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?

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