Most of the time, we’re in the business of staying far, far away from the dark underbelly of advertising and marketing. But it’s Halloween, so why not shake things up a bit? From now until the end of the month, we’ll be posting the most evil, devious, and treacherous ways to decimate your competition. Stay tuned, because this is going to be almost as fun as taking candy from a baby.

Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird sound nice and cuddly, but you may come to agree that they can also be terrifying. When these Google algorithm updates first rolled out, the fact that sites could be penalized for their link network blindsided many SEO professionals and their clients.

Immediately, SEO teams began scrambling to remove any traces that they had to spammy “link networks” or blacklisted sites. It took days, weeks, and sometimes months to track down these sites into the far-reaches of the Web. Then, one had to negotiate with the site owners to get the links removed. In many cases, the black-hat link network owners wanted to charge money for “link removal services” from their own websites!

Here’s the thing — anybody can submit links to to a site, but not everyone monitors their backlink profile. Google performs a major reindexing of the entire contents of their search engine every few weeks, where it reassigns a site’s value based on their backlink network. That means that an unscrupulous company who really wanted to burn another company’s SEO into the ground would have a couple of weeks to create bad link networks. When the next reindexing rolls through, the competitor simply disappears into page 48 of the search engine. This activity is what we call Negative SEO — and while sabotage through the use of negative SEO is not popular, it happens.

The Definitive Guide to SEO Sabotage

Identifying Your Target

Now, if you wanted to be really awful at being evil, you’d just sabotage the guy who took your girlfriend home after prom. Identifying your target is about finding a place where you stand to MAKE MONEY. It’s time to dive into your keyword analytics.

What we’re looking for is a keyword or a group of keywords where you’re ranked 2nd or 3rd on the Search Engine Results Pages. Since we know that the top search result earns 36% of clicks, and the second search result earns 12.5%, ideally, we’re looking for a keyword where we can move into the top result. Moving from position 2 to position 1 in the search engine results triples the number of clicks your link gets. Moving from position 3 to position 2 is also favorable — for an increase of about 40%.

But picking a target goes deeper than that. We need a target that we can potentially dislodge from the top result. No matter how hard you try, if Wikipedia is taking the top spot for your search term, you’ll spin your wheels trying to shift it around. The same goes for search terms where major publishers have high-ranking articles. Ideally, the top result is owned by a small business, not a publisher, since a small business is less likely to have significant domain authority and far less likely to be actively involved in using Google Webmaster Tools on a regular basis. (To clarify, by “publisher,” I mean anyone who primarily makes money with content. Whether they’re a blog running AdSense or an affiliate marketer, if content is the only thing they sell, they’re not the best target.)

Outsourcing your spam team

Sure, you could take to the Internet and start doing the work yourself, but I’m going to recommend outsourcing this part of the project for three reasons.

  1. Plausible deniability. This is wholly unethical, and it could backfire, particularly if Google ever got wind that you were doing this to manipulate search engine rankings.
  2. There are gigantic teams of outsourced people who do this sort of thing for a living. Yeah —  many SEOs still sell backlink spamming as a service, even though it hurts their clients. The teams that do this kind of spam are visible all over the Web — you’ve seen them on your Facebook feeds, in the comment section of your favorite website, and in your email inbox. This means you’ll pay pennies an hour.
  3. Most importantly,  you’ll get a better (more negative) result from an outsourced team. Google’s not stupid — they know that the only reason a spike of links from strange IPs are pointing to a website in great numbers is because of paid spam. Outsourcing your spam team means you’ll get a great crosssection of IPs from India, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, and everywhere else across Southeast Asia all appearing to take a very keen interest in a San Francisco dry cleaner’s prom dress cleaning services. And they will happily make your competitor suffer for it.

Not sure where to go to outsource your spam team? I suggest starting on oDesk.com or Fiverr.com.

Selecting a backlink strategy (or three)

At this point, there are so many ways to start delivering low quality search engine results to your competitor. We’ll cover just a few here, but get creative! The key thing is to publish an excessive number of links on low domain authority sites in a non-prime position on the page.

  1. Comment spam. Start hitting the comments of any open WordPress blog on the Internet. Your outsourced comment spam team can help you understand the common spamming methodologies. Pick the cheapest team that promises the most listings, and you can’t go wrong.
  2. Misleading anchor text & links. Ensure that your anchor text is absolutely ridiculous. Start your anchor text with “best” or “free” or any number of other spam-worthy words. Don’t forget to use spam in your links too. If you wanted your competitor, example.com, to get hit with a negative spam penalty, you should include a querystring along with your link. A link like http://example.com/?free-prom-dress-cleaning still points to example.com!
  3. Excessive keyword stuffing. When you do start publishing your low-quality content, don’t hesitate to put the exact keyword phrase you’re trying to penalize into the article twenty or thirty times. Put it in the title, put it in the first line, put it at the first of every paragraph, put it in your fake author bio (heck, use it as your name), and then use it non-sensically 20 more times. Now THAT’S excessive.
  4. Spun articles & article farms. Article spinning is a way of generating “unique” articles from one core article. You can write an article for your competition and then spin it a thousand times to get thousands of versions that still pass copyscape. Stuff these articles with your keyword text, then stick them on article farms like EzineArticles and Squidoo (there are dozens of article farms — pick at least five to publish to).
  5. Don’t forget social signals! Yep, these days Google monitors Facebook, Twitter, and G+ to see what’s getting linked and shared. Be sure to spam plenty of Facebook Groups that aren’t deleting posts. The poor social signals (few likes and comments) will be sure to hurt.
  6. Blacklisted networks and link farms. Find link farms that spam links to sites in your competitor’s niche. Submit the website as a link to be spammed. Enjoy it finding its way across the spammer’s personal blog network, being scraped by the spammer’s competitors, and then spread virally across their network. One link submission to the right link farm could result in thousands of low quality links making their way across the Internet.

Now sit back and watch the mayhem unfold.