I recently received an advertisement for a company claiming to be able to remove a competitor from the Google rankings per my request and a nominal fee of about $5000. If you’re in a highly competitive realm, 5K may seem a very fair sum to remove competition from that Google SERP. I began to wonder if this indeed was possible to do, as I have in years past, but never spent much brain power on it until now.
If a black hat company could run a mass push to place links in very bad neighborhoods (porn sites, gambling sites, link farms, etc.) and do it so that it appears that the company is trying to buy links or acquire better rankings through techniques that Google greatly frowns upon, it could very well do what they say. Google could see those efforts and recognize them as tactics that don’t comply with the Google rules and regulations and hit the site with penalties or worse, de-indexing.
Google great Matt Cutts released a video (shown below) to discuss this practice referred to as “Negative SEO” and he mentions that it’s “very unlikely” and then uses statements such as, “We TRY really hard to create an algorithm that is resistant to those types of thing.” Most of what indicates to anyone reading between the lines, that they know the practice of negative SEO exists and have algorithms in place to recognize it, but that it doesn’t catch it all.
So much so, that they’ve implemented a Disavow Tool which allows you to create a text file listing websites that you wish to, well, disavow. That way, Google can ignore those websites that you’ve listed and not consider them when deciding where you’re going to rank.
The problem with the disavow link is that you have to already be aware of where those bad links are, decide whether they are actually bad links (as best you can guess in Google‘s mind), and to have either already been a victim of a rankings hit or guess that the presence of your link on that website will have a negative impact on your rankings.
While Google may well be able to identify a huge percentage of the companies that are trying these negative SEO tactics, the very existence of the disavow tool only acknowledges and gives credence to those companies claim that it can be done. And with fees upwards of $5000, this also gives those companies some monetary “wiggle room” to buy links on those evil sites which adds even more validity to their claims.
While 90% of the black hats that claim it can be done, couldn’t pull it off if their life depended on it due to Google’s efforts, there still remains a 10% chunk that just may be able to do what they say. As Matt Cutts noted in his video below, if you’re a company trying to oust a competitor from the front pages of Google, your time would be better suited putting efforts into your own site to make it better. But it’s still disturbing to know that it can be done.