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Negative SEO – Can it hurt your business?

negative SEO - a mug shotNegative SEO is  the latest “buzzword” that is dominating webmaster forums.

What is negative SEO? Negative SEO is the label given to certain actions aimed at hurting the rankings of your website. These actions could be initiated either by your competitors or  malicious individuals determined to bring your site down.

Just as nasty gossip can be targeted towards any person, negative SEO can be targeted towards any website.

What happens when your site has been a target of negative SEO?

If you have been a target, your site rapidly drops in SERPS ( Search Engine Result Pages)  and in extreme cases, it can even disappear from the search engine index.

Common tactics that can be employed to achieve negative SEO :

  • Posting spammy links from unrelated websites, especially from sites with bad reputation (porn sites, drug-promoting sites or other shady sites)
  • Content scraping and indexing as own
  • False, negative reviews
  • Spammy reviews
  • Injecting malware into your code

This list is obviously not exhaustive as new tactics come to light all the time. As the online competition becomes more and more fierce, some companies, in desperation, grab any tactics they can to get to or stay in the top 10 results of Google.

How do you know you have been hit by negative SEO?

  • you notice a sudden increase in inbound links to your site (not related to any recent website promotion)
  • you notice a sudden increase in a number of your business or product reviews (false reviews)
  • your new content does not get indexed in a normal time frame
  • there is a sudden drop in a number of visitors to your site

 

Can negative SEO hurt your business?

Here is an excerpt from blackhatworld forum:

Matt Cutts in the past has always maintained that Negative SEO is not really possible. Only recently he is changing his statement. He also keeps on saying Penguin update is not associated with any ‘penalty’. So, just to test it out, I blasted about 4 different sites ranking in the top page of Google for keywords with search volume around 6000 per day – with 10,000 xrummer links.

All the sites went from 1st page to nowhere in just 2 days . They have not recovered even after a week. If the new algorithm really pushed good authority sites to the top, these sites should not go down so easily with just 1 blast of xrummer. It just shows how Google’s Penguin update is so vulnerable to Negative SEO.

 

DIY Negative SEO

Sometimes it is the clients themselves, who trigger negative SEO signals, either by not having sufficient SEO knowledge, or by trying to “outsmart” Google.

Here are some examples:

  • buying links, especially from “far away” SEO consultants who offer discounted prices
  • content scraping (instead of writing their own content, they “borrow” content from their competitors)
  • keyword stuffing
  • using unnatural language (not grammatically correct or not reflecting how people speak) to achieve better SEO “scores”
  • posting too many ads to re-coup the cost of building a website
  • using the same keywords in anchor text,
  • building links only to home page
  • not fixing broken links
  • poor site security measures
  • poor online reputation management (not reacting to bad reviews)

 

How do you protect yourself from negative SEO?

  • monitor your site statistics on a regular basis (not just your number of visitors but number of links, social media mentions etc.)
  • employ a reputable SEO company
  • don’t try to outsmart Google
  • don’t do your own SEO
  • monitor your online reputation (Google yourself on a regular basis, Google your business name, your product names)
  • don’t get involved in verbal abuse on public forums or social media
  • don’t say unjustified things about your competitors
  • act immediately when you spot a problem
  • ensure your site is secure

In extreme cases, when you have a larger site and you have been de-listed, you may try to use this negative seo online link removal tool which has just been lauched by a US company – Virante (June 2012). The service is still in Beta and is not cheap, but it at least offers some hope to the website owners who have been hit by the latest Panda and Penguin algorithm update.

If you been hit by negative SEO or you have experienced a sudden drop in Google rankings, contact us.

Remember good content in a well structured site should be your primary aim, it makes off page SEO much more effective and may well reduce your PPC advertising costs as well.

 

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