Way before I even publish this post, I’m already bracing myself for a barrage of comments and a fair amount of stick for what you’re about to read. This one’s probably going to be a tiny bit controversial. So strap in tight!
Now I’m well aware that most of you guys who have read the title will have instantly formed your own opinions on this one, but hear me out. Because I don’t think negative SEO really deserves to be a tactic that’s locked away deep in the realms of black hat naughtiness and SERP spamming debauchery. We might well be in for a little bit of a bumpy ride over the next 10 minutes, but I’m going to explain why I, and many other SEO’s, think exactly that.
First off though, we should probably clear up a couple of myths…
Negative SEO does exist. Be in no doubt about that, guys. Not only does it exist, but it is also becoming a huge issue across many sectors.
And it’s not just small sites and start-ups that are vulnerable. Big businesses and major household brands are being toppled by negative SEO. No longer is negative SEO the reserve of the small time affiliate. This technique is actually being used RIGHT NOW by, and on, major businesses in highly competitive niches. In many big money verticals, Google Bombing has become as standard as the morning cup of coffee.
Given that it is now becoming more and more common; can it ever be OK to compete this way? The answer from the SEO community seems, on the face of it, to be a resounding no. But I’m going to suggest something a little bit controversial here (bare with me) and say that it might not actually be as clear cut as that…
I’d also like to make it clear right away, that I personally have never engaged in negative SEO. In truth, I probably never will do either (and I’ll get into why a little bit later on). Not because I’m a whiter than white hat SEO or a big time Google worshiper, but because I happen to think that our jobs as SEO’s are busy and diverse enough without adding unnecessary complications into the mix as well.
This post is purely about raising the profile of negative SEO and the issues that it is causing in the industry. In my opinion, negative SEO is one of the most dangerous, but at the same time the most powerful SEO tools available.
An alternative view on negative SEO:
There’s two sides to every argument, and while we may not like or agree with the concept of negative SEO, neglecting it altogether could well be your undoing. Whether we like it or not, this IS possible and it IS happening. Those of us who choose to ignore it and bury their heads in the sand, are only falling further and further behind.
Negative SEO seems to have bagged itself a rep as being a pure, out and out spam technique. But is that really justified? I’d argue, probably not. The implications of it are obviously most appealing to the lazy, short term results driven type SEO’s who fall under the Black Hat umbrella – I can’t argue with you on that. All I’m saying to you is simply “don’t ignore it”. Other than being a lot more scalable and a hell of a lot simpler than going through the tireless rigmarole of finding link prospects, outreaching, blah blah blah, is negative SEO really that different? The overall goal and the end results are exactly the same. In order for you to get to the top spot, other websites will have to suffer. Be that at the hands of a better and more innovative link builder, or at the hands of negative SEO. We can argue about the methods, but the results are the same.
So look at it like that, and then read this post title again. Do you see where I’m coming from now? SEO is a pretty brutal industry anyway. And your success will always rely on someone elses undoing. There’s only one number 1 spot after all! So, if that’s the case, does it really matter how you get there? The only difference really, is the timescales involved. Outranking someone naturally and legitimately has the same effect as negative SEO, but just takes longer to achieve.
Now, here’s the reality of the situation…
While negative SEO is possible and is prevalent, it’s a complete and utter ball ache! All it takes is for one person in your niche to start doing it, and before you can even say “please help me Mr Cutts”, an all out negative SEO war is raging.
Exactly because this technique is so easy to use, it’s also a huge nightmare. All it takes is for that one person, that one inexperienced SEO in your industry to fire up an instance of Scrapebox or Xrumer and start blasting away. As soon as everyone in the niche realises what is happening, what do you think they’re all going to do? They’re going to have the disavow screen on one window and their own copy of Scrapebox/Xrumer/whatever-the-hell-else open in the next. Before you know where you are, everyone is neg SEO’ing each other, and the SEO’s have yet another job to add to their daily “to do” list.
The real question here is not “Should we practice negative SEO?” it’s “Should Google allow negative SEO to be possible in the first place?”. Actively seeking out ways to harm your competitors’ rankings is, obviously, wrong. But as Google continue to close the net on so called black hatters, they are (perhaps unwittingly) opening the floodgates for an even darker side of the industry to emerge.
Rather than making SEO harder for people to manipulate, Google have actually made SEO much more accessible. And that’s a pretty dangerous thought. If any moron with a copy of Scrapebox can once again hit the top ranks for their desired keyword, then isn’t this just one massive step backwards, Google?
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!
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