How Negative SEO Works

The practice of SEO, or search engine optimization, is known by most internet-based companies. Especially in today’s Internet, in which access is overseen almost completely by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Bing, being able to optimize your page to achieve a high ranking is synonymous with success. The techniques associated with optimization, such as sharing links, meta tag use, judicious use of keyword content, and a decent site map for search engines to crawl, are essential for any budding Internet entrepreneur who wants to make money at it. Of course, these techniques are also important for well-established companies who simply want to strengthen their web presence in a competitive market.

Why Use Negative SEO?

Any successful business is likely to become the target of negative reviews, attacks, or even outright smears, from disgruntled customers, competition, or personal enemies. If a negative review is combined with effective SEO, it can effectively make the front page of Google or another search engine (SE) when potential customers do a search for your company. Having such a highly-ranked negative review out there is, obviously, bad for your brand image. That’s where Negative SEO techniques come from. The word “negative” has less to do with any notion of “aggressive” or “combative” and more to do with reducing a page’s search engine rankings. Instead of search engine optimization, Negative SEO is more like search engine diminishment.

Other Forms of Negative SEO

Just to be clear, these techniques aren’t the only ways negative SEO can be done, nor is it always done to effect a competitor. Some SEO firms have started promoting a “new” form of negative SEO, euphemistically termed “reputation management.” This gist of this approach is to work at burying negative comments and websites (such as poor BBB records, or angry consumer blog posts) by simultaneously working to diminish the ranking of these “negative” sites while also trying to push more “friendly” sites above them in the rankings. These are just a few of the methods used, some of the other ways this can be accomplished is any combination of the following:

1) Tattletale – It is prohibited to purchase links from other reputable sites, to hide links on their own site, or any one of a hundred other things. By telling a search engine that your competitor did something prohibited, they can be penalized.

2) Insulation – By creating a bunch of positive articles for your website or product and then running positive SEO techniques on each one, they can push the negative review down in the rankings.

3) Copyright Takedown Notice – If you notify a SE that an offending site is in breach of copyright, the search engine is required to remove it from its rankings for ten days, no questions asked. This can be a way to rebuild your online reputation, but be careful. Unlawful copyright takedown notices can be grounds for lawsuit.

4) Copying Content – If your site is already more SE friendly, you can publish a copy of the negative article or site to your website. If two or more pages have the same information, many SEs automatically “favor” the higher-ranked pages (which should usually negatively effect the rankings of the “other” page).

For additional tips, traps, and techniques related to these and other methods of Negative SEO, please visit

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