Someone recently asked me about “reverse SEO” and whether or not I thought it was a good SEO tactic. I had to be honest and tell them that reverse SEO was not a term I was familiar with (12 years in the Internet marketing industry and I’m still learning new things!) but that I would look into it and get back to them. Something in my gut was telling me that reverse SEO was probably a grey hat, if not outright black hat, SEO technique.

After doing a little research, the way I came to understand reverse SEO is that it’s the process of analyzing the search results (usually done with an SEO software tool) in Google and Bing and then breaking it down to find out why one site ranks over another. Basically, reverse SEO is trying to quantify SEO; if you get X links from certain sites and write X pages of content and focus on X keywords your site will catapult to the top of the SERPs overnight.

As the owner of a strictly white hat SEO company, this is not a process I would ever recommend to a client.

Why won’t reverse SEO work?

1. It’s all speculative
There is no formula to SEO that guarantees success. If it were as simple as that then site owners wouldn’t need SEO consultants like me to help guide them through the process. They would just go down the checklist and POOF! find themselves ranking number one. I wish SEO were that simple (and oftentimes people are over thinking it), but it’s not a campaign where you can just plug and play.

2. There are unknown factors
Google has over 200 factors in their ranking algorithm. Some of these we can control (webpage content) and some of them we can’t (age of site). We aren’t even 100% sure of all 200 factors! Google and Bing know that black hat SEO practitioners and spammers are looking for ways to “crack the code” and they aren’t about to let it happen.

I’ve also seen reverse SEO defined as doing everything you can to negatively impact your competition. Instead of trying to build your site up you work to bring other sites down. I actually came across this quote in my research, “To less do we have to make huge spam competitor site with many links to other sites. So Google thinks this site tries to obtain classified by massive spam and if the site is and disappear just the search engines altogether.” Maybe not the most well-written sentence ever, but I took it to mean that this forum member was recommending that site owners create a spam site and link to their competitor’s sites in order to make Google think their competitors where using black hat link building tactics.

However you want to define reverse SEO, either as creating a plug-and-play formula for SEO success OR as trying to sabotage the competition’s own SEO efforts, I would recommend that you steer clear.