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If my rival site decides to go unfair way to outrank mine they can do it? For example, like by linking mine to bad(?) sites or something? Because people often talk about SEO but I just started being worried if somebody can do the things contrary to SEO to my site.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I did a backlink audit of a potential client's website a couple months ago, and they were previously working with a digital marketing firm. They had many backlinks, in the high hundreds, with well optimized anchor text consisting of only a few phrases. Upon further review, I found that many of the links were coming from obvious content(link) farms with low quality content; the content surrounding the anchor text of the client's backlinks was an obvious scrape and spin technique, not even understandable for actual users. I warned the client that this was suspicious and would eventually be found by the big G(oogle).

A few months later, just this March, that customer got a warning in Webmaster Tools about unnatural linking patterns. Upon further research, I'm finding an increasing amount of content on the web being generated by users receiving this same warning, meaning it's being distributed in higher quantities more recently.

In closing, I feel if somebody really wanted to hurt you, they actually could purchase really cheap, in quality and price, backlinks with exact match anchor text. Google will see the suspicious linking patterns and might feel it is an obvious gaming of the algorithm, just like link swapping used to be.

There's a firm actually doing a test right now to find an answer to this question. You can find the link here: http://www.saasaffiliates.com/testing-negative-seo-has-google-opened-the-floodgates-to-competitors-hurting-your-web-ranking/

Other resources:

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It is generally accepted that a third party cannot harm your rankings directly although they obviously can use black hat techniques in an attempt to outrank you. But that would not be a direct attack upon your website.

Most SEO ranking factors are related to on-page content of which you have full control. So if a competitor is abusing your site (i.e. links to known bad neighborhoods in comments left on your site), and you do nothing about it then that's your fault and not theirs. You are responsible for policing your own website. As far as off site ranking factors negative acts like links from bad neighborhoods or low quality pages, do not harm you. They simply have no SEO value that helps you like quality links would. However, if you were to link back to any of these sites or somehow be implicated in acquiring those links (i.e. purchasing those links), then this will hurt your SEO efforts. As long you as you don't engage in this kind of behavior you should have nothing to worry about.

So, to summarize, negative external factors are generally discounted and do not affect your site unless you can somehow be connected to it. This can be either directly through links or indirectly through other evidence that shows you are responsible for it.

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Hypothetically, What would happen if someone decided to give you a gift by paying for a link farm to link to your website? Would this be covered in not linking back to that area? –  Fiasco Labs Apr 3 '12 at 19:16
    
Yes. As long as you don't link back you're not associated with it. –  John Conde Apr 3 '12 at 19:20
    
"It is generally accepted that..." - million lemmings can not be wrong?! Shame... –  Lazy Badger Apr 3 '12 at 20:40

NO, unless they break your FTP and start uploading porn and malaware on your site.

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I just started being worried if somebody can do the things contrary to SEO to my site.

Technically it is possible, although it is difficult and expensive task.

Without hacking your site and flooding it by low-level content and without direct interaction with you in any other way

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