Negative SEO is what sportsmen would call “playing dirty”. While ‘traditional SEO’ involves building quality links to one’s own website to improve its rankings in the SERPs, negative SEO involves building low-quality links to a website (often to a competitor’s) in an attempt to bring down its rankings in the SERPs.
There are several ways to do negative SEO, and we will talk about them in this article. We will also go over what Google has to say about it and what you need to do to protect your website, as well as why you should avoid getting involved in it yourself.
All right then, let’s get to it!
What Google Has To Say About Negative SEO
It’s only up until quite recently that Google has actually admitted that there is such a thing as negative SEO. Here is what they used to have in their guidelines:
“Can Competitors Harm Ranking?
There’s nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”
They changed it to:
“There’s ALMOST nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”
And now they have this:
“Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question.”
Fair enough; after all, they seem to be working hard. But here is how their unnatural linking messages look like:
So basically, factors that are out of your control (linking from dodgy sources) are very likely to hurt you. And you have to actively try and explain that to Google with your reconsideration request. Oh and you only receive those warnings if your website is linked to your Google Webmaster Tools account. If not, then you are just…unlucky! Not so fair now, is it?
Types Of Negative SEO
Building low quality links to a website can be done in numerous ways.
1. Single or multiple attacks?
In single attacks, a large number of low-quality links are built to a website using a single anchor at once.
In multiple attacks, the same thing happens (1 anchor pointing to 1 site from low-quality sources), but continuously for months.
2. Links to where?
Some competitors may only want to take down a particular page (and not your homepage). Subpages typically need more links to be taken down than a homepage.
3. Light or heavy take-down campaigns?
New websites can be taken down more easily, as compared to well-established websites. As such, the negative SEOs must plan in advance how much (time or money) they are willing to spend to take down a particular site.
How To Secure Your Site Against Negative SEO
You are not crazy if you are worried about being ‘attacked’, especially if your business is in a competitive niche.
So, what can you do to ‘bulletproof’ your site?
As I said above, well-established sites are harder to take down. So to begin with, try to make your website a well-established one! How? By focusing on online public relation building with influential people and websites in your niche, as well as branded link building, at least initially.
You should also monitor your link profile to catch any ‘bad links’ that start to point to your site. Once you catch them, try to get rid of them ASAP by contacting the webmasters of the linking sites and requesting a removal.
Failing that, disavow the spam links using the tools provided by both Google & Bing.
Why You Need To Stay Away From Negative SEO
Finally, I’ve decided to end this article by talking about why you should not get involved in negative SEO yourself. Please note that I am no one to tell you what to do or what not to do, and that I am just expressing my own views here.
Okay so, first, it’s just unethical and wrong. To me, it’s like spray painting a competitor’s ad (on a billboard for example). It’s just wrong to cause damage to someone’s efforts. Instead, we should be focusing our energy on improving our own marketing.
Then, there is the issue of “What if I get caught?”. If Pepsi gets caught negative SEO’ing Coca-Cola’s website for example, I know I will never buy a Pepsi again. Point is, you will lose some of your customers.
Finally, there is the issue that this negative SEO thing looks like it might get fixed at some point. And then what will happen? All neg SEO efforts will go down the drain and websites will rank where they should. So instead of investing into something that might get patched someday, how about investing into your own business and marketing?
Again, these are just my thoughts folks!