Since links each harm you as much as they can help you nowadays, I’ve been thinking almost as much about negative SEO as I have been thinking about positive SEO. Link building is not only a tactic to grow a business online, you can also harm businesses using links.
I’ve never targeted another site with negative SEO because I’ve been too busy working on growing and improving the marketing presence for clients, but I wouldn’t be surprised if negative SEO was offered as a service by a lot of industry providers in a few years. There have been reports of negative SEO not working very well, but when you hear about sites getting taken down for a single bad link it definitely proves the theory of negative SEO to be true.
Google is not only analyzing links in 2014, they are trying to decipher the intent of links. Intent is a hard thing to figure out algorithmically. Heck, intent is hard to figure out period. Google is trying, though, and that means that lots of people are going to get caught in the crossfire.
I find the idea of negative SEO fascinating and have been jotting down a few tactical strategies that you could employ right now to get another site penalized. Please note that I don’t recommend doing any of these and haven’t actually tried them…this is more of a brainstorming exercise on SEO theory. I wouldn’t be surprised if some SEOs have already experimented with a lot of these.
If you have any other ideas, post them in the comments and I’ll add to the post:
1. Create a Gmail account and start buying obvious paid links for a competitor. Wait a month, then send out a mass email requesting to purchase a link and include MattCutts.com or a few other Google employees in the email.
2. Set up a new site designed to be a ‘blog’ in the same industry as the site you want to take down. Blast it with tons of awful links until it gets penalized. When doing the reconsideration request, say that the SEO company you want to penalize was building the links for you and they never told you about them.
3. Identify some of the ‘soon-to-be-penalized’ link networks and order a bunch of links to a competitor from those sites. Matt will often tweet something like “Taking a look at a number of Italian link networks…you’ve been warned” a few weeks before nailing them. It’s a welcome invitation for those interested in negative SEO.
4. Set up a Gmail account and use mail merge to try and remove all of your competitors backlinks. Yes, all of them. You can use a few different tools to pull in contact information automatically for a list of domains that link to your competitor. You won’t get all of them removed but most people remove links without verifying you are with a particular company, especially if you offer cash.
5. Post an advertisement offering to sell links on your competitor’s website on Digital Point, Fiverr, Black Hat World or your marketplace of choice. Report the ad listing to Google through another Gmail account.
6. Create a widget that is targeted to low-quality blogs (gambling, adult, etc) and add a nice keyword heavy “attribution” link in the widget for a competitor. Bonus points if the widget is added on a sitewide basis.
7. Buy expired domains with 1000s of crap links pointing to them and 301 to your competitor’s most important page. You can find these on ExpiredDomains.net for pennies (sadly, most domains on these sites have been burned to the ground).
8. Set up 10-15 niche blogs, publish posts with spun content that link out to spam sites and include a nice “Sponsors” section on a sitewide sidebar that links out to a competitor. Report these sites to Google from a non-related Gmail account.
9. Reverse engineer the webdesign.org Twitter fiasco. Set up a shady site, create a Twitter account to match, wait 6 months and start publicly tweeting at people to ‘renew’ the obvious paid links you’ve added to the site.
10. Every now and then, you just know that a certain tactic is going to get nailed. Guest blogging already went through one fiasco, but Google may take further action on spammy guest posts. Hire somebody to build 100s of obvious guest posts with anchor text rich links in the author bio section. If you get lucky, Penguin 3 may nail them.
11. Hire hackers to inject links to your competitor via iframes, rogue JS, etc. Report the site for spam. Super black hat tactic obviously but the two link tactics Google hates the most are hidden/hacked links and link networks.