The need for companies to rank highly for their desired keywords on search engines like Google and Bing has been heightened in recent years. But just how far would you go to oust a competitor from the first page?

One of the most drastic actions in this case would be to stray into the dark world of ‘negative SEO’ by enlisting the help of a search whiz to push a rival domain down the pecking order. So called ‘dark’ practices of search demotion include attaching spammy links to a website in order to hamper its reputation. 

Reboot Online Marketing, a web marketing agency in Hertfordshire, decided to offer a fake version of this service out to would-be clients and found that 79% would be prepared to launch a ‘negative SEO’ campaign on their closest search rivals.

While this stresses the rude health and general importance of search marketing, the huge take-up for negative SEO practices highlights a huge issue currently affecting digital agencies and their clients.


To assess the demand for search marketing sabotages, Reboot sent an email out to 84 small businesses in London and the South East, asking whether they would be interested in a cut-price service for boosting their SEO at the expense of other websites.

Business owners were offered the service at £250 for the first affected domain and £150 per site thereafter.  A screenshot of the rather spammy-looking email can be found here

Saplings beware

Reboot was taken aback by an unusually high level of response from an unsolicited email. A total of 61 responses came back from the 84 emails distributed, which saw 78.6% declare an interest in sabotaging their competitors’ rankings.

This stat was a combination of the 47.5% that accepted Reboot’s offer and the 31.1% that accepted pending more information.

Shai Aharony, director of Reboot, said the inspiration for the study came from his own experience of repairing sites which had come under SEO attacks. He went on to provide details of the types of sites which are likely to be targeted. 

“Negative SEO exists and it’s a growing problem. Especially on weaker, newer or less established sites where the authority of the site has not been established yet,” he commented. 

“The same authority that would make the typical negative SEO attack on big-brand sites meaningless. It’s a little like trying to chop a tree down with a pair of scissors. If however your website is more akin to a young sapling, a simple pair of scissors are a much scarier prospect.”

Aharony added that search engines like Google are not seeing negative SEO as a clear issue, meaning the vast majority of cases result in no punishment for the culprit.

Has your site been affected by an SEO attack? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.