For the last few weeks, I have been exploring the whole concept of negative SEO and how it can “supposedly” affect your search engine rankings, especially in Google. Lately, since the arrival of Penguin, negative SEO (nickname – Google Bowling) has been discussed much more often.

Google’s Penguin Update examines the whole SEO layout of your site, including your incoming links and the anchor text in those links. If Google via Penguin feels you’re over “optimizing” your site to influence their index or rankings, your site will be slapped with a penalty which is severe and crippling – in other words – Google will simply wipe your site from its index.

Penguin is judging your complete link profile, which includes all internal and external links, and decides if it fits a “natural” or “unnatural” linking structure. Your link profile is no doubt compared to the normal or standard readings – if you have too many links with the exact commercial keywords in the anchor text pointing to interior pages on your site, this will show up as unnatural or inorganic. A red flag goes up and down comes the Penguin Guillotine, chopping your site’s Google rankings next to nil.

In addition, if you have many sites giving you “site-wide” links or more than one or two links, these will appear as “inorganic links” flowing to your site. Down comes the Penguin guillotine.

Since you basically have no control of who links to your site, in the past Google has stated these links can’t hurt your site. However, now with the introduction of the Penguin Update, links coming into your site can definitely harm your rankings, at least in Google.

Your ruthless competitors can now build or buy countless “spammy links” from sites around the web to trigger one of Penguin’s red flags – down comes the guillotine and it’s game over.

Now some argue that “negative SEO” doesn’t really work and no one can harm your site, Penguin or no Penguin. While this may be true for many big brand authority sites with well established reputations in Google, but for a struggling site or domain, the picture is not so rosy or clear-cut. A ruthless competitor can build or buy shady links and point them all at your site, how is Penguin or Google to know it is NOT you building or buying those links?

Google probably realizes this problem and has promised a “disavow link tool” in GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) in the very near future so that a site can’t be held hostage by a ruthless competitor who simply won’t remove the offending links. A site owner can now just disavow or dismiss these links when their site is being ranked in Google.

Such a tool would also prove very helpful for older sites, which may have a very extensive list of link partners or just sites displaying their links. Removal of any of those links can be impossible, so such a tool would allow webmasters to dismiss any links coming from bad neighborhoods.

Everyone is just hoping Google does introduce this “disavow” tool in GWT because it could potentially go a long way in leveling the playing field when it comes to your incoming links, which you really don’t have any control over. Such a tool would put that control back into the site owner’s hands and would be a welcomed tool for fighting any negative SEO.