say it doesn’t matter how good the site is if we all suffered.

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

    I think this is going to bring in a whole new era of link spam and Google simply didn’t think of the repercussions of telling people that they were focusing on link spam again. Honestly, they should have said they’ve updated their link quality algorithms and left webmasters guessing at what the exact change was. By making this a main topic they’ve basically given webmasters the ammunition they need to take down certain sites. I don’t think if you have a lot of quality links that a few hundred or so bad links is going to necessarily punish a site to the point they loose all their search traffic and should only have a minor impact, but if you don’t have a lot of quality backlinks and simply have a good site that people enjoy and as such you’ve been rewarded with higher rankings, then your site can be impacted by negative SEO, depending how good of a job somebody does at spamming your site links everywhere.

  • IMback?

    Well even if negative SEO can effect a site’s positioning in SERPs, we all should know by now that G will fix it later on, so lets not do anything too drastic.

  • http://www.homohominisacrares.net Jesus

    Hi there,

    Yesterday I noticed a drop in several of my sites of 60% of the visits. After the Panda 3.4 update ¿is there any other update?

  • http://www.quote-4.me.uk Coversure

    Not sure what’s meant by a 100% white hat website. After all, using link building methods, surely you can turn it a little grey first before doing the negative SEO campaign?

    • Fishkinish

      Good question, what is a 100%?

      This is more of an advertisement for Fishkin than the subject. Nice try, we’re watching you Fish.

  • http://www.balisilverjewellry.com Sabastian yakar

    Sure it will. I have seen this with my own sites. I did come down from first page as #1 to 5 th page on Google.
    You might wonder what mistake I did! heheheh very stupid one. Instead of fixing my sitemap I made unavailable to Google.
    And I have become aware of it after 6 weeks. Learn the lesson hard way.

  • http://www.twitter.com/cutey Ashley, cutey

    Google has got to sort this, quickly but I just don’t think they care.

  • http://www.nakulgoyal.com Nakul Goyal

    Great move Rand.

  • http://www.pozycjonowanie-torun.net Pozycjonowanie

    Birger, I doubt EXIF data has a direct effect on rankings. However, the point is to add geocodes to the EXIF to help increase the local signal about your business. The collection of signals that reinforce the location profile help in combination to verify it for local search. On Flickr and some other sites, this EXIF data helps insure the photo gets mapped to its location automatically and results in a separate information page about the photo — which will include the longitude and latitude values in text on the page where search engines can crawl it.

  • http://www.the-system.org Paul Moran

    Chris I’ve been ranting on about this for over three years on my blog.
    Links are all that matter. Good ones count, bad ones count against – its a balancing act.

    Over the years I’ve managed to get my own sites banned from having been No1 on google for top keywords like car insurance. I overcooked the linkbuilding, so if I can do it to myself – I know I can do it to you and you and you……and so unfortunately can all those bad competitors out there now!

  • http://www.pozycjonowanie-torun.net Pozycjonowanie

    eye exam coupons said: What can be more wonderful than if you get a free eye exam coupon from an experienced surgeon? Eyes are one of the most precious gifts to human body and need periodic care. Cost of an initial test often matters for many visitors at any medical care center. Free eye examinations are great one of the great reasons to purchase Walmart Eye Exam Coupons.

  • http://www.pozycjonowanie-torun.net Pozycjonowanie

    I’m like Dana. I bookmarked this and will review it in the future. Always like to get the perspective of more than one person and to have this many is great, especially for a subject I’m always interested in. Nice work Heidi.

  • http://www.tombrewerjr.com Thomas Brewer

    My SEO folks just uncovered some spammy blog comments that were posted are attributed to my site. We have no idea where they came from and are actively trying to have them removed – with no luck as of yet. It has not bee3n determined what the impact will be to my site in the serps yet.Negative SEO does exist. It is happening to me right now. Good luck to all.

  • Anonymous

    Try it on low traffic sites. My websites were ranking well before the update and they were penalized because they got too many links. There is no keyword stuffing or anything else. What my site has only backlinks. Which are third party backlinks and anyone can get it to my website.

    And regarding your challenge I can say that a person cann’t get off wikipedia, facebook, yahoo or any other established site from the search but it will definitely work on low traffic sites that are not well indexed and A newly launched website will fear the most.

    • Fishkinish

      “If negative SEO can take down 100% clean sites that have never done anything untoward and that have built up a good reputation on the web, it’s more concerning and something Google’s search quality engineers would need to address immediately (or risk a shadow industry of spammers popping up to do website takedowns),” he (Fishkin) adds.

      My question, what is 100%? Is Fishkin trying to say his site is 100% , or if it does get taken down is he planning on saying his site wasn’t 100%. Now that Google has taken note of this, of course they will do what they can to not hurt Fishkin’s site, because it is them who are ultimately failing. Moreover, why would any thief come to the store to steal knowing he has been invited to steal, fishy, or should we say Fishkinish (real clever, I know). This analogy is also going to prove Fishkin’s “suck up theory” right.

      There is a limit to sucking up to google (look at me use lower case, I know I’m a daredevil), Fishkin need to note that the algorithm change is only hurting small and medium businesses not the large sites. So, right of the bat his theory is going to work with his site. Well, if Fishkin really want to test his “suckup theory”, he should buy a brand new domain name (small/medium business are only migrating to internet now) and bring it to first page for some useful keyword (there need to be relative competition to come to first page) and then let us know when to start hurting it. He shouldn’t let the world know (especially Google) about this experiment, because Google would alert itself and would try to prove us wrong by ensuring that Fishkin’s domain doesn’t get hurt according to “shut up Fishkin theory.” I am sure he will know the result within a month.

      The fact of the matter is, negative SEO will live and work as long as incoming link is worth more than outbound links. Moreover, incoming links is not bringing together internet as would outbound links. Doesn’t Google want every website to be full of content (ie. an master of the subject(s) = directory), so outbound links will create them exactly what they want. Google got this entire thing wrong, well divide and conquer is never wrong, if you are the one dividing and conquering.

  • Olga

    What makes this experiment already invalid (and I am quite surprised that Rand has not realized this yet) is that by letting the world know about his experiment so publicly, it is so obvious that Google will prove us wrong by ensuring that the domains in question don’t get penalized.
    Anyway, let`s see what happens but I am very skeptical about the validity of the outcome.

  • MBijl

    SEO Profiler customer care sucks!
    Made the mistake to try-out for one euro.
    Despite cancelling they are charging us EUR 117.81!
    Be warned. Nice front but unfriendly back-end!

  • http://wholesaledefenseonline.com Allen

    Bottom line, protect yourself. They are trying to create a “checks and balances” environment. Relates more to their ROI than the quality of the search results, to an extent. Go Giants!

  • http://jacobking.com Jacob King

    Most people who try to do Neg SEO prolly won’t even get that right.

  • http://www.dirkschiff.de Dirk

    But other sites are not so strong than seomoz.org. they will be lost rankings when they get attacked from spammers

  • http://www.spiegelschrank-bad.eu Spiegelschrank

    Congrats to Rand Fishkin on two levels:
    1. Great public service and
    2. Brilliant link bait!

  • http://www.spiegelschrank-bad.eu Spiegelschrank

    I Love SEO