I have read a couple of articles about negative/black SEO. They were explaining that important part of it is creating web sites with "bad" content that "stink" to Google. Back links from these sites are consequently penalized by Google and target sites receive negative bonus to their ranking.

However, I had a little argument with my friend today, who is from my point of view an experienced web developer and SEO optimizer. He told me that this negative SEO and penalized sites is complete nonsense. He gave me an example that there is no problem for a company to create link farm of "bad links" that would be imposible for any tool to block. So if negative SEO was possible, there would be many big internet companies with sites ruined by this SEO.

So I am asking you, because you always gave me good advice, is it fiction or fact?

  • 3
    I'd recommend following this study/test that Rand Fishkin from Moz is leading.
    – zigojacko
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:45
  • Maybe I am blind but I cannot see the results
    – Michal
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:16
  • It was only posted yesterday - it is just launching... Worth following.
    – zigojacko
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:54

5 Answers 5


I've seen enough reported cases of negative SEO being effective that I'm convinced that it is possible. Here are a couple of the better stories:

Web Marketing School - Sorry: Negative SEO Does Exist

Owners of bluewidgets.com and bluewidgets.org independently discover that their sites were victims of negative SEO. They compare notes and find that the offending external links to their sites come from the same set of sites.

Traffic Planet - CASE STUDY: Negative SEO

Anonymous poster claims to be able to use negative SEO very effectively against used car sites. Long post with lots of details.

Moz - A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO

An admitted SEO spammer claims that this time is different, he's a victim of negative SEO

On the other hand, there are a few reports of negative SEO not working:

Negative SEO Reality Check - True Story & Case Study

Somebody puts up lots of bad links up against the site and it doesn't end up hurting rankings

Google might tell you that the reported cases of effective negative SEO are all false.

  • A site that did actually create the bad links themselves may cry "negative SEO, it wasn't us"
  • The reported cases of people using negative SEO effectively could be exaggerations to make Google look bad, or boost the reputation of the author.
  • +1, sources. If you read enough of them, you'll see common ground :)
    – Martijn
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 7:12

Yes it exists. And is very hard to combat, but the badguys have to put in a lot of work to pull it off, there are easier methods. It's not as simple as making a bad site with a backlink to the goodguy though.

If the bad guy has a sucky webpage, they're not gonna get indexed (or given any value at that), so the backlink doesn't really do any harm if you're legit.

I've been to a Google course once, where they illustrated some situations where you can ennoy someone, and that Google is always working on methods to counter this (not gonna tell those methods, let's not inspire anyone ;) ).

Their algoritm is large, magical and smart, at best counter-seo will make a tiny, hard to notice dent.


At this time the consensus among people who have actually looked at real data is that it seems plausible, but has not been proven to work on sites that weren't already at risk of a penalty from link spam they did themselves. Even the Moz case study cited above has its flaws. The author failed to disclose that the site did in fact have bad links dating back several years before the so called attack. That is why Rand Fishkin says he is doing his test. To try to make it crystal clear without all the link bait and hype.

The common thing you will see in most of these "It happened to me" stories is that the people claiming it worked either will not reveal the site or any other verifiable details, or the story just does not match the actual data that is out there. There are a LOT of people who just want to ride the trend, so they repeat what they hear without checking the facts. There have been a few recent articles that are just better at the smoke & mirrors routine, but the writers have been selling and using various "beat google" softwares for years. It is likely that their problems are self inflicted. Some even seem to have made the whole thing up so they could get all the links and traffic from the clickbait.

Yes, there are headlines that say "Negative SEO Works - Here's the Proof". But as of now, there are no confirmed incidents that could not have been the result of a variety of other things.

Looking forward to Rand & Moz's findings.


Yes, it's definitely possible. I've worked with three clients who have had link penalties in Google Webmaster Tools and when doing a link audit it was evident that these links had been built with the purpose of trying to get a site penalised.

One site was a photographer and the majority of his links were on casino sites and med sites about Viagra. The anchor text of these links were terms such as: Untrustworthy, Liar, Thief, Drugs, Viagra.

Another client had said they were working with a link builder and when they said they would be ceasing using their services, the link builder threatened to build thousands of bad links to their site unless they paid xxx amount. What did we find after doing a link audit? Thousands of comment links on blogs about porn, with anchor text such as Porn, Sex, Pornography, etc.

I think there can be no argument about these links being built for anything other than negative SEO; who else would build links to a site with such anchor texts?

And to reiterate, these sites had a link penalty in GWTs and their rankings/traffic had been massively affected.


I don't know enough about SEO to answer the first part, but if I understand the question correctly, then it is definitely possible to be penalized by search engines using certain SEO practices. What happened to Rap Genius at the end of last year is a good example.

  • 1
    Your answer isn't related to negative SEO at all. Downvoted.
    – zigojacko
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:55
  • The question asks about penalized sites, which I interpreted as this. They were penalized for using blackhat SEO tactics.
    – KingCrab
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 14:05
  • 1
    They are asking if negative SEO is possible. A targeted attack at a website (such as a competitor's) to bring it down via manipulative and spammy SEO. This is not what your answer provides.
    – zigojacko
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 14:22
  • 2
    I want to encourage you to keep trying to answer questions. @zigojacko the comment was probably enough.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:44

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