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Kick Your Competitor With Negative SEO?  (View post)

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, June 28, 2007
16 years ago9,811 views

I would say that this is a risky game. Considering the fact that Google doesn't *always* identify spammy sites and links immediately, you could potentially help your competitors to get a boost in their rankings, albeit temporarily. Unless, of course, you report them. In which case, that might look a bit more suspicious!

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Definitely easier said than done.

- setting up lots of junk links: assume 90% are ignored, 8% work for the site and 2% work against it. Chances are the site will get an advantage before it gets any sort of disadvantage. Why risk helping your competitor?

- paid links: again, if you set them up, you pay for them, you possibly help them. Who is to say that reporting paid links works against the site getting the links? I bet it works against the site selling links but maybe they also take a better look at the links that linked sites are getting, but even with a better look, if there's nothing bad to find, it won't get penalized.

- duplicate content: so you can outrank them with a copy of their own content, what are you worried about in that case anyway? Just outrank them and be done with it. No need to push their site out (no need to get THEIR sales copy ranking above them – it'll still promote their products/services).

- attacking their servers: sure, why not? But what if it's easily traceable back to you? What if your hired thugs (assuming you can't do it yourself) decide to blackmail you? While you're at it, you could also burn down their office buildings and more. Oh wait...

- Click fraud against their Adwords account: Google's pretty smart and can easily recognize simple things like that. If you can get passed their click-fraud filters, you're probably smart enough to concentrate on your advantages instead of trying to create disadvantages for others.

There are a lot of things you can do to attack a competitor – not just on the web. Do you really have to spend your resources on that – or wouldn't it make more sense (in the long run) to spend your resources on improving your side of the business?

You can move up in the search results by pushing those above you down – but you can also move up by being better.

Ryan [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Heh, I've had half of these things done to me.

I've had somebody try to commit fraud against my adsense by posting in forums and paying people to click my ads (all it did was make me more money)

I've had people DOS attack my servers. It only works short term.

I've had them link to me from bad neighborhoods.

They've made exact copies of my site.

I've even had them start negative articles about my site and synidcate those.

None of it has worked so far, and I remain at the top of the serps for my desired terms.

Joseph [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Another way to attack a competitor, is to go to their site and keep clicking on their Google AdWords on their site, that they get paid for.

This will cause Google to think they are clicking on their own ads to raise the revenue they get paid from Google. Google will then close their account, and they will be barred from the service. [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #


This is so-o funny because for years, there have been others have been posting as Search Engines Web,!! etc, sometimes using slight modifications of the URL Sig.

People always assumed it was one commenter doing all of this.

Matt Cutts [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

To clarify, here are a couple reasons why it isn't impossible:
- identity theft means that someone can steal your site out from under you. See for example the storied history of
- someone could hack your site and put spam all over your site

Those are extreme examples (and would also be illegal in the U.S.), but that's why I didn't exclude the possibility of someone sabotaging another person's site.

Tadeusz Szewczyk [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

There is a term coined for "negative SEO". It's called Google bowling. With the rise of the "tell us if someone has paid links"-policy Google bowling is much easier. You just have to buy some obvious links for your competitor and then call the paid links busters.

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Those are very valid points Matt. One example of someone hacking your site is The site's host had a security breach where 3,500 accounts were compromised. The hackers then added hidden iframes to the site which caused the site to be blocked by Google until the hidden iframe was removed. This would create a huge issue if your trying to get new customers to trust or try your products.

Ryan [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Maybe Matt can shed some light here, but my best guess as to the "tell us about paid links" is that it doesn't "penalize" the site buying the links in a direct sense.

I'm guessing it just doesn't discount the PR of the page where the links reside, thus not passing on any link juice to the page that bought them.

at least, if I were to decide to use that information to take action, that's what I'd do (but who am I? I'm nobody)

Chances are better that Google isn't even doing that, but instead simply using the reports (perhaps with some AI programming or a neural net) to implement automated methods of finding paid links.

John Honeck [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

I've a few sites that you can set up 500,000 links to this weekend if anyone would like to test this on.

Michael Martinez [PersonRank 5]

16 years ago #

All the public Search Engine Bowling tests that have been conducted over the past couple of years, where people have invited spammy links, have shown no success rates. I don't doubt that people are selling the service but they have not made any case for its actually working. Rankings change for many reasons.

alek [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

JohnWeb: 500,000 links – holy-moley ... that's some big web site(s)!!!

I had what I believe was a Google Bowling experience a while back – please see

I have a fun little goofy domain (separate from my personal home page) if you want to do some tests – I'm actually curious what 500,000 links looks like – drop me a note if interested – I'm the first "alek" in google.

John Honeck [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Alek, I was hoping someone would Google Bowl me and send 500,000 links my way. In the spirit of science of course, just to prove Google bowling exists/doesn't exit. :)

Milly [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Here's a (minor, but clear) example of Googlebowling. Sort of.

Six months ago I set up a Custom Search Engine called GoogleShopChopped and put a search box and brief mention of it on my home page. (The CSE itself is just standard Google results, minus a bunch of shopping, auction and affiliate sites).

Within days Google found it, and the results for [GoogleShopChopped] showed only my home page and the CSE itself (at cse?etc). (Of course Google's page was the higher placed result! ;).

And so it continued until a few weeks ago, when a trio of spam sites (two of which AdSense-based) which had scraped my front page, got indexed for the same term. Now look :-

Not only do the spam sites show higher in the SERP, but they have completely *subsumed* my original page, which is now *only* visible if you click the "In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 5 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included" link :-

Of course my page wasn't deliberately targeted, but the effect is Googlebowling, nevertheless. If I trying to promote GoogleShopChopped, either commercially or for end users, I guess I'd be pretty annoyed.

As for Google's secret sauce, if they can't get it right for this *easy* SERP (5 domains: one their own, one the original content, three obvious spam/scrapers), what chance on something trickier?

Incidentally, Yahoo allow in many more spam sites, but at least the two results of substance are both visible, and in the top positions :-

While Live/MSN get it about right too :-

alek [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Gotcha JohnWeb! ;-)

WOW – interesting story Milly.

Jaan Kanellis [PersonRank 3]

16 years ago #

Didnt Google claim to solve Google bowling? i.e. "Greatest Living American" and "miserable failure"

Matthew James [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Jaan – that's Google Bombing – sounds simillar, but describes something completely different.

Chris McElroy [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Honestly. Anyone who has to sabotage their competitors websites in order to compete isn't an seo expert in the first place. They are simply a scammer or spammer. Deliberate sabotage, if it can be proven, is actionable in a court of law against the person doing it and the person that hired them.

Not only is it not an effective way of competing, some of the tactics are covered by existing laws that can land the scammer in court.

Google user [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

[moved from other thread]

Hey people, please, tell to google guy(s) that PENALTY for EXTERNAL SEO FACTORS is NONSENSE, because it opens the way for de-SEO – techniques to downrank sites of competitors! Hey, everyone can programmatically (in special way) spam guestbooks, blogs, directories, "bad neighborhoods" with links to downrank their competitors! It seems that Google programmers don’t understand simple logical things... shame on google programmers!

Google MUST remove algorithms of PENALTY for external SEO techniques immediately! Or there will be a lot of google de-SEO firms very soon, which will heavily undermine corporative google image:

"We are offering services for downranking your competitors in google
- Sandboxing $299
- 30 Filtering $99
Any website or separate web pages with PR lower than 6. Guarantee."

Shame on google programmers!

If google do not remove penalties for external factors, then it will have BIG TROUBLES very soon. Many webmasters will say good bye to PARANOID Google, and will say hello to CLEAN Yahoo!

2-3 years ago there was a possibility just to write a good high-quality and relevant articles, create web pages, follow guidelines and that was enough to appear in top google search results. It was a significant advantage of google – to rank sites not only for internal SEO tricks & backlinks, but also for _relevant_ content. 2-3 years ago the factor of relevancy of content was important as well as the factor of amount of relevant back links.
Nowadays, algorithm of google is completely different than 2-3 years ago, and the factor of back links is significantly more important than relevancy of content! A lot of high-quality sites were downranked, undervalued or just partially disappeared from top index for no obvious reason. I read a lot of google patents, and I must admit that there are serious logical mistakes and contradictions in fundamental assumptions of many algorithms. I call them NOISE ALGORITHMS, because while performing "smart" filtering and evaluations of site rankings these algorithms introduce a lot of unnecessary informational noise and disorder, instead of just finding relevant content.

It sad to say, but nowadays google reminds me the old AltaVista.

TallTroll [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

>> Honestly. Anyone who has to sabotage their competitors websites in order to compete isn't an seo expert in the first place.

Not necessarily true. There are circumstances where knocking out a competitor is the most efficient way of increasing your own exposure, especially in already spam-filled niches (pills, porn, gaming). It's also possible to do it / have it happen to you totally accidentally. If you (or SOMEONE) doesn't understand what the hell happened in the first place, how the hell is it ever going to get fixed? It's rarely a good idea to rely on the SEs themselves to correct errors like that

>> Deliberate sabotage, if it can be proven, is actionable in a court of law against the person doing it and the person that hired them.

Depends what you do – certainly some of the listed techniques would clearly fall foul of exisiting legislation, some may run close to the wind (assuming anyone ever worked out what happened and who did it anyway), but some techniques clearly would NOT be illegal. There is a tendency in some quarters to equate search engines with the law, which has never been true. The only possible legal infringement would be of Googles TOS

Perhaps the law should be updated to reflect the new realities online, but given how awful most pieces of legislation relating to internet issues have been to date, I'm pessimistic about the situation actually being noticably improved by any such legislation

>> Not only is it not an effective way of competing, some of the tactics are covered by existing laws that can land the scammer in court.

You think? Try thinking through how that would apply to a 302 redirect attack for instance. In the US, you'd end up putting the Constitution itself on trial – want to go there? :)

>> I would say that this is a risky game. Considering the fact that Google doesn't *always* identify spammy sites and links immediately, you could potentially help your competitors to get a boost in their rankings, albeit temporarily.

Yup. But then, isn't ALL SEO risky to some degree or other? Risk / reward...

Daniel Jones [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Crooks engaged in nefarious means to relegate other websites shouldn't be welcome into the seo community. It is immoral and it is wrong.

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