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“The biggest difference to SEO these days is now it’s more valuable to remove links rather than build them,” – Scott McLay

The modern business enterprise needs every tailwind it can get to thrive and move ahead of the competition. Management personnel of top calibre, investor meetings, constructing remarkable customer experiences, releasing new products and services, favourable government policy environments, are among the positive inputs that can steadily enable a business enterprise. In addition, businesses can draw support from the application of online technologies; these include search engine management, a distinctive website, and an outstanding presence on multiple social media platforms. The techniques and activities outlined above are designed to attract customers, expand the customer base, and to sustain business and investor confidence.

However, negative SEO has emerged as a key challenge for the modern business enterprise. Manipulative Internet-based links can be attached to an online business with the intent to lower the search engine ranking of the website. Negative SEO can be said to be part of business competition, commercial rivalry, or may be viewed as examples of plain malice. When negative SEO campaigns succeed in their stated objective, a business enterprise can lose customers and may have to witness plummeting ratings in terms of search engine rankings. Consequently, the customers of the said business may be severely impacted because they may have to seek alternative means to fulfil their requirements. The effect of negative SEO also extends to the creation of a misplaced impression that the said business has lost credibility, or may be working to wind down its operations. These developments may affect the average customer and therefore, the said business needs to be vigilant to such online mishaps.

Active online customers may revise their opinion of a business in the aftermath of a negative SEO attack. This revision can be said to be part of the human reaction to such developments. We must note that certain extreme forms of online reaction may include negative reviews penned by the said customers. This means that a once-thriving commercial relationship has to bear the vagaries of fickle customer reactions. The effect of negative SEO on customers could also reverse years of painstaking effort to gather and retain customers by an online business. All the said effort stands the risk of unravelling if the business is not careful about its online presence. Inadvertent, but negative reviews by customers can multiply in the online world and cause incalculable losses to the business enterprise.

The effect of negative SEO on customers can include a loss of customer trust and goodwill; these can be disastrous for a business. The stated attributes have to be built up and consolidated over time through steady effort and expert management. However, customers may choose to take their business elsewhere when they discover that search engine rankings of a particular brand and business have dipped precipitously. This situation may create the impression that other business enterprises have established a reputation and this point may mark the starting point of customer migration and the steady erosion of business confidence in the enterprise. This also means that the affected business may not find new customers until such time when the business starts to re-establish its business reputation.

Negative SEO can also spark a re-evaluation of the affected business in the minds of customers. We have to bear in mind that the average customer may not be aware of the mechanics that can be used to distort or misrepresent search engine rankings. When we consider the old adage that states, “Seeing is believing” negative SEO can exert long-term impacts on business viability and business reputation. A customer that is not sure about the ability of a business enterprise to deliver on its promises can quickly start searching for other online options. Further, investor confidence in a business can be shaken in the aftermath of negative SEO attacks. Various stakeholders may raise questions to the management and board of the said business. In such a situation, it is important for a business enterprise to initiate remedial action while opening lines of direct communication with its various stakeholders. Further, the enterprise should make the effort to probe the exact chain of events that led to the negative SEO attack with the intent to fortify its online defences to arrest any recurrence.

The disruptive effects of negative SEO on customers can include calls for management change by empowered customers. In such a situation, a business may face challenges from various segments of stakeholders. Investors, in particular, may be concerned that that are not receiving an optimal return for their money. This can stoke dissent in board meetings, in the general media, and in special sessions wherein the company management meets interested stakeholders. The impact of such events on business reputations aside, regular business processes, and business operations may be disrupted, therefore affecting the bottom line. We have to consider the fact that investors may voice genuine concerns about a business that is unable to defend its reputation and existence on the Internet; such concerns may question the competence of the management personnel and the ability of the board of directors to steward the business through changing times. We also have to consider the real possibility that stock markets may react by reducing the prices of common stock floated by the said business. These instances outline the widely felt effects of negative SEO on customers.

In addition to shaking investor confidence and marring the public image of a business enterprise, the effects of negative SEO may include a re-thinking of search-engine optimisation technologies by major online search engines. This effect may not affect the customer in the short-term because re-engineering the concept of search engine rankings may not be achieved overnight. The required level of overhaul in major Internet technologies may demand the participation of all players operating in the search engine business. However, common ground may take time to be reached and then re-engineering may commence. Thoughts and ideas from many stakeholders and interested parties have to be considered during the said process. The technical feasibility of implementing these in the Wold Wide Web should also be considered before arriving at a final decision. However, we have to concede that such possibilities may appear remote now, but then we have to bear in mind that no situation, however nebulous, must be totally discounted.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have considered the various effects that may be cast on customers and other stakeholders by negative SEO attacks. The various scenarios and outcomes of manipulative SEO operations must be clearly borne in mind by every business that values its online operations. A business enterprise primarily exists to serve its customers and other stakeholders; therefore, the business must take adequate safeguards to protect its reputation and its operations. Negative SEO attacks can attract negative publicity and therefore should be guarded against at all times. Business operations have to be closely monitored every day because such actions have the ability to nip malice in the bud. Customers can be won over and retained only through healthy and vigilant business practices. Every customer has the ability to raise the business to the next level. Every aspiring business owner and business operator should bear these thoughts in mind.

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