Google's Matt Cutts: Negative SEO Extremely Rare

Jun 4, 2013 • 9:32 am | comments (35) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

danger signYesterday, Search Engine Watch published a story that was a bit outdated. What they eventually did was redirect the story to an older story which said the same thing.

In short, Google updated the time stamp on their Can competitors harm ranking? help document. It was assumed by the author of the story that the content changed as well, but it did not. The content did change over a year ago and we reported that but the truth is, on the negative SEO claims by Google, Google's Matt Cutts always said it was possible.

I mean, back in 2007 we reported Matt Cutts as saying that it is possible, but very hard. Now it is easier but still very rare, according to Matt Cutts.

In the Hacker News thread, where this SEW story was brought up, Cutts went in to the thread to defend Google again.

He wrote:

One of the big reasons we say softer things (rather than "it's impossible") regarding the idea of negative SEO is that we have seen people to pretty crazy things to steal/hijack domain names in the past, like the bizarre history of

People talk about negative SEO far more than people actually attempt it, because you're never quite sure what effect (say) pointing some links to a site might have--it might help the site instead of hurting it--plus it's typically a better use of your time to develop your own site.

Matt then says later on that virtually all the cases of negative SEO he has personally looked into, the vast majority "didn't hold up." Matt wrote:

Like many of the reports of "successful negative SEO" that we've investigated, the claims didn't hold up. In this case, we had already caught the site in question for spammy links going back years and years--long before the negative SEO campaign started.

A poll we ran in 2010 had most SEOs believing negative SEO existed.

Should we worry and take Matt's advice on this and not worry too much?

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

Previous story: Black Hat SEOs: Focus On Your Site, Not Competitors


Christopher Meinck

06/04/2013 01:40 pm

Having seen a slight, yet noticeable decrease due to Penguin 2.0, I've been working on an extensive audit of my backlinks. One particular spammer had created a ton of links to a forum post on my site, which has since been found and deleted. There were enough backlinks to be flagged by Magestic as one of the top anchors to my site.This isn't negative SEO in the true sense of the word, but I believe that sites can be impacted by unscrupulous sites who are using this shady link strategy. I'm amazed at the crap I'm finding. Amazed. Up until last week, I thought Google would be able to weed out the good from the bad. I'm not so certain and look forward to when I can file my disavow file. As a result of this audit, my content has suffered, as I'm busy cleaning up a mess created by others.

Carlos Fernandes

06/04/2013 01:45 pm

Will firing an employee result in an arson attack of your building? People talk about burning you down a lot more than actually attempt it. Great! Matt saying: "People talk about negative SEO far more than people actually attempt it" is useless to me. It can happen. We know that - he knows that. Rare. Yes. But the fact it can should be still a concern to them today just like 2007. It would take a spiteful person with time on their hands to do it - but the barrier to doing it surely is lower than such a crime as I have compared it to too. Problem is it seems to me that the damage caused by it is not just a black and white cut off.... and some of the folks I have seen it done to don't know how to fix it. I've seen two cases where there was no doubt it had been done.


06/04/2013 04:36 pm

Matt Cutts would say that, wouldn't he? The truth is - an algo doesn't know who built the links. Negative SEO is as easy as regular SEO - blast cheap links to a relatively weak, new domain and watch it die. Nothing difficult about it.

Graham Ginsberg

06/04/2013 05:56 pm

This is not rare at all. A competitor once called me asking why I placed links on his paid profile. I didn't. Someone hacked the account and placed the links. Matt is still saying he can polish his turd. Nothing new here. IMO, if a site was penalized by Penguin 1 or 2, by adding links THEN will shove them farther down. If you hadn't been hit by Penguin 1 or 2, adding the links will probably help the competition.


06/04/2013 08:03 pm

yea, forwarning anyone hit by either Penguin - just get out now, there is no recovery - it's BS. Wasted over a year, out of work and paying SEO to help recover...... moved up some pages after Peguin 2.0, but still too deep for organic traffic. Time to move on, don't waste your time folks - Google has gone completely mad and big brands are paying them under the table, no doubt....


06/04/2013 08:53 pm

it lie. At my 3 new sites, no any links was built. But I already see 10-20 backlinks per site from some strange web20 articles with random anchor texts like 'this is not found', 'use green tea' and similar (it absolutely unrelated to my site topics).

Graham Ginsberg

06/04/2013 10:26 pm

Just checked a site that was hit hard by P2 and as I suspected, there has been some recovery in the last 2 days. Out of 100 keywords checked, originally they had about 88 on pg1 of G. After Penguin 2 they dropped to about 63 with none in position1. Now, they have about 69 on PG1. Summary - Penguin 1 was search and destroy. Penguin 2, threaten and retreat half way. (see graphs below) Just my opinion

Graham Ginsberg

06/04/2013 10:37 pm

keyword examples on PG1 of Google showing recovery from Penguin 2 for just a few keywords. OK, in trying to figure how this occurred, I had a list of the homepage directory backlinks for this site. And it was in the hundreds. Since after P2, it appears those homepage backlinks (check wayback to see how it was) have been removed, in the ones I checked, but not so typical homepage link sellers are still active. What this means is Google has allowed a site to recover from a P2 penalty, which is good news (if following the rules), but there is still no recovery from P1. Also, only obvious directory link selling sites were targeted in P2.


06/04/2013 11:02 pm

Barry you are just posting these because you know it is going to annoy a lot of people :)


06/04/2013 11:03 pm

The important bit in this piece Barry is "Cutts went in to the thread to defend Google again."

Barry Schwartz

06/04/2013 11:08 pm



06/04/2013 11:28 pm

Not under the table but in plain sight. Google's lobby group did rather well after penguin 2.0. Check the membership at the Internet Association website and compare it to the Moz penguin 2.0 winners list. No surprise that Google's buddies did awesome while other did not. And some Internet Association group members also got a good boost from domain crowding. Negative seo is not only possible, but very easy and does not need links to accomplish. Look at WMW and the other forums where people are complaining of losing their ranks. The problem in many cases is copied content. Content theft is on the rise and Google is rewarding these thieves with great ranks while demoting the original authors work. This is the kind of problem that results from a company that is focused on penalizing for links instead of rewarding content.


06/04/2013 11:30 pm

My gosh, that is NSF! Barry, please delete the link!


06/04/2013 11:49 pm

you should run a story on this vid here on SER. your page views will go through the roof!

Barry Schwartz

06/05/2013 12:01 am

I did at Search Engine Land.

Graham Ginsberg

06/05/2013 12:24 am

I told Cutts in that vid that his results suck, he's lying (short term benefit) and sold his soul (long term loss)


06/05/2013 12:59 am

I am starting to wonder whether Adsense, Webmaster tools, Analytics etc. are playing a role in all this. Because as others have said, how would Google be able to figure out which links were built by you without any hard data.


06/05/2013 02:33 am

I know but I am banned from SEL again! Matt or Danny took objection to something I said. Funny thing is it was mild compared to things I have said in the past. Anyway it is not an open forum over there. It is here! That's why you should report it here :)


06/05/2013 04:06 am

"plus it's typically a better use of your time to develop your own site." Haven't you heard of Xrumer?


06/05/2013 06:13 am

Believe or not but Negative SEO Still Works. Those who don't believe in Negative SEO. Must try by publishing articles, posts and do directory submissions with "exact anchor text" links for their own site or for the competitor's site for atleast 6 months. Only you need to take care of publishing links at regular interval so that look natural and doesn't look like aggressive submission to Google Algo. Then you are done. Cheers!!!!


06/05/2013 06:21 am

It is worrying that negative SEO works. I don't care whether it is "rare". The fact that is works is bad enough. Matt does not deny it works in certain situations.

Justin Clark

06/05/2013 07:20 am

All these things are just joking. you will never known about Google policy for how to stable a website in SERP for a long terms. all internet marketers, SEO's are confused thought all study they did are useless as nobody don't know how to recover a website from panda or penguin updates.

the sniga

06/05/2013 07:36 am

Yeah. Cause Matt always make some new updates when we start study on existing version.


06/05/2013 08:06 am

Google is unable to figure out what is the link profile created by a website owner or what some other are doing to demote your site. Negative SEO is easily possible for sites that have very less trust links as they are not very big brands. Few hundred negative links are enough for you to get hit by Penguin.

Link Juice

06/05/2013 11:10 am

It is impossible for Google to anticipate every possible eventuality. They can't predict someone won't find a hole in their algos if they didn't know the hole was there in the first place So of course they have to be vague

Monto Roy

06/05/2013 11:52 am

negative SEO do work... try creating spammy links for few months and see the results after Google algo update/data refresh.

Graham Ginsberg

06/05/2013 12:43 pm

The public have decided - Leave Google Search. Use Bing and use Yahoo. See the results by Compete Ranking. Goiogle is the dropping graph in the middle. The one that is losing hits. But Google Inc. (GOOG) stock value keeps rising. Not smart people in Wall Street. They catch on waaaay too late.


06/05/2013 12:53 pm

You evil genius you....

Michael Martinez

06/05/2013 03:36 pm

People do attempt negative SEO but making the attempt doesn't guarantee success. Once again the SEO community's failure to adopt real standards leads people into confused discussion which is almost absent of testable facts. You cannot disprove opinions any more than you can prove them. This debate will probably never end.


06/06/2013 12:03 pm

There's really no debate when you send out many DMCA notices and your ranks rise as your stolen text and images are removed from many websites. That's proof enough for me that copied content kills ranks. Google has focused so much on quality signals that their algorithm is "content blind" and unable to ascertain even the simplest of questions - who originally authored the work.

Negative SEO Guy

06/23/2013 01:21 am

It works....there is no surprise here and I'm wondering why this is suddenly 'news' again. We get all kinds of clients: companies whose reps have been hurt by competitor's comments on review sites, political families who are being smeared, people who've been scammed out of their money by a dishonest business, people looking for a break after having made a mistake but who have a mugshot online, etc. If G doesn't penalize people for trying to game the system, then all search results would be dominated by the scores of spammers from China. Without negative seo, there is no hope for people who've been dragged through the mud by some unknown adversary...we help them fight back, and we're not apologetic for it either.


06/23/2013 09:35 am

the thing with negative seo is its easy. just copy paste url into software and billions of links time all your competition is gone. :) whilst that's automated you can do un automated things to your own website to make it better.... so saying why waste you time is a null argument


07/01/2013 07:01 pm

This is some really basic logic. var canpenalise = (Pand/Peng rely on links in anyway as a negative signal && there's no actual way to determine who creates inbound links);

Flower Delivery Guy

09/22/2013 08:24 am

so how does google explain this: I think that Google is hopeless at tackling the issue of duplicate listings on their search results, hence the need to try and justify. For example: and guess what top three listing are same, and they do not even offer the service, how ironic is that. So a company that does not offer a Sunday service is ranked 1,2,3 purely because they are trying to damage their competitiors that actually do offer the service. And to make things worse, it’s the company they penalized for buying links only a few months before. WOW!!!! will this get published? highly unlikely will google do something about this? highly unlikely.

Spook SEO

01/29/2014 11:50 pm

Still, some black hat tactics exist under that Penguin and Panda udpates that can't be triggered out even how many Google Updates will be released. What I mean is the Competitor Bombing tactic.

blog comments powered by Disqus