This session in Salon H discussed Negative SEO that Google sharply disapproves of and what webmasters can do to protect their sites from such tactics of the competitors. The session was addressed by three speakers.


  • Aaron Kronis


  • Jonathan Goodman – President, Halyard Consulting
  • Joe Laratro – President, Tandem Interactive
  • Dwight Zahringer – CEO, Trademark Productions /

Jonathan Goodman gave an interesting introduction to the session saying that any SEO campaign begins with keywords and it is for the professionals to find the opportunity. He was followed by Joe who talked about negative SEO in detail. Topics he touched included negative SEO tactics, profile games, cloning competitors’ Whois information, biz hacks, reinclusion, hacking, viruses, plug ins, etc.

Negative SEO Tactics

Digging deep into negative SEO tactics of some webmasters, Joe mentioned:

Spam links

  • Link building using banned websites, using gambling, pharmacy, adult, SEO terms and link farms. 

Domain redirects

  • 301 redirect banned/unrelated domains to competitors’ domain
  • 301 redirect pharm/gambling/adult/SEO to competitors’ domain


  • Infect the site with virus and report it as infected

DMCA complaints

  • Reporting to Google and hosting company

Negative SEO Tactics: Fake Reviews

Fake reviews hurt reputation directly, resulting in low stars. People may use variety of sites like

  • Google Local Plus, Yahoo Local, Yelp, City Search
  • Consumer Affairs, Complaints Board, Ripoff Report
  • Industry Affairs

Negative SEO Tactics: Playing Profile Games

There are black hatters engaged in profile games to show off competitors in bad light. Joe informed about the tricks they use:

  • Faking profile on social sites to promote competitors in spammy manner
  • Running blog spammers with competitors’ link
  • Spam people with competitor’s domain name mentioned

Negative SEO Tactics: Cloning Whois Information

Joe threw light how Whois information is cloned to hurt competitors’ business. Their steps will usually be

  • Signing up an account in same IP block as competitors
  • Registering competitors’ domain with dashes or tlds 
  • Cloning competitors’ Whois information, scraping their site and posting it on theirs
  • Filing DMCA notice with Google

Negative SEO Tactics: Domains

As Joe discussed, there are some who are willing to shell out bucks to damage competitors. They would

  • buy links from traceable programs for competitors and then make a spam report to Google. 
  • send ‘We buy/sell links’ to known Google employee accounts. They will then wait for Google connecting the dots and penalizing competitors.

Joe Laratro addressing a Pubcon session

Joe Laratro addressing a Pubcon session

Negative SEO Tactics: Biz Hacks

Joe talked how some enterprises may try to hire/buy away the staff from competitors. They may 

  • post fake jobs to replace staff 
  • send project directors bad press about the personnel or contractors.

Negative SEO Tactics: Creating Technical Issues

Joe had come ready to expose all possible means of negative SEO. One of their tactics is to create technical problems on the competitors’ website by 

  • exposing canonical issues
  • crawling problems 
  • 404 handling

Negative SEO Tactics: Maximizing Problems

Joe discussed how negative SEOs maximize the problems for competitors by 

  • linking to pages that do not exist 
  • cooking up duplicate content issues

This makes the site come across as reliable hurting its rankings.

Negative SEO Tactics: Reinclusion

Another strategy of negative SEO, as Joe told, was to send Reinclusion requests for the sites that haven’t been banned.  Over 1k people are involved in QC with Google and handchecks are a huge part of the QC process. Frivolous complaints only create problems for the site owner and stretch challenges for Google staff. As a Google employee revealed, Google UI is just the tip of the iceberg and there is plenty of information that lies beneath the layer.

Black Hat SEO – Hacking

Hacking is a weapon of black hat SEOs. Joe took the pains to explain what black hatters prey upon:

  • Weak passwords
  • Open WiFi – Firesheep
  • Unpatched software
  • Credit card receipts
  • Desperate employees
  • Stealing domains
  • Blatant link spam
  • Discrete link building

Black Hat SEO – Viruses

Viruses, as Joe explained, are used by black hat SEOs to wreak havoc on websites. These include

  • WordPress hacks
  • SQL injection

Infecting a site with display messages like ‘This site may harm your computer’ is another of their tactics.

Black Hat SEO – Plug Ins

Plug Ins Joe mentioned were

URL Shorteners

  • Site redirections
  • 301 redirects

Free WP Plug In

  • Can vary anchor text outbound links
  • Ziv Dascalu as example

Black Hat SEO – Link Buying

Joe spoke on secretive link building networks like 

  • Text Link Ads
  • Link Worth
  • Intellinks
  • Link Vehicle

Link Buying – What Can A Webmaster Do

Joe advised webmasters to do monthly audits for links rather than waiting for Penguin updates. They need to manually check website for quality factor in the percentage of link portfolio.

Black Hat SEO – Waterfall

Joe talked about researching various search terms on a given topic. He goes on discussing  Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and Fiverr.  MTurk allows businesses to post tasks to use available human intelligence to complete them, while Fiverr is an online marketplace used by freelancers.

Dealing with Negative SEO

At the end of his address, Joe advised enterprises how they can protect their websites from negative SEO tactics.

Essentials on the to-do list include

  • Keeping up-to-date with latest webmaster guidelines
  • Monitoring backlinks with negative SEO
  • Watching own staff for using black hat tactics
  • Protecting passwords
  • Patching software
  • Beware of open WiFi
  • Protection of credit card receipts

Dwight closed the session by providing some interesting input into negative SEO.

The session was immensely valuable for the attendees who were wary of impact of negative SEO on their sites. 


Navneet Kaushal is the Editor-in-Chief of PageTraffic Buzz. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet is also the CEO of SEO Services company PageTraffic which is one of the leading search marketing company in Asia.