How Negative SEO is Impacting Small Businesses [e181]

April 24, 2015

The guys end the week by explaining what negative SEO is and what legal remedies are available to victims of it.

Full Podcast Transcript

NASIR: All right. This is… what are we doing today? Yes, a business law podcast where we cover business in the news and add our legal twist. My name today is Nasir Pasha.

MATT: And, as always, I’m Matt Staub.

NASIR: As always… Well, I change my name once in a while.

MATT: Pasir Nasha.

NASIR: That was horrible. Horrible joke. Let me just write that down.

MATT: It wasn’t a joke.

NASIR: I keep track of all your bad jokes, by the way. We’ve had 181 episodes or so and we’re at 296 bad jokes.

MATT: Hey, that’s not bad, that’s like 1 ½ per episode. That’s pretty good – good average.

NASIR: Yeah, good average.

MATT: Speaking of numbers, we have SEO talk today – or negative SEO talk.

NASIR: Well, why is that speaking of numbers?

MATT: I don’t know. SEO, numbers

NASIR: 297.

MATT: I should have said “speaking of analytics.”

NASIR: You should have said, “Speaking of negative SEO, uh, negative SEO.”

MATT: Good lead-in.

NASIR: I think it’s funny that us lawyers are covering this issue because I think it’s such a subtle issue that most people aren’t even aware of. First of all, let’s break down what negative SEO is. In order to understand what negative SEO is, you have to know what SEO is.
SEO is search engine optimization and, by the way, if I’m wrong and you SEO experts want to correct me, send me the email later, okay? I’m sure I’m not perfect on this. Anyway, SEO is search engine optimization. That’s just basically the process of trying to optimize your website and its affiliated backlinks, et cetera, in order to prop up the ranking of the search engine results for a particular keyword. And so, just as an example, if you’re a plumber and you have your business in San Diego, when you search “San Diego plumbing,” you’re going to want your business to come up as high as possible. Obviously, it gets a little more complicated than that because that’s a very competitive keyword. But, when it gets to other stuff, then you’re actually able to get number one spots sometimes. And so, negative SEO is, of course, the complete opposite. It’s what you do to your competitors that if you have ABC Plumbing San Diego that happens to be on the number one spot on Google when you search “San Diego plumbing,” how can you as a competitor get them to rank lower with efforts that you’re doing? It’s a little controversial, I would say.

MATT: Yeah, I mean, a little bit. This is the whole thing, and you wrote a great post on drawing the line between what’s legal and what’s ethical. I mean, I think it’s pretty clear on the ethics side of it. I don’t think any of this is ethical but, I mean, it’s also a business tactic.

NASIR: We tend to get SEO consulting calls and we have clients in the industry, we hire people in the industry. So, every time I run across anybody that seems to know about this stuff, I ask them about this and they all seem to agree that negative SEO does exist because, first, there was a myth of whether it exists or not. Two, it’s not something good to do. But yet, there’s always a smile on their face as if, like, if the right circumstances where there, they would definitely do it because it’s fair competition, you know?

MATT: I don’t think it’s ethical but we can go on to the legal side of it. There seems like there’s a couple of issues. One being – correct me if I’m wrong – it’s pretty difficult to figure out who’s actually doing these negative SEO tactics to a business, right?

NASIR: There’s different strategies for negative SEO. Let’s talk about the most common way or common thought of what that is.
Google and its algorithm to decide how the rankings go decided about two or three years ago that all these other companies that were basically using these – what are called – crawlers or spiders to – I don’t know if that’s the right word, actually – all these scripts to create all these backlinks to their sites were kind of manipulating the process. So, what Google said is like, “Okay, if you’re doing that, then we’re going to penalize you because you’re using these so-called black hat tactics.” Then, the response was, ‘Okay, if you’re going to penalize, that means I can do the same thing for a competitor as if they’re doing it and they’re going to have no idea who it’s coming from. Therefore, they’re going to be penalized and that’s going to help me.” And so, it was still unsure how that was going to work and it seems like it was working – or at least people were attempting to do it- and people do report that it did work. I don’t know if it’s for certain or not.
But then, Google responded saying, “Okay, we’re going to give you this Google disavow tool which basically, as a website owner, you can go on there and say, “Okay, these backlinks are not mine so don’t count that.” Some SEO guys say that’s pretty much useless; others say that you have to do it. they find themselves updating it every week, every day, because of the number of backlinks that they’re sites are being attacked.
But what’s funny about all this is that, if you’re just a business owner, how are you supposed to even know that this is going on unless you’re an SEO expert?

MATT: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I definitely wouldn’t know.
Another thing, you know, if you wanted to sue somebody for this, what are you going to go after them for? I guess some sort of unfair competition under the business and professions code or maybe intentional interference with economic advantage? I mean, that’s kind of limited.

NASIR: Yeah, I mean, I’ve personally been thinking about this for a while. But both the unfair competition in California’s business and professions code or you alluded to the intentional interference of economic advantage and so forth, and I don’t know if we want to go into the details of how that’s structured. You can look at my article, we talk about it. But one of the fundamental problems with that and where it becomes difficult is that you have to somehow show that the underlying act is either unlawful – not quite in business professions code unlawful – but, when it comes to economic advantage, the act has to be wrongful, and how that’s defined by industry standards or business standards is a little murky and a little bit harder to prove. It almost seems as though, on one hand, you can find people that actually sell their services. I asked one of our guys that handles SEO and he gave me a couple of links of people that were actually selling themselves as negative SEO experts and so this may be an accepted practice. Maybe not everyone likes it but it might be here to stay so there may be some legal recourse but it’s not that great. It’s not that clean.

MATT: Yeah, it’s pretty tough. I mean, it seems like the way to go, from a business owner perspective, is to just try to not seek the legal side of it more so trying to just use SEO to battle against the negative SEO, if that makes sense.

NASIR: It reminds me of kind of how you deal with Yelp. It’s like, okay, when you get a bad review from a competitor on Yelp and you don’t know who it is, there’s not a lot of legal recourse so what do you do? You kind of have to revert to non-legal methods of boosting your reputation online and getting that Yelp search down or getting other positive ratings on Yelp to counteract that false review. By the way, this is not the only kind of negative SEO. There’s something called non-link-based SEO and this is something I only learned about recently but these are really bad tactics. I mean, this is stuff that may not only be illegal but have very legitimate recourse if you’re able to find out who did it. But those include, for example, actually hacking the websites or posting duplicate content because Google punishes those that just copy content so, what if, every time you published something and your content is copied elsewhere and Google is not able to determine who’s copying who, then your site might get into trouble. But there’s recourse there because there’s copyright infringement, right? But how are you going to keep up with it if it’s happening on a large scale? I mean, you’re going to be sending DMCA notices out everywhere and hoping that they respond.

MATT: I guess we talked about what you can do as a business owner to kind of combat this but do you think this is going to become a more talked about issue or do you think it’s going to become more newsworthy or do you think it’s going to be something that’s going to kind of just fly under the radar and people are just going to find ways to deal with it and move on?

NASIR: It’s a really good question. I think it’s hard to tell at this point but, if history serves as a guideline here, I guess this is my whole criticism of the SEO industry in itself. I mean, since the internet came out, you know, people have been trying to find ways to direct people to their site and search engines have been a great tool for people to find what they’re looking for. Since then, people have been trying to manipulate the process that Google, Yahoo!, and these other search engines use in order to find them sites. But, at the end, the incentive for Google is to find sites that match what the user’s looking for and to have a good positive user experience. And so, therefore, Google is going to continue to modify the algorithm to combat what these SEO guys are trying to do to manipulate. No matter what, it’s going to be a constant battle. Even today, if someone posted a bunch of backlinks that are blacklisted by Google already to your site, how much of an impact that’s going to have may be negligible because Google should be aware that there’s people that are doing negative SEO. They also should be aware that there’s people that are trying to use this as positive SEO and, therefore, it may have an impact, but how much of an impact it’s going to have may be lessened. And then, you know, a year from now, Google is going to change its algorithm again to find new ways to present better content to its users. Like, this is what we do on ourselves, you know, we have quite a bit of organic traffic but it’s because we try to focus on just producing good content.

MATT: Great answer. I was just looking for a yes or no.

NASIR: Oh, in that case, what was your question?

MATT: I don’t even remember how I framed the question so I can’t help you there.

NASIR: I think negative SEO is a very interesting topic.

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: We talk about this subject a lot about just basically competition in general about unfair competition, you know. We just had the guy from Sno Kone Joe on our podcast a couple of days ago and, when we first started out, it was more of just a competition and it ended up being a different story. But my point is we tend to talk about how businesses compete and where the ethics are and where the lines are because, a lot of times, the ethics don’t match the law.

MATT: That’s the whole thing. That’s why I said in the beginning, there’s the legal side of it. I mean, you can’t do things that are illegal. And then, there’s the ethical side of it. You can do things that are unethical; just it might backfire on you from a PR standpoint. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself too. If you’re okay doing things that are unethical to get an advantage, then that’s your choice.

NASIR: That’s why you got rid of all your mirrors, right? You don’t want to look at yourself and…

MATT: Yeah, it’s actually funny, when we moved into our house, there was a ton, like, an excess of mirrors everywhere. You couldn’t walk anywhere without seeing a mirror. It was pretty crazy so we did actually take down a significant amount of mirrors.

NASIR: When I was a kid, I was scared of that movie, Poltergeist II, which a lot of people remember Poltergeist I and that was the more popular one, but the Poltergeist II was the one where all these ghosts would appear in the mirrors and that freaked me out as a kid, for sure.

MATT: You haven’t looked at a mirror since then.

NASIR: I haven’t looked in a mirror since then. I don’t even know what I look like. The only way I know is from the cartoon cover art that we have. I assume that’s how I look.

MATT: Yeah. When we paid somebody to do that, we got it back and you had to ask me if that’s you. “Do you think this looks like me?” and I was like, “Yeah.”

NASIR: I was trying to figure out which one was me, actually. I was like, “Is that me?”

MATT: You never know. That would be an interesting way to find out. Yeah, it does look a lot like you. Mine’s pretty close but I think yours is spot-on.

NASIR: Oh, yours is too, I think.
Okay. I’m closing up my windows for our last episode of the week. Thanks for joining us. It was a good week of episodes.

MATT: Keep it sound and keep it smart!

Legally Sound | Smart Business

By

The Podcast Where Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub cover business in the news with their legal twist and answer business legal questions that you the listener can send it to info@legallysoundsmartbusiness.com.

Get Business Legal Updates

Please provide your full name.
Please provide a valid email address.
We respect your privacy, and we will never share your information. Unsubscribe at any time.
Legally Sound Smart Business cover art

Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
Apple Podcast badge
Google Podcast badge
Spotify Podcast badge

Latest Episodes

July 14, 2021

Through a five-round championship bout, Matt travels to Texas from California to determine which state is better for business. Will it be a knockout with a clear winner or will it go to the scorecards?

June 16, 2021

Covered in this episode of Legally Sound Smart Business are some typical business mistakes blunders small businesses often make and how to avoid them. Blunder #1: Copying and pasting agreements It may sound like a good idea at the time, but this blunder comes with hidden pitfalls. Having an attorney draft terms that are specific…

February 4, 2021

How you terminate an employee can make the difference between a graceful transition to avoidable negative outcomes like a dramatic exit or even a lawsuit. We gathered a panel of experts and asked them – is there a “right way” to fire an employee? We would like to thank our guests for this episode: Amr…

December 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned nearly every aspect of life on its head, and that certainly holds true for the business world. In this episode, Matt and Nasir explain how the early days of the pandemic felt like the Wild West and how the shifting legal playing field left a lot open to interpretation and…

November 16, 2020

After plenty of ups and downs, our buyer has finally closed on the purchase of their business. While we’re marking this down in the ‘wins’ column, it never hurts to review the game tape. In this final episode, our hosts, Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha, return to the deal almost a year later to reflect…

September 15, 2020

The ink is drying on the signature line and things are looking great for our buyer. After so much hard work, the finish line is in sight and the cheering within ear shot.   Though the landlord is still serving friction, things seem safe to move forward and for now, our buyer will be keeping…

July 31, 2020

Though things are coming along well, the journey would not be interesting if it was purely smooth sailing. After our buyer opens escrow, they are forced to push the closing date back when suddenly a letter from an attorney was received claiming the business, we are buying has a trade mark on the name!  Now…

June 12, 2020

With frustration at an all-time high and professionalism at an all-time low, our friend the Buyer has “had it” with the Seller and quite frankly their lack of knowledge. At present our Buyer is rightfully concerned that the latest misstep from our loose-lipped Seller will threaten not only the entire operation of the businesses but…

May 11, 2020

As we go deeper into the buying process, we start to uncover more challenges from our seller and encounter some of the wrenches they are tossing our way. When we last left off in episode three our team was knee deep in due diligence for our buyer, had already penned and signed the Letter of…

April 4, 2020

One word–interloper! When a new mysterious broker enters the transaction and starts to kick up dust, Nasir and Matt take the reins. The seller signed off on the letter of intent (see episode 2), yet this “business broker” serves only friction and challenges by refusing to send financials, whilst demanding more of a firm commitment…

April 4, 2020

Just as most stories and deals start out, everyone is optimistic, idealistic and full of hope for clear skies. It’s a perfect outlook with a perfect setup for the ups and downs yet to come. Peek further behind the curtain and into the first steps of buying a business: the letter of intent. After the…

April 4, 2020

When a savvy buyer hears opportunity knocking to purchase a prime positioned business, she decides not to go it alone and taps in the professionals to help navigate what could potentially be a fruitful acquisition. “Behind the Buy” is a truly rare and exclusive peak into the actual process, dangers, pitfalls and achievements, that can…

August 7, 2019

GrubHub is subject to two “matters of controversy” that have likely become common knowledge to business owners: “fake” orders and unfriendly microsites.

May 28, 2019

In this podcast episode, Matt and Nasir breakdown the legal issues of the subscription industry’s business on the internet. Resources A good 50-state survey for data breach notifications as of July 2018. California Auto-Renewal Law (July 2018) Privacy Policies Law by State Why Users of Ashley Madison May Not Sue for Data Breach [e210] Ultimate…

March 12, 2019

In recording this episode’s topic on the business buying process, Matt’s metaphor, in comparing the process to getting married probably went too far, but they do resemble one another. Listen to the episode for legal advice on buying a business.

December 3, 2018

Nasir and Matt return to discuss the different options available to companies looking to raise funds through general solicitation and crowdfunding. They discuss the rules associated with the various offerings under SEC regulations and state laws, as well as more informal arrangements. The two also discuss the intriguing story about a couple who raised over…

July 24, 2018

Flight Sim Labs, a software add-on creator for flight simulators, stepped into a PR disaster and possibly some substantial legal issues when it allegedly included a Trojan horse of sorts as malware to combat pirating of its $100 Airbus A320 software. The hidden test.exe file triggered anti-virus software for good reason as it was actually…

April 17, 2018

Attorneys Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha examine Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings about the state of Facebook. The two also discuss Cambridge Analytica and the series of events that led to the congressional hearings, the former and current versions of Facebook’s Terms of Service, and how businesses should be handling data privacy. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR:…

March 10, 2018

The Trump presidency has led to a major increase in ICE immigration enforcement. It’s critical for business owners to both comply with and know their rights when it comes to an ICE audit or raid. Nasir, Matt, and Pasha Law attorney Karen McConville discuss how businesses can prepare for potential ICE action and how to…

February 5, 2018

New years always bring new laws. Effective January 1, 2018, California has made general contractors jointly liable for the unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and other benefit payments of a subcontractor. Nasir and Matt discuss who the new law applies to and how this affects all tiers in the general contractor-subcontractor relationship. Click here to learn…

January 2, 2018

With a seemingly endless amount of new mattress options becoming available, it is unsurprising that the market has become increasingly aggressive. As companies invest in more innovative solutions to get in front of customers, review sites, blogs and YouTube videos have moved to the forefront of how customers are deciding on their mattresses and how…

December 7, 2017

In recent months explosive amounts of high profile allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and varying acts of inappropriate behavior have transcended every sector of our professional world. With a deluge from Hollywood and politics, and the private workforce, accusations have inundated our feeds and mass media. This harassment watershed has not only been felt within…

November 16, 2017

If you are not familiar with the EB-5 program started in 1990 to give green cards to certain qualified investors in the United States, then you may not have been alone a few years ago. Currently, the EB-5 program has since exploded since its inception and now hits its quotas consistently each year. The program…

October 10, 2017

Government requests come in multiple forms. They can come in as requests for client information or even in the form of investigating your company or your employees. Requests for Client Information General Rule to Follow Without understanding the nuances of criminal and constitutional law and having to cite Supreme Court cases, any government requests for…

August 24, 2017

Nasir and Matt suit up to talk about everything pertaining to employee dress codes. They discuss the Federal laws that govern many rules for employers, as well as state specific nuances in California and other states. The two also emphasize the difficulty in identifyingreligious expression in dress and appearance, how gender-related dress codes have evolved…

June 28, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

June 7, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Mattbreak down social media marketing withguests Tyler Sickmeyer and Kyle Weberof Fidelitas Development. They first discuss contests and promotionsand talk about where social media promotions can go wrong,when businesses are actually running an illegal lottery, and the importance of a soundterms and conditions. Next, they…

April 3, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Matt go in depth with the subscription box business. They discuss where subscription box companies have gone wrong(4:30), the importance of a specifically tailored terms and conditions(6:30), how to structure return policies (11:45), product liability concerns (14:45),the offensive and defensive side of intellectual property (19:00),…

February 1, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the suit against Apple that resultedfrom a car crashed caused by the use of FaceTime while driving. They also discuss howforeseeable use of apps can increase liability for companies. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Hi and welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business! I’m Nasir Pasha. MATT: And I’m Matt Staub. Two attorneys…

January 5, 2017

The guys kick in the new year by first discussing Cinnabon’s portrayal of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia soon after her death, as well as other gaffes involving Prince and David Bowie. They alsotalk about right of publicity claims companies could be held liable for based on using someone’s name or likeness for commercial gain.

December 22, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the recent incidentat a Victoria’s Secret store where the store manager kicked out all black women after one black woman was caught shoplifting. They then each present dueling steps businesses should take when employees are accused of harassment.

December 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt return to talk about the different types of clients that may have outstanding invoices and how businesses can convert unpaid bills to getting paid.

November 10, 2016

After a long break, Nasir and Matt are back to discuss a Milwaukee frozen custard stand that is now revising it’s English only policy for employees. The guys also discuss how similar policies could be grounds for discrimination and what employers can do to revise their policies.

October 6, 2016

The guys discuss the new California law that allows actors to request the removal of their date of birth and birthdays on their IMDB page and why they think the law won’t last. They also discuss how age discrimination claims arise for business owner.

September 29, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the racial discrimination claims surroundingAirbnb and how it’s handled the situation. They also discuss some practical tips for businesses experiencing similar issues.

September 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss whyAmazon seller accounts are getting suspended and banned without notice and how business owners can rectify this situation through a Corrective Action Plan.

August 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the accusations surroundingfashion giant Zararipping off the designs of independent artists like Tuesday Bassen and howsmaller companies can battle the industry giants.

August 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss Brave Software’s ad replacing technology that has caught the eye of almost every national newspaper and has a potential copyright infringement claim looming. They also welcome digital marketing expert Matt Michaelree to speak on the specifics of what Brave is attempting to do and whether it has the answers moving forward.

July 28, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. They also talk aboutthe importance of sexual harassment training and properly handling such allegations in the office.

July 15, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the changes at Starbucks that have led to many disgruntled employees and customers.

June 23, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the criminal charges facing FedExinvolving the alleged transportation of illegal drugs. They also talk about how business owners should address working with customers that may be breaking the law.

June 15, 2016

The guys return after a long break to discuss why Yahoo is auctioning off over 3,000 patents and how this decision will affect the longevity of the company.

May 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the increase in the salary thresholdfor exempt employees and how employerscan try to avoid paying overtime as a result.

May 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the Baltimore law that makes it very difficult to operate food trucks in the city. They also discuss all the legal restrictions tohaving a food truck.

May 11, 2016

Matt listens to Nasir recap the developing battle in his hometown of Vandalia, Ohio over whether a Dunkin Donuts can move into a location in close proximity to a local favorite donut shop. They then discusswhether the issue is more legal or personal.

May 9, 2016

The guys kick off the week by discussing a Nevada employee who is claiming she was fired for not supporting the Scientology beliefs of her employer.

April 27, 2016

The guys discuss the massive floods in Houston,how employers responded, and why one meteorologist became a local hero. They also discuss the steps businesses should take in preparing for storms outside the workplace.

April 20, 2016

The guys discuss the boycott of Amazon over the products of an unnamed presidential candidate. They also talkabout how a business should handle a boycott and whether it’s possible to exit one unscathed.

April 13, 2016

Click here to read HubSpot’s response on this topic. Nasir and Matt discuss the trend in startups to compensate programmers and other early employees with stock options and how the company culture at HubSpot isn’t what it seems.

April 6, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss various lawsuits against social media platforms in which users are accused of artificially inflating their social currency.

We represent businesses.
That’s all we do.

Oh, and we love it.

We love our work. We love reviewing that lease for your new location. We thrive on closing that acquisition that nearly fell through. We’re fulfilled when we structure a business to grow, raise capital, and be legally protected.

We focus on developing close relationships with our clients by being like business partners. A partner who provides essential, personalized, proactive legal support.

We do all of this without utilizing the traditional billable hour model. You pay for the value we bring, not the time spent on calls, emails, and meetings.

Our team is made up of attorneys and staff that share these values and we are retained by clients who want the same.

Pasha Law PC operates in the states of California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Meet Our Team

Fractional General Counsel Services

Pasha Law Select offers the expertise of a high-end general counsel legal team for every aspect of your business at a fixed monthly rate. Pasha Law Select is deliberately designed to allow our legal team to be proactive, to anticipate, and to be comprehensive in serving our clients. To be great lawyers, we need to know our clients. We can’t know our clients unless we represent a select number of clients in the long-term. This is Pasha Law Select.

Learn More