With the advent of Google's Penguin update in 2012, it became a whole lot easier for the leading name in search to unmask and punish those who would leverage negative search engine optimization (SEO) techniques against their competitors. However, thanks to a clever new tactic that involves the (relatively) new canonical tag, it appears that Google might have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new way to detect those who leverage this exploit from a thoroughly black hat vantage point.
So how are the more nefarious members of the digital community tanking the rankings of their industry competitors? According to Search Engine Journal's Roger Montti, it all boils down to an exploit that skips over the dated practice of overtly pointing poor backlinks at a target domain and instead utilizes the functionality of the canonical tag to trick Google into assigning poor ranking scores from a spam domain to the victim's site.
Digging a little deeper, the process includes dropping the entire "head" section of a site (including the canonical tag) into the head section of the spam page. In some cases, entire pages are copied over in a similar manner. From here, Google appears to attribute all of the content found on the weaponized site to the target page thanks to the presence of the canonical tag.
In other words, bombing the ranking value of a specific site could be as easy as copying and pasting a few lines of code.
The scariest part about this story? Montti suggests that because this exploit doesn't leverage conventional backlink tactics, it appears to be virtually undetectable within the current iteration of Google's ranking system.
Should your dealership be worried about having its rankings digitally nuked by this SEO exploit? Most likely not, especially considering that reports of this exploit's usage have been limited to just a handful of cases. However, keeping an eye on this development – especially as Google begins to investigate ways of stopping its abuse – is definitely a good call as you continue to monitor your dealership's domain and search engine rankings.
For a complete rundown on how this bug ended up coming to the attention of Bill Hartzer of Kartzer Consulting and other SEO experts, as well as what Google may end up doing to shut down the currently open negative SEO loophole, feel free to check out the full story from Roger Montti of Search Engine Journal by clicking the below link.