There has been a lot of chatter over the last few years regarding a practice known as negative SEO. Website owners have felt helpless against it, and some have even been blackmailed with the threat of negative SEO against them. When your website is your main connection to your customer base and your livelihood, any negative impact can be crippling. We’re going to discuss what negative SEO is, how it is done, and how you know you have been targeted. Once that is explained, we’ll tell you what to do about it.
What is Negative SEO?
In short form, negative SEO is carried out when someone attempts to lower a website’s rankings in the search engines through a variety of channels. The most widely used method is through a spammy link building campaign, which does not require anyone to have access to your website to do it. It’s the one we will focus on here, as it can be the most detrimental to your website if you don’t catch it in time.
Link building has become a popular way to build SEO rankings. Search engines count the number of links that take someone from one website to yours. The thought behind it is that, if all of these websites are linking to you, you must be important. Although the amount of weight that SEO rankings put on link building has been reduced significantly by Google, having a few good high quality links from websites with good domain authority and traffic really will boost your rankings naturally.
A few years ago, Google caught on to some SEO trickery, whereby people were buying links in the thousands in order to bulk up the number of backlinks to their website. It did work, for a while, until these blackhat SEO tactics were discovered and eventually penalized. Even today, if your website gets flagged for a large amount if links that all of a sudden appear from not-so-legitimate websites, your site will likely be de-indexed and can disappear from Google until you clean up your links and prove that you are on the straight and narrow. There are countless stories about business owners who are working on SEO for their Michigan business’s website and hired someone who uses these “quick and cheap” link farms to boost rankings, and it has backfired tremendously. (And just to be clear… our SEO company in Detroit does NOT resort to these blackhat tactics.)
Once it became public knowledge that bad links were being caught and websites penalized, negative SEO was kicked into high gear. Although Google had claimed that a competitor of yours could never do anything bad to your website, the shady link building penalties sparked in interest. Someone only needs to purchase links to your website from a “link farm” and manipulate your backlink profile in order to have your website flagged and possibly de-indexed.
Scary thought, isn’t it?
So how do you know if you’ve been a victim of negative SEO? Google states that there are actually very few instances of negative SEO that they can verify. Sometimes a bunch of links will start pointing to your site because of a directory listing you put there yourself that is being copied, or they are sites that just analyze and provide domain info. Not all links that you don’t understand are bad. But in order to find out what links are pointing to your site, you must become familiar with Google’s Webmaster Tools and connect it to your website. This is a valuable tool for any website owner. It will show you what keywords are being used to find you, what kind of visitor traffic you are getting, what links are pointing to your website, and Google can relay messages to you through Webmaster Tools. One of the fastest ways to find out if you are being targeted or hacked is when you get a notice from Google for manipulative link practices. As a website owner, you need to be in control of the powerful tool in front of you and understand the moving parts within it.
If you notice a sudden burst of links to your website from foreign domains, or from sites with domains ending in .br, .bz, .cz, .pl, .com.ar and the like, you may be getting hit with a negative SEO attack. Another option if you see this is that your site has been hacked. Fun, right? Also, if you check out some of the links to see what sites are linking to you, and you see a large number of blog posts pointing to your website, and these blogs make zero sense whatsoever… well you need to look into that.
So what do you do if you think you are a victim of a negative SEO attack? Well, if you are lucky enough to have acquired the services of a Detroit SEO company like Detroit Internet Marketing, we can help sort through the mess and avoid any penalties. If it is too late and your website has disappeared from Google, it is a rather urgent matter. You can disavow any incoming links to your website to begin with, ultimately blocking them from harming you, and report the activity to Google, who then takes the reigns to see what’s going on. They will decide from there how to handle the situation.
So although negative SEO is rare, it does occur and needs to be on the radar of any website owner with competition in the market. If you think you may have been a victim, or want to learn more about SEO in general, Detroit Internet Marketing would be glad to assist. Contact us for further details.
Christopher Bower is a Member and Marketing Director of Detroit Internet Marketing, LLC and brings over 20 years' experience in marketing and online marketing. His education includes Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Marketing, and has been involved in both national and local marketing in Chicago, South Florida and Michigan.