The debate over Google’s most recent algorithm update is continuing to build momentum and, as WebProNews’ Chris Crum identified this week, now focuses on whether or not negative SEO tactics have been given a boost in the aftermath.

Negative SEO is considered to be the last resort of sites which cannot legitimately facilitate a decent organic rank for their pages, so instead take action against their closest rivals, in an attempt to level the playing field through underhanded means.

A poll of search optimisation specialists, conducted by Search Engine Land this month, found that almost three quarters of professionals in the field believe that Google has actually made it easier to run negative SEO campaigns.

This is because it is perceived that the search giant is now far more willing to penalise sites which fall foul of its ranking rules and recovering from any penalty can be difficult, especially for smaller domains, which may not have the same clout as some of the larger offenders.

The automatic generation of inbound links from unsavoury online communities, along with the deployment of poorly written guest blog posts, in which links to a target site are embedded, can be harnessed in an attempt to negatively impact on SEO from afar. And insiders argue that it is only becoming easier for such actions to be taken.

A lot of the talk surrounding this issue has been carried out with the caveat that although explanations of negative SEO have been featured, the purpose is not to provide a tutorial for such activities, but rather highlight the problem, in the hopes that Google will latch onto it and find a fix.

In the past, Google has been rather brash about the ability of its algorithms to filter out any attempts by rivals to enact negative SEO against legitimate domains. However, it was forced to change its tune and now simply claims that it makes every effort to combat this, without claiming to be 100 per cent effective.

While spokespeople for the search giant, including Matt Cutts, have maintained that negative SEO is all bark and no bite, with few instances of such underhanded tactics actually being enacted, there are still many webmasters who have horror stories of taking a rankings hit as a result of its influence. This includes those who have even received explicitly threatening emails from groups running a kind of online protection racket, that will try and destroy a site?s organic standing if the owner does not pay.

Of course, amongst all this discussion of negative SEO, the important thing to remember is that whether or not a third party attempts to carry it out against your site, there is little you can do about it. As a result, it is better to focus your attentions on enacting positive SEO strategies of your own and generating a strong position for yourself in Google’s SERPs, so that any malicious groups will have a tough time diminishing it.