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57% of businesses I surveyed either agreed/were very interested in Negative SEO

     
2:45 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Just to move away slightly from the possible/not possible argument which we hear so many times on so many forums. A couple of months ago, I was talking to a very well respected online marketer friend of mine who is based in the US and we got into a little discussion about the willingness of businesses to carry out negative SEO attacks on each other. His argument was that if it was handed on a plate and complete anonymity was guaranteed, many businesses would be very eager to launch such an attack.

I was of the opposite side of the argument. At one point, growing slightly weary of the bad Skype line we were chatting on, I tried to finish the conversation on top by using a bit of a cheap shot. I said with my tongue firmly in my cheek "Maybe in the US that's true but not here in the UK". Yes I know... terrible thing to say and before you all jump in, our arguments tend to be quite lively and we make a point of always resorting to cheap stereotypes. If it makes you feel better he also has the occasional dig about my supposedly British trademark of being overly polite and apologising all the time even when its not deserved.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to carry out a little test which is on my blog if you want to read the details (Mods? can I put a link here?).

We sent out 84 emails offering guaranteed negative seo service for 250
61 responded
2 told me to xxxx off.
11 Politely rejected the offer.
19 Wanted more information.
29 Wanted to go ahead.

So a 79% of people wanted to go ahead or were very interested. I have to admit that really did surprise me. Am I the only one surprised by those results?

Mods Note: Changed the title to better reflect the math. 19 interested responses + 29 go ahead responses divided by 84 businesses contacted = 57%

[edited by: goodroi at 6:16 pm (utc) on Feb 2, 2015]

4:20 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Who were the 84 businesses that were emailed?

For example, if they all fall into the "previously purchased shady link services for their own website"" bucket, then it's just sample bias.
4:24 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Add your link if you feel it adds to the conversation (and contains things the post doesn't already).

The sample size seems a bit small to draw a solid conclusion.
4:37 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Brotherhood_of_lan but too late to edit. No worries though. The main gist of it is in the post above. The blog post has the exact email sent and some more meat. [rebootonline.com ]

Yes, the sample is small and I do mention that as a disclaimer in the post but still quite frightening. Not surprising that there are so many negative SEO services out there... seems they don't have much of a problem getting clients on board.
4:54 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It would seem to me that, if "negative SEO" becomes more popular, patterns will emerge more quickly and Google will find it even easier to discern those patterns.

Negative SEO sounds like a great way for shady SEO firms to spam and scam businesses that used to buy toolbar PageRank. ("Hello kind sir. We are SEO company that can use negative seoing to punish your competitor.")
5:34 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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"Hello kind sir. We are SEO company that can use negative seoing to punish your competitor."


HAHAH!

Not "to" punish though. "For." "For punish."
6:27 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm not surprised by the response rate because of the very low price. I suspect any guaranteed seo service (positive or negative) for only 250 would get a similar response rate.

Not sure what new insight this brings since we already knew by the large volume of happy reviews for negative SEO providers listed on Fiverr that many people are buying these services and are satisified.
7:27 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think its quite scary to be honest and brings to light the depths that some people will resort to. Its all good and well to have some Fiverr reviews confirming the popularity of negative SEO services but when its a law firm or an accountant in your area or a large IT services company employing just under 100 people and looking after the IT needs of some of the largest institutions in the area, that's quite something else.

The price is not really an issue. This was designed to show intent and not how affordable the service is.
7:37 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Changed the title to better reflect the math. 19 interested responses + 29 go ahead responses divided by 84 businesses contacted = 57%


What?

Only 61 responded and we have absolutely no idea why the full 84 didn't. Maybe the email bounced, maybe it reached someone who had no responsibility for replying, maybe the recipient was on holidays, some may not have understood the question etc.

What we do know (if the OP is correct) is that 79% of those who replied wanted to go ahead or were very interested.
7:50 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Many of the small business owners I've spoken to would happily sanction far more than nuking their competitors' websites if they felt that there would be nothing to link them with the action taken.

I doubt that changes as you go up the scale and more money is involved.

Sorry to be cynical, but I think it's human nature.
8:30 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It surprises me that so many businesses consider that their survival/success depends so much on their, and their competitors, websites.

I do assume that all those asked are not in the same niche?
10:22 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Most folks know that tearing down is a lot easier than building up. I'm not particularly surprised, though I am a bit intrigued that anyone on the net will buy into "with no repercussions to you" bit.

If negative SEO should achieve any kind of norm, then you can bet the SE's will change to address that ,.,,. and will be easier to see than all those "positive" SEO tricks.
11:01 pm on Feb 2, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I do assume that all those asked are not in the same niche?

It would be more fun if they were.

I like the thought of the 29 paying to attack each other's websites.

...
1:53 pm on Feb 3, 2015 (gmt 0)

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People are people. Why would country of origin affect a person's need to provide for their family? Boundaries don't shape morals.

if a business is willing to slash prices to put the competition out of business, why would they not resort to negative seo? It is not illegal. Imho, i believe negative seo is immoral but to be honest, i could be swayed if it becomes the norm. In my business, i am not normal and i know a lot of competition who would jump on neg seo if given a chance.
1:57 pm on Feb 3, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I like the thought of the 29 paying to attack each other's websites.


There's a movie in there somewhere. Or maybe a web series.

Doesn't surprise me people might be open to it. Of course, like anything, they don't realize that just because it might work now doesn't mean it'll still work tomorrow.
11:48 pm on Feb 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's just another sad indicator that the "human" isn't actually a very intelligent species IMO.
12:36 am on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone ever been busted for negative SEO? I've never heard of anyone. I bet most people get away with it, how would you know or prove anything.

Is negative SEO legal? If so, then most business people should respond positively to the offer. If it's legal, then business-wise it is ethical. Personally, I don't like all my competitors but I would never do negative SEO on their sites. Or at least, not without some pretty severe provocation.

To the OP, what would be funny I think is if you emailed the responders with the following:
"We thought you'd be interested. Actually, one of your competitors has hired us to do negative SEO on your site. For $250, we'll make sure that our efforts are unsuccessful. You won't be penalized, AND we'll charge your competitors money. Are you still interested?'.

Pretty sure that last part isn't legal though :).
7:10 am on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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For a start, a service such as the one I offered is not realistically possible for that price; especially considering the guarantee I provided.


So your offer isn't realistically possible, but your response rates are?
You got to drop a link at least, so everything is good.
9:03 am on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It was discussed in another thread, but I feel the need to restate the notion here as well. In my personal belief the more different algo updates become stronger at detecting foul play, the more website owners will stop doing traditional SEO (as it will become more and more expensive) and focus on negative SEO (as it is cheap and most of the time effective).

Because in the end it takes just as much effort, if not less, to build 100 bad links to a website than to build 100 good links to your/your customer website.
12:36 pm on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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the more website owners will stop doing traditional SEO (as it will become more and more expensive) and focus on negative SEO (as it is cheap and most of the time effective).


Precisely. That is why Google should take away the onus of building quality links from the webmasters and make their own algo sophisticated to ignore bad links, and only take good links into consideration for measuring authority. With so many negative and blackhat SEOs around, it is really difficult for even a trained hand to know if the strategy was deployed in-house or by a competitor.

If SEOs realize that shady tactics neither help their site nor hurt competitors, they are naturally going to gravitate towards better strategies.
12:50 pm on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@wheel Funnily enough, I am in the process of laying out a study about that very subject. I am in touch of a well known 'internet lawyer' who is going to have some (well paid) input in this also. If you are interested in collaboration please feel free to contact me. I want to also touch on the subject of tracking down and proving the source of the attack. I have done that on our own attacker but not to the level that will stand up in court.

@Clay_More I don't appreciate the insinuation. I have all the proof right here in the office so please feel free to call and I will arrange for you to see it for yourself.

@Nutterum - Maybe Google are doing something about negative SEO. When I compare the actual effect it has had on any of the sites we looked at, it has to be said that it has been minimal. Compare that with as recent as 2013 and you can see a stark difference. I really don't think you can inflict much damage on a site with the normal 10,000 xrumer/scrapebox links advertised on Fiverr any more. It takes a some more effort which puts it out of reach from 95% of those offering negative SEO services.

One annoying symptom of NSEO is that it does muddy the water when trying to monitor a site progress and/or link profile. I recently contacted Majestic SEO asking them to implement the ability to hide links from the dataset for a particular site. That way, once the disavow has been completed, you would be able to upload it to Majestic as well and it will then hide those links from the data/graphs making the analysis of your site much easier again.
12:59 pm on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Wow, I'm pretty surprised by these results but it provoked me into some deeper thinking on the subject regarding my own sites. I've never been tempted to ever impact someone else's business apart from fair competition. So I asked myself if someone could guarantee my main competitors would disappear from the serp's for 1000 (I set it higher as I reckon it would prob cost more than 250) would I do it?

I'd probably end up doing it, that's awful and I don't like it - shame on google for making this part of the commercial web we see today. It's unnecessary and far too tempting for most businesses struggling to get by and pay the wage roll every month.

As business owners we have people who rely on us for their living, and we have to ask ourselves - who are we more loyal to? Our staff or our competitors? I think more than 79% would say their staff.
1:20 pm on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Shai - While I agree that for stable websites in the local SERPs, it is harder to just spam your way into N-SEO via Fiverr gigs and similar, I see far to many purely and niche organic websites with less than a 1000 backlinks all-together. Believe me when I tell you that these websites can be completely smashed in 2-3 months with no more than USD 100- USD 200 worth of investment, quite cheap, compared to the $/hour an SEO Professional will ask to further your white hat SEO (not even going to consider if you have to pay for content creation on top of that).

I really hope that we are just paranoid marketers and SEOs and the majority of the website owners and webmasters do not think the way we do. But sooner or later, some third world agency with hundreds of employees will decide they can make more money offering negative SEO than spamming directories for profit.
5:36 am on Feb 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Shai

I didn't realize I insinuated anything. I'll re-quote you:
For a start, a service such as the one I offered is not realistically possible for that price; especially considering the guarantee I provided.


If I offer guaranteed first class round-trip plane flights from Los Angeles to London for $395.00, I'll probably have a decent response rate. But, it is based on an unrealistic offer.

Your response rate as a metric isn't valid IMO as the offer isn't realistic in your own words.
9:32 am on Feb 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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the more website owners will stop doing traditional SEO (as it will become more and more expensive) and focus on negative SEO (as it is cheap and most of the time effective)

It depends on the niche and on the competitivness.

- If you are on middle of the page 3 of a mid-competitive SERPs, then you have to spend 25 x whatever price to nuke sites above you. Nuking that many sites at the same time is not any more 250. It is 25 x 250 AND it leaves a footprint.

- If some of these sites are established brands, then good luck of nuking them using negative SEO.

So perhaps using it in Local or in a non-competitive niche where you are already somewhere on the first page and focusing on 2-3 competitors, or if you are in a narrow niche with one or two players stronger than you, but not a big brands - then maybe.

But even then you need some "positive" SEO in the first place to get in a position where you can use negative SEO.
9:52 am on Feb 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Even if the response rate is higher because it is cheap, it still shows that people are willing to use it in principle.

The blog post makes it clear that this was an unsolicited email so the response rate is unusually high - I am sure they would not have got anything like the same for white hat SEO services.


People are people. Why would country of origin affect a person's need to provide for their family? Boundaries don't shape morals.


Yes they do. People are not necessarily more of less moral in different places but they do have different idea of right and wrong.
12:28 pm on Feb 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Clay_More The whole purpose of the experiment was to see how many people will be willing to get on board this train. The price was set so low as I attempted to remove the price from the equation. I wanted it to be a representation of people's moral choice where price had no bearings.

Put it simply, If someone offered to burn your competitor's shop down to the ground, would the price come into your decision making process?

With regards to the insinuation, im really not interested in getting into an argument over this. I think we both know what was insinuated in your post. Lets just leave it at that.
12:32 am on Feb 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Do I smell a new way G can detect sites with possible blackhat tendencies? Just send the site owner a message like this and if they bite... blam! Manual penalty. How does the owner know where it really came from? Yes, it's probably entrapment, but does G really care when they are "improving the user experience"?

Call me paranoid, but we ALWAYS ignore or politely refuse offers to pay for anchor text links on our sites. Would we act differently if we knew for ABSOLUTE CERTAIN it was NOT G (or someone contracting for them) sending the request as a test as to whether our links are freely given or if we sell links? Who can say for certain G doesn't do this now?
4:07 am on Feb 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Shai

In my opinion, removing price from the equation would require just that, having no price established. $If your offer had a $29,854.00 price tag, what would the response rate be?

I'm not sure what you think I was insinuating. You got a link, so you are a spammer?
I'll freely admit that I have been responsible for a ton of less desirable content on the web. Does it make me a spammer? Maybe. It's all been experiment and education which someone has to do.

You got a link. That's all, it won't change history, so it shouldn't be considered anything more than that.

burn your competitor's shop down to the ground, would the price come into your decision making process?

Maybe a different thread?
10:24 pm on Feb 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think companies that run search engines should run secret operations to determine who is willing or even coughing up the money for negative SEO; people who have to cheat should have less advantage than those with the natural talent.

John
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