If the goal of SEO is to defeat your client’s competition and dominate the SERPS, is it really more virtuous to use positive measures than it is to use negative ones? Probably, but we’ll leave that question for later.
For now, if you have been in SEO for any amount of time then you have probably experienced the frustration of doing everything right, making sure your client has strong on page and off page signals, a fast website with good hosting, and regularly updated content, but the site just wont rise in the ranks despite all your hard work.
To add insult to injury, some clients are unrealistic and impatient, expecting miracles in three weeks or less…the ‘take-my-penalized-site-and-rank-it-number-one’ types. Fortunately, they are somewhat rare, but if after two – three months your client is still stuck on the second page, what do you do?
In this scenario, the more advanced SEOs out there may consider setting up private blog networks, but because those are extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming to set up for clients, especially for the purposes of reputation management, it is not the sort of thing that one would do for a client who is only willing to pay $1000/mo since it would eat up enormous amounts of time and money in the process. On the other hand, if the SEO does not go the extra mile, it is certain that they will have a difficult time attracting and retaining clients.
You have a limited amount of time and resources at your disposal and a client who is counting on you…no pressure.
A lot of SEOs choke at this stage because they waste time reading blogs in search of ‘secret methods’ only to find themselves going in circles while their client’s site remains stuck in the mud. In scenarios like this, everybody loses.
So back to the original question, if nothing seems to be working, is it wrong to use negative SEO to help your clients rank their websites?
Our feeling is that these kinds of measures are only appropriate is some circumstances. I know that may sound strange coming from us, but we think this strategy should be a last resort. At the same time, some would argue that if the goal of SEO is to ensue your client outranks their comp for a set of keywords, the means to that end are irrelevant.
Allow me to paint a scenario for you:
Say your client sells high-end leather furniture. They specialize in a particular type of lounge chair that is practically a work of art and sells for $2000-$3000 each. Your client doesn’t make the chairs, but is a distributor for the manufacturer.
One day your client sends you a frantic e-mail stating that the manufacturer has just raised their wholesale prices, but insists on maintaining the same MSRP. Translation: your client’s margins just shrunk by 20%. Not only that, your client tells you that a host of others are now aggressively marketing the chairs online and are using shady tactics to climb up the first page.
Your client wants a solution, and they want it fast. So, put yourself in your client’s shoes – what would you do if you only had a month or two before you lost your livelihood?
Some SEOs might take the moral high road and just let the chips fall where they may, as if it is no big deal if the client loses his or her business–despite the fact that the client is facing this predicament because the SEO cannot rank their website!
It is our belief that a SEO has a fiduciary responsibility and should do everything possible to help their clients develop a strong web presence.
The reality is that, as with all forms of competition, ranking websites is a zero-sum game.
We may not like fierce competition, but survival of the fittest is often the name of the game, like it or not. Just look at the competition between the search engines themselves, how aggressive they are in gaining market share, in advertising, in acquiring new businesses, in out-maneuvering the competition, in defending themselves from anti-competitive behavior and in monetizing every aspect of their business model.
So whether attempting negative or positive SEO, do what you will, but don’t kid yourself or your client, because at the end of the day your goal is virtually the same: to dominate the first page of search results.