Google has been on the warpath for spammers for years, but the changes they made to their algorithm caused a lot of anguish amongst bona-fide site owners. It also helped to make the so called Negative SEO business go mainstream.
One of the linchpins of SEO is backlinking, and up until recently it was a given that spammy looking backlinks (and those from so called ‘bad neighbourhoods’) would simply be down-graded in terms of ‘link juice’ or at worst, would just be ignored.
Of course no one except Google know how their algorithm works, but one thing cannot be ignored. If you start penalising sites because of their dodgy backlinks, then you are making the terrible assumption that ‘bad people’ wont start targeting GOOD sites and start to ‘take down’ their competition.
Negative SEO Industry
Well, that appears to be exactly what happened. As a result, an industry that was always very much on the fringe became big business – yes: the Negative SEO Industry.
Imagine what you could do to a competitor if Google decided that some of the links to that site were considered spammy and actually reduced or penalised the value of that site? How much would it cost to outsource some cheap black-hat SEO company to totally trash your competitors? You can buy thousands of instant links from many sources online right now (just search for ‘cheap backlinks’).
The feedback was getting louder on this one. Take a look at SEOBook‘s excellent post to see some real examples of this.
They will open your eyes to something you have no control over. It is of course not proven (and can never be so long as search algorithms are kept secret) but the evidence is pretty convincing.