A relatively new client asked me recently “If we wanted to, what could we do in order to negatively affect our competitor’s natural listings?”

I am sure many people have been asked this before and it is not the first time I have been asked this question myself. Our new client has been with us for only three months and came to us as they had received a Webmaster Tools notification telling them “Google has applied a manual spam action”. Reading the notification is like a vampire being forced to look at a crucifix.

As with anyone that receives such notification they were upset, angry, worried and of course looking for help to overcome this issue. In steps Banc.

Long story short, we received notification 2 weeks ago that the manual spam action had been revoked. Jubilations and celebrations for our client and a pat on the back for Team Banc as we brought them out of the other side of Google’s spam tunnel into the wide open light yet again.

The job is not over yet. Our client’s rankings had dropped and their monthly traffic volumes have followed suit. There’s a lot of work to do in order to get these back to where they were pre spam action and even higher. This of course needs to be done in the right way. It takes resource, time, intelligence, skill and many other attributes to run a successful SEO campaign and remain inside Google’s guidelines.

Back to the client question – “If we wanted to, what could we do in order to negatively affect our competitor’s natural listings?”

Our client was curious so of course we wanted to educate them so looked at the three main ways that people would sabotage other’s SEO campaigns. These were as follows:

Reporting on competitor’s bad backlinks

This would involve sourcing a competitor’s backlinks and then submitting a report to Google. The report is submitted via a Webmaster tools account. This could be done from a company or a personal Webmaster tools account.

This is something Google asks for. Google want people to stick to their guidelines so appreciate the “heads up” so to speak.

Adding bad backlinks to a competitor (then perhaps reporting them)

There are services available which add thousands of links pointing to a client’s site. These could, for example, be anchor text optimised, thereby over optimising the competitor’s backlink profile, and adding lots of low quality, potentially harmful links from very poor, non relevant sites.

This is not very expensive and there are sites and companies set up to do exactly this. I stumbled across one offering 2,000,000 links for $450. That’s right, for $450 they will point two million links at your competitor, vastly increasing their chances of getting penalised by Google. Not nice is it.

Link removals

When we started working with this client there was a massive job of manually removing as many unnatural links as possible. We did this using many different tactics. Some were easy to remove and some weren’t. Could you do this for competitors without their permission?

Before I write any more I must make sure nobody takes this article out of context. This information above was discussed with our client to educate them on some of the underhand tactics that some people out there incorporate into their own SEO strategy. On a personal note for myself and on behalf of all of Banc we would never consider any of these tactics. There is nothing unethical and nothing stopping us from reporting companies who we believe are going against Google’s guidelines, but we just do not do that.

The second and third tactics are unprofessional and unethical and Banc does not condone this activity.

Running successful SEO campaigns is not easy. There are no real shortcuts and although there are always quick wins, optimising a website takes time. The rewards for running campaigns in the correct way are extremely profitable. These profits are the reward for skill and hard work and they shouldn’t be the reward gained from ruining somebody else’s efforts.

We are certainly not in the business of using underhand tactics to ruin anybody else’s hard work. We believe nobody should be and the sites making money out helping to make it easy should be penalised by Google themselves.

Hope you like the image at the top of the page. Thought it was very in keeping with Movember given that the Banc Bro’s are all sporting them at the moment.

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Charlie Whitworth