Unlocking the dirty secret of negative SEO

Put yourself in the place of a small business owner who has launched a new website. Everything about it is better than their competitors. It's a responsive design, with considerable attention given to a marketing strategy which includes keywords, personas, and SEO. It's easy to navigate, has an efficient shopping cart, informative content, and social media buttons. They build safe backlinks. It immediately moves to the front page of any search engine when those relevant keywords and phrases are entered. The competition is losing business, and they want to retaliate.

Incredibly, retaliation is fairly simple. They hire someone to destroy your online reputation, and the victim will never know that it's happening. There are companies out on the Net offering to crush your online presence for a remarkably small fee. As Google rolled out algorithms such as Penguin and Panda, designed to fight web spam and penalize sites which engage in it, there has been a run on negative SEO in the SEO community. These black hats suddenly realized that Google had unlocked a door that many had previously ignored.

Links

You probably know the importance of building links. The number of quality links to your website increases your visibility and will draw visitors to you, even if the link was established years ago. Notice that I wrote, 'quality links'. Google searches for spam links, particularly through the aforementioned algorithms, and therein lays the problem.

Any website which is targeted by a Negative SEO service provider is analyzed for all the keywords it uses, then is inundated with gradually increasing spam links to porn and online gambling sites all carrying the same anchor text. These links eventually total into the thousands, all pointed directly at the unsuspecting website often over less than a month. Google and Bing notice. The site is then notified of a penalization resulting in a whopping drop off its search engine placement.

Infecting your content

The spam links could find their way directly onto a site. CommonPlaces offers a comments section on our blogs. Without taking proper precautions, by reviewing all comments before being posted, we would be swamped with unsavory spam. I must say that, lately, it seems as though the spammers are getting very lazy in their methods, making the spam easier to spot than in previous years. It's very rare when I actually have to read a comment before recognizing that it is spam.

Another stealth bomb of bad links can come from guest posts on a blog, or some other piece of content. Always double and triple back on all links, and trust nothing that is filled with broken English, typos, and misspellings.

Save your website

Most importantly, there are tools to help you find and track malicious backlinks.

  1. Ahrefs
  2. MajesticSEO
  3. Google Webmaster Tools

If this all seems overwhelming, look to digital agencies which offer services and the experience to supervise your website. Don't let the bad guys shut you down. Stay vigilant, know what to look for, and fight back.

Gary Locke
By Gary Locke

A semi-professional hyphenate and the Content Editor for CommonPlaces. He has enjoyed a long career in theater and multimedia, and still hopes to one day drive the Batmobile.

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