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Negative SEO and Google Bowling

Forbes is running an article about something called Google Bowling, but they are calling it “negative SEO”. I’m not sure which I dislike more: SEO practitioners proudly (stupidly?) proclaiming their expertise at such things, or the press pandering to the public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for garbage, even in the SEO space.

Anyway Google Bowling is the “art” of linking to a competitor so much, so fast, it makes the competitor look like a spammer. If Google notices the sudden growth of spammy in-links, it might lose trust in the site and lower its relevance (thus lowering its rank in the search results). To the extent that Google has built this into it’s automated ranking algorithm, it may be be exploited. If you know how to trigger such a penalty, you can set up a process to Google Bowl a competitor out of the ranks.
I would like to point out that this sensationalistic garbage is far more theoretical than actual, and far less practical than effective. Which makes me wonder about the so-called SEO people claiming to offer Google Bowling as a service. It simply costs too much to be worthwhile, except in cases where there is truly an algo exploit. But such algo exploits don’t last long either these days, especially in high profile or highly profitable industries. Google can adjust. And that’s why this negative SEO stuff sounds so fishy. It sounds like yet another scammy grab at fast money. I bet it’s hugely expensive.

When people believed there was a so-called “sandbox” preventing new sites from entering the Google index, an SEO I knew publicly said he had a solution and offered to pull a site out of the sandbox for $50,000. Did he have a solution? Not exactly. But $50k is a lot of money and with that, he could get enough good links and promotional attention to get any site to start ranking (with a nice profit left over). Fast money.

Negative SEO? More fast money. Those who really want it will pay. Would it work? Would the impact last? I suppose that depends on the contract terms, doesn’t it.
Negative SEO like that is bad news all around, but the concept of impacting the search results page in order to improve your own pages’ placement is classic good SEO. If you rank #1, why not also control the pages in slots 2 and 3? If your competitor is at #9, why not move him off to page two by ranking an embedded video or second site? Thats just good SEO and good business.

But this Google Bowling stuff is like hiring unsavory local hoods to stand outside you competitor’s store entrance to deter customers. It’s ugly. And it’s arguably illegal since it interferes. But perhaps most telling, it’s scummy. i didn’t say “scammy”, but scummy, as in exhibiting traits of lower forms of life.

For an SEO to proudly offer Negative SEO or Google Bowling as a service is a character flaw, for all to see. A desperate act. And the buyer… I can see how ignorance plays a role, as does desperation. But the market can handle cheaters and desperate players like that. Huh. Funny that. I think the market is already handling them… by enabling the so-called SEOs to hawk Negative SEO as a service. Fast money. A fool and his money are soon parted?


  1. IncrediBILL wrote:

    Another term for Google bowling is called “DIGG”.

    If you have a site that gets on the DIGG home page you’ll most likely end up with a bunch of links from blogs all over the place. One of my sites had this happen and a few weeks later seemed to be in a time-out penalty box for a couple of months because of DIGG and it just came out yesterday.

    Traffic and popularity cut both ways in Google as you can’t live without it and thanks to random penalties you can’t live with it either.

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Joe Kennedy wrote:

    Matt Cutts over at Google says it is difficult to ‘Google Bowl’ – I beg to differ. I feel It is very easy to Google bowl especially with targeting keywords.

    There has to be and easier way to verify links. I haven’t come up with any yet. Maybe a link verification email sent when links are posted. If links are verified their can be legal action taken. These links can be found doing a or through yahoo site explorer

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Hi

    That’s a two edge strategie. it could also strenghten the competitor …

    Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  4. Chris wrote:

    yes.. google bowling is just a big myth. keep living in your dream world lol. if you have an established domain it might not work but if you have a new domain and someone hits it with 100000 buy viagra, tranny porn links in 1 day I think google might look down on that jus a little. what u think?

    Friday, February 18, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink