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Negative SEO – A Myth or Reality?

By vish | SEO

Jun 06

Before the Penguin update Google would handle links it considered to be webspam to pass down zero link juice value to the pages they linked to.

This meant, you could go about in building a large amount of low quality links to your page for under $10 – with absolutely no risk. If it worked great! If not – then what the heck it was only 10 bucks. It was a no-risk game – and your site could NOT every get penalized for having a large threshold of low quality and unnatural links.

Link builders on forums were openly saying that…

“Google cannot penalize your site for building low quality links – because if they did, then your competitors would spend a few dollars in building low quality links to your site – and get it penalized as a result! Google knows this and therefore will never allow this to happen as it could wreak havoc!”

And, this WAS so very true!

You only stood to either gain some good link juice from the your backlinks, or get zero link juice at all from them. You could never get “negative” link juice from a link or a set of links.

Your link building efforts, however blackhat or unnatural – could never hurt your website.

Either, it would work positively or it would just be neutral and have no effect at all.

Well, guess what…

In the Penguin Update one of the major things Google has introduced is the exact opposite.

The very foundation and logic of the Penguin Update is to penalize sites with excessive low quality unnatural links as compared to other sites in the niche.

This has directly resulted in the possibility and emergence of Negative SEO.

With this, Google will begin passing negative value from backlinks it considers to be Webspam, and if your negative value exceeds specific thresholds set by the algorithm – your site can get a penalty.

So, if you have been building links to your main money pages via mass low quality link building methods – then there is a very high probability that your site will be hit (unless you have a very high threshhold of high quality links or are a major brand… a point that I will discuss later).

This move by Google has already opened up a major loophole allowing anyone to bombard a small top ranking site with low quality links and as a result get it to disappear from the top of the search results.

Anyone can now spend a few bucks and blast low quality links to these micro-sites sites – and thus get them penalized.

However, note that, high authority domains like Amazon, etc. cannot be effected by this tactic.

This is highly alarming – as now businesses and people who do not have ethics… will be able to easily knock out sites ranking above them.

Negative SEO is a reality – and the Penguin update is “evil” in this regard… as it now makes most small businesses easily vulnerable to unethical and anti-competitive tactics.

There is however, one place you could use this tactic ethically.

And, that is in Online Reputation Management. If you feel someone (your competition) has been leaving negative remarks about your product, service or site on review sites or message boards – and these web pages with the unfair negative comments are showing up on the top of the SERPs when someone searches for your brand, then you could in effect knock out these top ranking pages by blasting them with low quality backlinks.

The other side of the fence. Negative SEO does NOT exist.

Some people have recently countered the view of Negative SEO and say that it does not yet exist.

The people who are opposing Negative SEO are saying that the drop in rankings is due to the fact that the site has built a ton of low quality links. With the Penguin update, all the positive link juice from these links have now been devalued to pass zero link juice… which is what has caused the drop in rankings.

Therefore, their link juice has suddenly plummeted due to the high dependency on the vast number of low quality backlinks. The drop in link juice has caused a drop in rankings. There is a clear correlation here.

While this is a valid counterpoint – it should be noted that Google has already been doing exactly this in the past when it found webspam low quality links. Google would render the link juice from these pages to be worthless and of zero value – and NOT of a negative value.

What some experts believe is that Google has not only improved its ability to detect pages with low quality webpsam backlinks to a large extent, but it has revisited its entire index of content and de-indexed pages that fell in the definition.

The Disavow Tool (which we will discuss later) has been created to help Google crowdsource their efforts to do just this.

Ryan Deiss conducted a test to check the existence of Negative SEO.

He reported the full findings at TrafficPlanet forum. The results prove that Negative SEO does indeed exist.

In his proof – he top ranked a site for a keyword using high quality links, and then immediately bombarded it with low quality links. If negative SEO did not exists, the low quality links would simply not affect the rankings and would pass down zero juice to the page.

However, this did not happen – but the site dropped in its rankings after the low quality links were built… which therefore proves that Negative SEO does indeed exist.

Also, supporting this proof is other proof from comments by many people on forums have also experienced situations where their sites that had few low quality links… where a simple zero score revision would not hurt the site much – but because the site has been hit hard and received a notice from Google, the site has received a high negative SEO penalty – which is indeed real and happening.

In fact, there are many cases where people have gone in and removed/deleted low quality links and then submitted a disavow tool and filed for reconsideration… to subsequently find that their rankings have jumped back to where they were!

This tells us that the negative penalty does indeed exist. Because, if Google were to treat those links as zero value – then the bounce back on deletion would probably not make any sense.

So, whats my verdict… does Negative SEO exist or not?

I believe that it does exist, but not in every niche.

And (thankfully), since it does factor in the sites historical link graph – this makes it a little more difficult for someone else to attack your site.

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