Negative SEO – Can your Competitors Hurt You?

The aim of SEO is to increase your site’s visibility in the search engine results pages. High rankings on search engines can help you to get a lot of customers. If your website has high rankings on Google for a good keyword then your website will get a lot of attention.

But your competitors also know this and some of them might not use ethical SEO practices. This is considered as negative SEO tactics and it has one aim – to reduce your page’s rankings in the search results.

Your competitors have a choice of their own and there are some things that they might do to sabotage your search engine rankings.

1. Create Spam Under Your Name

All major search engines use links to calculate the ranking of web pages. It’s not only the number of links that counts but also the quality.

Your competitor might add your website to several spam linking schemes to hurt your site.

In addition, your competitor might use your website URL for spamming in online forums, social network sites and blog comments. Although it’s not you who is spamming the websites, it will be hard to prove that you’re innocent and social network sites might ban your website (which will have a negative effect on the link structure of your site).

2. Disclose Information Against You

If you buy links on other websites to improve your search engine rankings and your competitor finds out that you use paid links chances are he might report it to Google and your rankings might drop.

The same can happen if you use any unethical SEO method on your website (hidden text, cloaking, etc.). If your competitor finds out and informs Google then it’s likely that it will affect your search engine rankings.

3. Create Duplicate Content

If your competitor creates duplicates of your web page content then these duplicates might get better rankings than your own site. Of course, this can cause legal problems for the person who duplicates the content.

Search engines don’t like duplicate content. They will pick one page and drop the rest if more than one web page has the same content.

4. Send A Copyright Complaint

If a search engine has been notified about a copyright infringement on your website then the search engine must remove the page from its index for a certain period. If your competitor files a copyright complaint against you then your website can be temporarily removed from the search results.

The Core Issue

Those who are not good enough to compete try to harm their competitors. Some people have even built the negative SEO industry in a big way. Unless unnatural links are penalised, there is a big evidence these techniques would continue still. If Google were able to pick up on every unnatural link created, everything would be fine, but apparently they can’t.

Sadly, the rate of demand increase for such “services” has been sharp this year, notably attributed to Google’s Panda and the recent Penguin update. The rise of negative seo comes again with every additional ìunnatural linking” messages from Google. It appears that ‘SEOs go after SEOs’ might be the trend.

Supposedly, the effort required to damage other people’s rankings can better be applied to promoting your own sites in an ethical manner.

If people just dedicate the same amount of time to the legitimate SEO (creating great content, great design, etc.) of their own websites, they would have probably reached the firsts positions by now, and no new update could penalize them.

SEOmoz Negative SEO challenge

Just last month, SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin issued a challenge to anyone who can take down SEOmoz or using negative SEO tactics.

Fishkin is confident enough in his sites’ link profiles and reputation. He said heíd rather take the hit and help reach the right folks if something goes wrong than taking down other targets who are probably wouldn’t be so lucky suffering the consequences.

It sounds like the the challenge is working out so far, which certainly looks good on Googleís part, especially in light of the Penguin update, and everyone’s opinions about negative SEO.

Most people, especially small and medium businesses, don’t have the link profile or reputation that Fishkin has established, but that also speaks to the need for content producers to work on building both.

Business is pretty much at great risk with people ‘negative seoing’ you. Spam links sent by someone can penalize you even 1 year later. There is mild security with Google traffic now. Even though we never make a bad link, someone will inevitably do it to us. If we have a competitor he or she can screw us.

Small and medium businesses are at risk in Internet marketing. Only the big brands will be able to survive because only they may be able to withstand negative seo tactics.