Welcome to the Negative SEO Wars

You can imagine the buzz word at MozCon this week is negative SEO and the very real impact it is having on SEO.  Despite Rand Fishkin declaring that negative SEO is nearly impossible to do (which isn’t surprising in itself since he tends to tow the Google line) there are plenty of tales of negative SEO shenanigans these days that have everybody talking.  As you can imagine, flowing drinks makes loose lips, and everyone knows the real goldmine at any industry conference isn’t at the conference itself, but at the open bar after parties and then the hotel bar.

SEOMoz has been hit with the recent unnatural links warning (the one that is more a heads up that requires no action that caused Danny Sullivan to have a snit about), brought on by Rand basically daring SEOs to try and get SEOMoz banned through negative SEO. Ballsy move for someone to wave a red flag in front of a group of spammers.

That said, there are definitely those who suspect SEOMoz decided to take such a public stance because they already had seen evidence of getting hit by negative SEO, and by going the “hey, look at me, Google won’t dare do anything against me because I am the new anti-negative SEO poster boy!” they could hope to prevent it from happening with manual intervention by the spam team.  And since there is no Google link disavow tool, why would Google even want such a public example of negative SEO working out in the wild for spammers to go around saying “Hey, I banned Rand with negative SEO!”

While negative SEO used to be a dirty little secret, a lot more people are being pretty open about it these days.  Some are definitely doing it for bragging rights to show how kickass they are that they can do something that Google says they shouldn’t be able to do.  Some are trying to take down SEOMoz because, well, some people would love the opportunity to take him down a notch (although there are just as many who would try to kick your ass for messing with Rand.)

The other group of people engaging in negative SEO are doing it in order to rank better.  Simply hit all the competitors with negative SEO and they think presto-chango, they will suddenly rank #1.  Of course, it doesn’t stop any – or all – of those competitors hitting it.  And put some drinks in SEOs who like to brag and talk, and the stories come out – even though I really think that those who engage in negative SEO should be publicly outted in the SEO community.

When people are openly bragging about who they are targeting with negative SEO, you have to consider that there are SEOs who consider all SEOs fair game in their negative SEO wars.  This means you could be next, or someone is already in the middle of trying to take you down.