Search engine optimization (SEO) is good and just what your business needs, right? That’s true most of the time, but there’s also such a thing as “negative SEO.” Not all SEO is good, just like not all organic food is good. It can go sour fast, and end up doing you more harm than anything else. Professional SEO experts started talking more about negative SEO when Google dished up a warning message in Google Webmaster Tools that begins, “We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
This message came out in 2014, even though it’s been known that Google can and will send messages to site owners if they were building spam-riddled pages. However, it seems Google has moved beyond messaging for spam only and is comfortably notifying you if it looks like you’re involved in a “link scheme.” Basically, Google wants to discourage paid links meant to earn sites a higher spot on Google search results and better PageRank positioning.
Negative SEO is Real
In conjunction with this latest message and the latest Google Penguin algorithm updates, one thing is clear: understanding negative SEO is paramount for anyone with an online presence (especially businesses). One of Penguin’s biggest jobs is to seek out sites that use paid links. Managing negative search engine optimization should be an integral part of your overall SEO strategy. How do you get started?
Negative SEO can take on many forms, but most often occurs when a website buys a link, then points them to another (competitor’s) website. Obviously, these are “bad links.” For example, let’s say you’re a pedi-cab company in San Diego that bought a dating site link to point towards another pedi-cab company in town. That’s the biggest negative SEO trend, but it’s not the only one.
Taking Down the Competition
The term “black hat tricks” and “negative SEO” may be used interchangeably, but there’s one huge difference: Black hat tricks are generally used to try to boost your own website’s rankings, such as buying up a bunch of URLs and using duplicate content on each one (for the record, Google can easily catch this and penalizes you). Negative SEO is an attack on the competition’s web presence. This can include hacking a website to plant a virus, falsely reporting a competitor’s website as using black hat tricks, or review bombing a competitor.
Review bombing can take one of two forms. It can mean one business writes a slew of bad reviews for their competitor on leading review sites, or it can also involve directing a bunch of five-star reviews at a competitor so it looks like they paid for them. The simple truth is that external links can’t really be controlled by site owners, so it’s pretty easy for competitors to use negative SEO bad link campaigns to try and topple their competitors.
You don’t need to become a negative SEO victim—there are ways to stay strong. A solid domain authority, knowing that trying negative SEO is risky at best, and understanding that Google has strategies for recovery can help you enjoy peace of mind. A reputable internet marketing firm, experienced in search engine optimization, can help you address negative SEO and keep your online reputation clean.