What is Negative SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | February 05, 2016

SEO is what online marketers use to stay visible, stay relevant and make money from their goods and services. Marketers may optimize content for search engines or optimize it to look its best on a certain website or social network. Sites and social media accounts may be optimized to be found quickly and easily by web searchers. However, in some cases, a marketer may be using SEO to bring down a competitor instead of building up their own brand.

Negative SEO Is Exactly What it Sounds Like

Generally, SEO involves an action taken to increase visibility for a person, a brand or something that is offered by a brand. With negative SEO, the goal is to highlight something negative about the competition. For instance, you may make a complaint online and optimize it for keywords a consumer may use when searching for a good or service offered by the competition. The goal of such an action is to ensure that the compliant is the first thing that a consumer sees when researching the company or something it offers.

Is Negative SEO Ethical?

For the most part, an intentional negative SEO campaign is considered to be black hat. In other words, it is unethical or possibly illegal to conduct in such activity. As a practical matter, there is little that can be done to combat certain tactics such as leaving a complaint or writing something negative about the owner of a company. This is because it is hard to prove whether or not a complaint is legitimate or not or whether anything negative written about a company or its owner is tantamount to libel or slander.

How Can You Combat Negative SEO?

There are two ways that you can combat negative SEO. First, you can ask that offending content be taken down if you know who wrote it or that it violates any type of copyright laws. The other option is to create more content that will push the negative content further down the search results. For instance, you could write a reply to a negative comment or write a new blog post that appears when someone types in the keywords that you are targeting.

Drawbacks of Negative SEO

There are many drawbacks to the use of negative SEO to bring down your competition. The biggest drawback is that you are spending time and money on something other than building your own brand. Instead of attacking your competition, you should be making the case as to why your product or service is better than the rest.

Another drawback is that you could be found out as the source of negative content. If this happens, your reputation will be permanently sullied even if there was nothing illegal about what you did.

Finally, you can never assume that negative SEO tactics will achieve your desired results. You may find that the public doesn’t believe what it has read or doesn’t care about the allegations that you have levied against a competitor. This could result in a lot of time and effort spent without seeing any return on that investment.

Negative SEO is something that you may have to deal with as an online marketer. While you could choose to fight back, the best thing to do is to keep communicating to your customers and controlling your message as best as possible. Over time, your customers will see what your brand really stands for and will not be as swayed by blatant attacks against you.