Negative SEO

If search engine optimization exercise fails to move your competitor out of its top rankings (and therefore attraction to visitors), what other ways can you device to help your site (or your client’s)?

The notion about “Negative SEO” has been around for a while. But it got some fair share of media attention in the past few weeks.

In the past, the issue of Google Bowling has been very influential in affecting Google rankings of certain web pages without tinkering over their source codes. With the help of special anchor text and used extensively on many pages across a multitude of websites, target pages rank high on search engine results using those anchor text as search queries. Whether it was for good or bad, it served its purpose.

But even as Google quashed this phenomenon, its help pages can’t assure our pages are safe from external manipulations.

“There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

The emphasis is mine. It means that there is still a chance the trick will work. Even Matt Cutts, Google’s web spam czar, in the same line:

I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s impossible.

The growth of the industry spawned new companies not only responsible for increasing web rankings (natural SEO), but also for those companies or individuals who specialize in dragging down rankings and/or visitor traffic as well as reputation management companies who protect sites from detractors, critics and webmasters.

The search engine arena has become an interesting playing field for page ranking manipulators. And since it’s not only search engine ranking that’s at stake here (also brand reputation, potential sales ramifications and so on), it’s a very crucial sector we need to consider.

Will this negative SEO profession prosper? I am not really sure, but if we start focusing into this technique, let’s look at the following techniques that might work against your competitor’s favor (these are examples, not recommendations):

  1. Scan its website source code and find suspicious coding practices involving hidden text, hidden links, hidden or invisible divs. Once you detect something fishy, fill up Google’s spam report.
  2. Track its link network and find out whose linking to it. If it becomes apparent that it is entangled in a link farm, do the same move as in Step 1. But I guess Google can detect it much faster than humans do.
  3. If you have a page that’s more popular than your competitor’s, copy its content and place it on that page. Find out if the hijack attempt works so that the original page gets bumped off search results. It’s worth mentioning that search engines don’t penalize duplicate content; search engines ignore duplicate content.
  4. If you have uncanny skill to bomb your competitor servers, denial of service through “flooding” its network can render it inutile and unable to serve its clients.
  5. Perform systematic attack on client’s pay-per-click service, thereby wasting their search marketing budgets. I say systematic because search engines have a way to detect click fraud. Careless exercise of this tasks yields nothing.
  6. Device a plan that ensure search results are monopolized by a single website domain. This is common for Yahoo and Google
    search queries. SEOs also perform this as reputation management tool to effectively isolate hate sites from top search results.