I was recently asked by a prospective client about Negative SEO, the tactic of convincing search engines to “think” a competitor’s site is in violation of that search engine’s spam policy. It is kind of like the SEO equivalent of slander but there is nothing illegal about it.

For the uninitiated, in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are many techniques for achieving top-ranking on search sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These techniques are divvied up into three types: White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat. I’m not going to go into the differences in this post but if you’re really interested, start here. It suffices to say, Negative SEO falls under Black Hat and if you’re caught, you’re guaranteed to be banned from appearing on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) ever again.

Given the increasing importance of having web pages rank high on search results, the unethical practice of Black Hat SEO is definitely trending up. And it is not just the little guys, as evident by the recentĀ New York Times article about J. C. Penney’s folly during the holiday season. Yes, J. C. Penney’s reportedly fired their SEO firm SearchDex but it is most likely that the retail giant didn’t mind “the how” until they were exposed (Kevin Ryan of Ad Age Digital does a nice follow up on this story). The fact that I was asked about Negative SEO by a prospect reveals people are becoming ever-more savvy of SEO as well as the best ways to cheat.

For the record, we don’t practice nor endorse the use of Black Hat SEO (so don’t ask).

In the end, the benefits of such tactics are temporary. But unlike email spam, Google and company have a vested interest in minimize search spam. Simply put, if the value of the search results are diminished, so is the value of the search engine itself. As good netizens, we all have an interest in making the search engines a more effective resource.

Report Search Engine Spam:

If you find yourself a victim of Negative SEO or other Black Hat tactics, there are many ways to combat them to regain your site’s proper place on search engines. I would be happy to help.