Negative SEO Your Website Could Be Attacked
The concept of negative SEO is probably not what you think it is. It’s not about overstuffing keywords in your content or having an excess of links within your web pages. Rather, it’s the thought that “If I can’t do things to my website to improve rankings, then I’m going to hurt other websites within my niche or industry.”
It’s not as difficult as you may think for your competitors to create bad links pointing to your website so that you are less visible to Google, resulting in “negative SEO.” Google suggests that they have taken proper measures to assess the quality of links through Penguin and Panda updates and their disavow tool to prevent such negative backlink attacks from happening. But, if Google has really gotten better at assessing the quality of backlinks and taken stronger action on a lot of public and private links networks, why is it that an attack can still happen very easily?
According to Matt Cutts, most businesses don’t need to worry about such an attack. But is this really true?
Ethics of Negative SEO Tactics
Implementing these tactics is not ethical, no question about it. Ethics not withstanding, I certainly advise focusing your efforts on being productive for your website rather than trying to build a bunch of links or cause duplicate content issues to hurt a competitor’s website.
However, the reality is that it’s very easy for a competitor’s webmaster to buy tons of bad links through sites such as Fiverr and XRumer and point them to your website. Sites such as Fiverr allow for the purchase of thousands of links to be easily created and are instantly sent to many article directories and comment sections with irrelevant links back to a website that can end up damaging it.
Think about it…all it really takes is a Fiverr account and $5 to potentially destroy a brand overnight by buying thousands of cheap links. It could literally take 5 minutes or less to set up thousands of direct links with exact match anchor text within a Fiverr account pointing to a competitor’s website possibly hurting its rankings. In such a short amount of time and at $5 a package, which is very inexpensive, one could buy many packages if they wanted to damage a website. Even using the disavow tool, it could take months of waiting on Google and a lot of time proofing the link cleanup.
In addition to purchasing thousands of bad links, savvy webmasters can even create duplicate content issues if you don’t have canonical links set up for your website. For example, say you have www.website.com/page and you want to market this page on your website as well as promote it on Twitter, Google Adwords, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. To track sources for this page, you would have multiple ?utm= strings set up. If you don’t set up canonicals for these pages letting Google know which page is the main page and allow parameters, random variables in the URL, then a savvy webmaster could create thousands of links to www.website.com/page using these different variable strings (www.website.com/page?number=1, www.website.com/page?number=2, www.website.com/page?number=3) to cause all sorts of duplicate content issues, which could have a negative impact on your site. Not very ethical, right?
Google’s Disavow Links Tool
Now that you know how easy it is for someone to point bad links to your website, it’s critical that you regularly keep track of backlinks in order not to lose your organic rankings, and the traffic your site gets from those rankings. With Google’s disavow tool, fighting against negative SEO is a little easier, but it’s still not 100% foolproof.
As explained by Matt Cutts in the embedded video above, the disavow links tool allows webmasters to upload a text file to Google that lets them know you don’t want particular backlinks counting toward your website. Basically, this text file tells Google to ignore or “disavow” all backlinks from a domain you don’t trust. The challenge with the disavow tool is that Google wants to see specific documentation of how you tried to remove backlinks yourself before you submitted them to Google. The disavow tool is an advanced tool where webmasters who don’t know what they are doing could really mess up their website. The last thing you want to do is get rid of good, quality links to your website that actually help you. So, proceed with caution if you decide to use Google’s disavow tool.
Here’s the bottom line. If you want lasting, positive results, make sure you practice safe organic SEO methods that play by the rules. Practicing safe search methods is the best way to make sure your website gets top rankings that last. Regularly monitor your rankings and backlinks to make sure that your competitors don’t maliciously alter them.
Reality of an Attack on Your Website
The odds are probably about 8 times out of 10 that an attack on your website as described here won’t come to fruition, but there is still a legitimate possibility it can happen. As long as links are still a part of Google’s main algorithm, there is a possibility your website can encounter an attack. Google might be able to stop negative SEO attacks from happening in the future, but the reality is that it will most likely take years for them to figure out a way to stop it if in fact it can be done. The main question is will Google’s algorithm ever be able to figure out the intent of why links were bought? They can’t do this now. If they ever figure it out, that would solve the problem. But it remains to be seen if they can resolve this issue…
Have you experienced a negative SEO attack on your website? If you have or if you have anything to add to this topic, I would like to hear from you.