Long-time read­er SuzyQT writes in:

Hey guys!

What hap­pens if one of my com­peti­tors starts creating/buying spam­my links that point to our do­main? Don’t the re­cent Pan­da and Pen­guin up­dates pe­nal­ize my site in the Google rank­ings if they de­tect “un­nat­ur­al” links?

Re­gards,

SuzyQT

Great ques­tion, Suzy!

Google’s stance (many moons ago) was the fol­low­ing:

There’s al­most noth­ing a com­peti­tor can do to harm your rank­ing or have your site re­moved from our in­dex. If you’re con­cerned about an­oth­er site link­ing to yours, we sug­gest con­tact­ing the web­mas­ter of the site in ques­tion. Google ag­gre­gates and or­ga­nizes in­for­ma­tion pub­lished on the web; we don’t con­trol the con­tent of these pages.

Hat tip

How­ev­er, Google has re­cent­ly put out a video done by our good bud­dy Matt Cutts, along with the fol­low­ing change in their orig­i­nal state­ment:

Google works hard to pre­vent oth­er web­mas­ters from be­ing able to harm your rank­ing or have your site re­moved from our in­dex. If you’re con­cerned about an­oth­er site link­ing to yours, we sug­gest con­tact­ing the web­mas­ter of the site in ques­tion. Google ag­gre­gates and or­ga­nizes in­for­ma­tion pub­lished on the web; we don’t con­trol the con­tent of these pages.

This leads us to be­lieve that yes, com­peti­tors buy­ing and cre­at­ing un­nat­ur­al spam­my links can now hurt your site. Your on­ly de­fense agains this seems to tat­tling to Google and writ­ing a “spam re­port”. But, most peo­ple cre­ate spam­my links through 3rd par­ty ser­vices, out­sourc­ing in In­dia, and oth­er un­trace­able meth­ods. This means that it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for it to be traced back di­rect­ly to your com­peti­tor, which means no pun­ish­ment.

Bum­mer, eh?