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Defining Negative SEO

     
1:46 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I guess I'm confused.

I've seen a lot of explanations of "Negative SEO" here (and other places) that I never really considered to be negative SEO - things like scraping, bot attacks (both of which I've had extensive issues with, but never suffered organic problems from), hacking and various other behaviors.

And just this week, there's been a case study going around about negative SEO that didn't involve backlinks at all:

[thesempost.com...]

It would be helpful if we were all on the same page here. What exactly *is* negative SEO? Should it include anything anyone does to raise their own site above yours in Google (and Bing, for that matter)? Does it include taking your site down with poisoned DNS, DDOS attacks or outright hacking? Does it include being collateral damage in someone else's actions to relentlessly claw their way to the top?

When you think of negative SEO, do you think more than throwing a bunch of bad links at your site and seeing what will stick?

I admit I'm skeptical. I believe negative SEO exists, certainly, but I have a hard time believing it's as prevalent as many people think it is. I think a lot of other things get blamed on negative SEO, so I'm thinking maybe my personal definition is wrong.
3:58 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Negative SEO, in my eyes, is anything that somebody will do to ensure that your site lose its rankings…
4:05 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've always thought of it as "anything that can be done to harm your own website's rankings that someone else can also do"
4:42 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As the algo's evolve I guess negative seo evolves thanks for the link netmeg
4:46 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What they said..Things that can be done to your website by third parties over which you have no control, but which does not encompass hacking your site or poisoning DNS, DDOS etc ....
But does include things such as paying for a "blast" of links to your site from totally unrelated sites , spammy sites or bad neighborhoods..

All the kind of things that G and other SEs say "If you do this to your you will be penalised"..someone else can do to your site, and you will be penalised anyway..
5:05 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd go with the things you and/or an unauthorized party can do that might harm your rankings.
5:11 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would just suggest that there is probably quite an overlap with economic sabotage for some of the techniques alluded to in this thread and in the article that was mentioned.

For instance; we know that users are more likely to abandon sites the longer it takes for pages to load. So regardless if slowing a site by bot overload has a negative effect on SEO, it would almost certainly have a negative effect on income of the site owner due to the number of users who would abandon their sessions due to the long server response time.

I just bring this up so as to avoid a possible semantic battle on these forums between "negative seo" and "economic sabotage".
5:17 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I guess I haven't yet come around to the belief that interfering with the operation of a site constitutes negative seo - that might be a byproduct, but I'm not ready to apply that label to it.
9:01 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think I would accept the clickbots method described in the SEMpost article as a form of negative SEO, although I am sceptical about its prevalence or value.

However, I wouldn't accept server overloading (which would have to be long-term and sustained to have much effect: it couldn't otherwise be guaranteed to have any effect at all on rankings), any more than I would think of hacking as "negative SEO".

Anything that put masses of extra night-time traffic on my site would show up immediately in my server log analysis, and bombing a site with bouncing traffic through Google would show up in WMT, so I don't agree with Jennifer Slegg that the methods discussed would be harder to detect than a mass of weak backlinks. Also, both methods interact directly with the victim's server, so arguably would be easier to trace than links that are at least one step more remote.
9:50 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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> I think I would accept the clickbots method described in the SEMpost article as a form of negative SEO, although I am sceptical about its prevalence or value.

Agreed. People have been talking about user satisfaction for years and "clicking all your competitors SERPs" sounds a bit too simplistic. I'm not saying it doesn't work but I do think the imitation of real people clicking SERPs has more depth to it. Certainly being able to piggy-back a real browser history & person seems like it would be more effective than a curl request from a server. Shame it's the kind of data that's hard to measure and to get hold of without doing it yourself.

Since the article mentions high server loads, it's a great reason to keep an eye on your server log. It's no secret that search functions tend to be inefficient for example.
12:45 am on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Before reading this topic I have always thought of Negative SEO as a competitor purposely creating backlinks to a site with the purpose of decreasing rankings of that site.

My site has been around for over a decade and at least half of the links it has are questionable. It's nothing I ever did and it has been the same for years now (before anyone coined the term negative SEO). Would you call all these bad links as negative SEO? They certainly don't help my rankings (and Penguin has shown they actually hurt them) but I can't really say I have been directly targeted by someone.

I also had a client's website hacked once. The hacker modified the Joomla site to display a bunch of Viagra type links (completely unrelated to the clients site) only when the Google bot visited. This definitely didn't help the sites rankings. Some would call this Negative SEO but I don't since I think it wasn't about tanking the site but more about promoting the hackers sites.
6:29 am on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I just bring this up so as to avoid a possible semantic battle on these forums between "negative seo" and "economic sabotage".


Huh? Negative SEO is done for the purpose of earning more money for a site one owns and reducing income for one ranking above you. Negative seo is rare only when financial gains aren't to be had...At least that how I've understood the terms and the results I've seen. Can you negative seo your own site(s)? Sure. But, so can someone else. <-- And that was when the term negative seo started showing up on forums.
10:58 am on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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but I have a hard time believing it's as prevalent as many people think it is.

Then how would you explain all those people buying negative seo gigs on fiverr, people like Barry Schwartz's clients inquiring about performing negative seo on their competitors?

Though it may not be mainstream (yet), there are victims and the judge in these situations (Google) could care less about reviewing evidence because it does not scale.
1:28 pm on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Negative SEO is done for the purpose of earning more money for a site one owns and reducing income for one ranking above you.


Umm, that's pretty much SEO in a nutshell. Way too broad to be helpful.

Then how would you explain all those people buying negative seo gigs on fiverr, people like Barry Schwartz's clients inquiring about performing negative seo on their competitors?


First of all the "all those" part of that statement is anecdotal, second of all, I haven't seen anything to show me that those fiverr type link bombs can cause that kind of damage to a strong site, third of all, even if there's a thousand of em on fiverr, it's still a very very very very very small part of the overall web economy.

I'm NOT saying it doesn't exist. But I fear that it's become a mask for other issues (some of which have been around as long as there's been a web).
3:30 pm on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I haven't seen anything to show me that those fiverr type link bombs can cause that kind of damage to a strong site

Though you post often about negative seo, and have used the word "strong" in responses, I've yet to see what you define a strong site to be. Please elaborate on what you believe to be a strong site or link to a post you made on that subject.

As a mostly B2B manufacturer, our website has fewer than 30 links pointing to it. Though we supply a number of heavily linked brands, we are behind the scenes and unknown to many consumers. I know for a fact that great content does little for some of those that we supply and am skeptical that Google even provides much value to content as an important ranking signal. With that in mind, what opportunities does one who will never receive a lot of natural links or social shares have to protect themselves?

The way I see it is "strong" is a niche specific moving target that varies widely from one industry to another - making it impossible to imply that strong websites are protected from link spammers, scrapers and the other off site activities that we have no control over.
4:44 pm on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Actually I don't post all that much about negative SEO.

A strong site gives off signals of authority, quality, trust, uniqueness and relevancy. Regardless of how large or small it is.

As a mostly B2B manufacturer, our website has fewer than 30 links pointing to it. Though we supply a number of heavily linked brands, we are behind the scenes and unknown to many consumers.


My primary client is in exactly this situation. Even down to the B2B. Plus we're scraped like crazy all over the world. And we only provide about half of the products ourselves; the others are sold by pretty much every competitor we have, up to Amazon. (Plus Chinese knockoffs) We set ourselves apart by offering what the others don't (including Amazon) and that's how we try to stay strong. We bundle products, we provide kits, we excel at customer service, we have email discounts, but most of all we guide the customer into buying exactly the right product for his application, and try to demonstrate at every step along the way that we really know what we're doing. We use all the channels that make sense for us, not just organic search. (I say "we" because I've been working with this client for over ten years and even have an office in their building, tho I'm still technically an outside consultant). We have a gazillion people scraping the site, and a bunch of stupid crap links pointed at us, plus a ginormous number of old ODP directory clone links and new competitors (legit and not-so-legit) every day. But we still grow every year.

The way I see it is "strong" is a niche specific moving target that varies widely from one industry to another - making it impossible to imply that strong websites are protected from link spammers, scrapers and the other off site activities that we have no control over.


Well nobody is "protected" - nor would I expect to be. But I can do what I can do to build the strong signals and deprecate the weak ones. That's just not the way I see it - if it was, I'd probably have to find something else to do. Because what would be the point of doing something when I have no control over the result whatsoever?
1:31 am on Dec 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Most of the things mentioned in this thread are of little consequence compared to what's happening on the larger scale. There are some evil forces at work, with billions of dollars available, intent on controlling the information flow on the web and stifling anyone who opposes their agenda. They have no moral values, and are willing to use any method, no matter how underhanded, to achieve their goals. At this point their operations are still in an early stage, but Google's search results are already being affected, and not in a good way.
4:53 pm on Dec 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg

Thanks for the highly relevant and useful response. I've printed off what you have written so that others within my organization can review and discuss it internally. Thanks again.
6:12 pm on Dec 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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No problem; hope it's useful to you.
1:32 am on Dec 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle blimming illuminati wanna control everything!
1:58 am on Dec 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Where SEO generally involves improving rankings of a site for targeted keywords to drive their targeted audience to the site through things done on or to that site, negative SEO generally involves intentionally demoting competitor sites in the SERPs for those same keywords through things done on or to the competitor site so that your site can float up. Instead of focusing on making your site rank better, you focus on making their site rank worse. The online gambling guys have being doing it for a very long time.
2:51 am on Dec 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Umm, that's pretty much SEO in a nutshell. Way too broad to be helpful.


@netmeg, I was trying to say what ZydoSEO said above:

Instead of focusing on making your site rank better, you focus on making their site rank worse. The online gambling guys have being doing it for a very long time.


SEO sounds like what you do for your sites/clients, and I applaud you for that, you're not doing malicious things to take out competitors in the SERPs. There's a big difference between the two and it depends on how competitive a market is as to how exposed a site is to negative SEO. (And that's kinda broad, too, but at this point, I'm more focused on not providing any info that could be used to harm someone elses site)
2:02 pm on Dec 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Honestly, I think most of us are way too small to inspire that much effort. And I haven't seen it work yet on anyone really large. But if you suspect you are being damaged by negative SEO in some way, please don't let your investigation stop there. There may be other things to look at.

(And if I *were* gonna try to take down a competitor, I should think I'd be able to come up with something a lot more creative and effective than buying cheap crap links on fiverr. I mean... how insulting)
8:41 pm on Dec 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've always thought of it as "anything that can be done to harm your own website's rankings that someone else can also do"

This.
1:20 am on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Honestly, I think most of us are way too small to inspire that much effort.


First, I don't think it requires much effort.

Second, size is irrelevant if your unscrupulous competitor is as small as you are.

I think the number of likely unscrupulous competitors and their motivation to damage your succesful site is proportional to the size of your site and your industry. If you have a small site in a small market, it only takes a small number of bad links to tarnish your link profile.

Penguin was/is a free licence to do it.
5:02 am on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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You lost me, @netmeg, I didn't mention fiverr at all or anything like it. You know naps exist when you get grumpy, right?
5:10 am on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Fiverr has been mentioned in the thread though, not by you.
2:57 pm on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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You know naps exist when you get grumpy, right?


This is me being cheerful and outgoing. You wouldn't like to see me when I'm grumpy.
3:33 pm on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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LOL
6:35 pm on Dec 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Bad illuminati dreams, whoa!
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