Should Your Company Use Negative SEO (and If Not, Why Not?)?

by Taline Badrikian

You likely know what SEO is, but have you ever heard of “Negative SEO”? 

Very simply, negative SEO is the process of using black hat SEO techniques to harm a competitor’s website.

How Does Negative SEO Affect a Website?

Negative SEO is not a new concept. It’s a form of attack that’s been around for years that’s used to harm a website’s ranking in search engines and consequently manipulate search engine results.

Negative SEO can be a very serious threat to a website’s Google ranking, and thus, its reach and effectiveness. Unfortunately, negative SEO is a very common practice that’s used by unscrupulous businesses to harm their competitors.


How Does Negative SEO Work?

The most common form of negative SEO is the use of spammy links. This is done by using automated software to create thousands of spammy links to a competitor’s website. These spammy links will be placed on fake or scammy websites that have strong negative perceptions by Google. In a process of “guilt by association,” these spammy links cause search engine results to be affected in a way that the targeted website will be ranked lower.

Another common negative SEO technique is the use of negative reviews on sites like Yelp or Google Local. The idea is that if you can get a lot of people (or, more likely, a lot of fake people) to leave negative reviews on websites like these, it will bring down the targeted website’s search engine rankings.

In additional cases, if the website that’s linking to the targeted website has headlines that say “[The targeted website] is a Scam” or “[The targeted website] is a Fraud,” this can also bring down the targeted website’s search engine rankings.


Is Negative SEO Effective?

In a word, yes — if it’s done correctly. These days, search engines like Google have detectors for many negative SEO techniques, but those who are skilled enough or diligent enough can overcome or overwhelm these detectors.

Negative SEO can be a very effective way to ruin a website’s reputation. If you have a competitor that’s willing to go to great lengths to ruin your reputation, then you should be worried; negative SEO is not something that you can prevent.


So, If Negative SEO Works, Why Shouldn’t I Use It?

If you’re a business owner, you might be thinking this sounds like a great idea to use to your advantage. If you can get your competitor’s website to rank lower than yours, you’ll get more traffic and more business.

But there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t use negative SEO.

First, it’s illegal. In fact, not only is it illegal, but, as you might guess, Google and other search engines consider black hat techniques designed to affect search engine rankings highly unethical. Google has a strict policy against spamming and negative SEO.

If you’re caught using these tactics, your website could be banned from Google rankings permanently.

Negative SEO is also a form of online bullying. It’s a way to hurt your competitors without ever having to face them in person. How might people look at your company if they knew it was engaging in negative SEO?

Negative SEO can also be a very slow process. It can take months or even years to get a competing website to rank lower than yours. And if you’re using negative SEO, you’re likely not using that time to improve your own site.

In the end, negative SEO is a waste of time and energy.

If you’re looking for a way to get more traffic, you should focus on optimizing your own site. You should focus on creating content that your audience wants to read. You should focus on building a site that’s easy to navigate and easy to use.


If I Shouldn’t Use Negative SEO, What’s the Best Way to Fight It?

Bear in mind that even if you don’t use negative SEO techniques yourself, that’s not going to make them disappear from the web. There will always be underhanded industry players that may resort to negative SEO to harm their competitors.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your company from negative SEO.

Your first priority should be removing negative content about your company, brand, products, and services from the web. If the negative content appears to be inorganic, or it has a pattern to it, there may be a person or organization behind it. In this case, try to find out who’s attacking you.

If you have a competitor who’s trying to harm your business, you can take legal action against them. If you aren’t sure who’s attacking you, you can hire a reputation management company to try and find out. This company can pore through hundreds or thousands of search engine results. Admittedly, this can be a painstaking process. But fortunately, there are tools that can automate this, and some firms will do a lot of this legwork for you.

The next step is to have these websites (many of which may be fake or serve no legitimate purpose) taken down or de-ranked by the search engines. Again, a reputation management company can handle a lot of this work for you.

Something else that they may be able to handle for you is the opposite of negative SEO, which is positive SEO — the process of building links from high-quality, reputable websites and having copious quantities of real, positive reviews about your firm and its products and services. Try to utilize a good link-building strategy for your organization.

In the end, it may not be possible to stem the tide of bad actors in any particular marketplace, but it's possible to cut down on the effectiveness of their techniques.

Need more help with your SEO? Talk with the experts at Laveh. Use the webform or call 617.657.9966 to begin the conversation.


Topics: SEO

Taline Badrikian

Written by Taline Badrikian

Taline is the founder of Laveh Inbound Marketing. Using modern marketing concepts without the hefty price tag, Taline has a history of leading small businesses to explosive growth.