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Negative SEO – Would You Hire a Marketing Hit Man?

Taylor Brennan • February 26, 2015

Have you seen those Nightline-esque specials where they show a person trying to hire a hit man, and the hit man turns out to be an undercover cop? It never works out well.negatice SEO

This was the first comparison that came to mind as I read a very interesting study from a fellow SEO over at WebMasterWorld. The “study” was actually an experiment that the SEO conducted to see how many business owners would be interested in negative SEO services. Negative SEO is a black hat strategy that improves search rankings by intentionally harming a competitor’s organic presence. Essentially, the SEO conducting the experiment was the undercover cop approaching business owners to see who would be willing to “put out the hit” on their competitors.

The SEO sent out 84 emails to business owners, offering to improve their rankings by eliminating competitor websites that outranked them from search results.

Nearly 80% of the businesses that responded showed substantial interest, and almost half replied giving the “undercover SEO” the go-ahead to begin a negative campaign.

Here is a complete breakdown of the response.

  • Of the 84 emails sent, 61 business owners replied.
  • 29 business owners wanted to launch a negative campaign. (47.5%)
  • 19 business owners considered it but wanted more information first (31%)
  • 13 business owners rejected the offer. (21.3%)

Only two business owners were offended by the idea of improving their website’s organic presence by jeopardizing competitor sites. That’s 2%.

Negative SEO can do so much damage in a miniscule fraction of the time it would take to attempt to slowly rebuild any authority in search. After Google’s Penguin Update, webmasters were forced to spend an incredible amount of time cleaning up poor-quality backlinks submitted when getting quick and easy links was still an oft-utilized strategy. Now, it would take only a handful of minutes and clicks for a negative SEO campaign to ruin a competitor who relies on organic traffic to stay in business.

There will always be businesses looking for quick, band-aid results, and thus there will always be people looking to profit from those businesses. There will always be actual SEO hit men looking to make easy money off of bad business. But keep those undercover stings in mind, because the guilty party always gets caught. Google is a tough sheriff with a crack team of deputy web spam detectors – just ask JC Penney, BMW ,, and many others. Even if your business has JC Penney resources to rebuild your presence before you go out of business, your reputation will be bankrupt, you will have a target on your back from the competitors you’ve wronged, and some undercover SEO could help haul you off to the prison of Google’s penalties.

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Taylor Brennan is an SEO Analyst for the LYONSCG Digital Services team. Taylor has over six years of digital marketing experience, specializing in search and local optimization.

Taylor Brennan

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Taylor Brennan

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