Is Rand Fishkin making a serious offer, or is he playing it smart and starting a viral topic? It’s possible he is doing both. Rand Fishkin is a well known SEO authority and he has issued a challenge to see if anyone can bring down his search rankings using negative SEO. There is a danger here in that hundreds will try, and the cumulative effort could have some negative impact. At the same time, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who are talking about this challenge, and linking to his or other posts on this topic. The cumulative effect of those writing about the challenge could negate any attempts to hurt him – a bit of catch 22.
On the serious side, for a small business, is it possible that a competitor can knock a rival off the front page of the search results page? This is really stepping into unknown territory. Google have often stated that negative SEO will never affect a pages search rankings, however, there changes to the algorithm in recent months suggests the reverse may be true. The real answer lies in whether or not Google (or any search engine) actually penalizes a site for poor quality links, or attempting to gain links through gray/black hat techniques. The popular opinion is that, rather penalizing, Google is simply ignoring links those types of links.
If that is the case, then a competitor wouldn’t be able to harm you search listings, in fact, there is a distinct chance that a search engine will accept those links, at least initially, and so deliver a boost instead of causing damage. This is one of the great unknowns, however, it will be interesting to see if anyone can remove Rand’s websites from their top ranked positions.
To be serious, if you really want to outrank a competitors pages, rather than spending a lot of time and money on negative SEO, you are better off finding out what your competitors are doing, then doing it better than they are. Over time, you will then float to the top of the search rankings, and it will be done on the back of honest work, not sly underhand methods.