As if search engine optimization wasn’t hard enough already, business owners and online marketers now have a new threat to worry about: negative SEO.
If you haven’t already heard of it, the logic is simple: instead of (or at the same time as) building up your own website, you take steps to knock down a competitor and essentially discredit their website. This is usually accomplished through spam links and other low-value forms of content that Google and the other search engines distrust. By pointing them at websites other than their own, unscrupulous businesses can effectively make their competitors look worse, and cost them search engine traffic as a result.
Let’s take a look at how this problem developed, why it’s suddenly so pervasive, and what you can do about it…
The Rise of Negative SEO
Ironically enough, negative search engine optimization is only possible because Google and the other engines have gotten better at what they do. Because their algorithms now incorporate things like link quality, and look for attempts to “beat” search engine algorithms, having too much of the wrong kind of activity looks very suspicious.
Unfortunately, at the same time that most marketers started to realize that stuffing keywords and links into their own sites wouldn’t work, they also began to realize that these tactics could be used against their competitors.
Why Negative SEO is Suddenly More Common
If it seems like individuals and businesses offering negative search are suddenly popping up everywhere, that notion is only half-correct. The fact is, they are the same people who were offering to do this kind of work on the cheap when companies thought it was beneficial; now that we know it isn’t, they’ve switched gears and changed their offer.
In other words, the people in businesses who are offering bad search engine optimization advice in the past are still offering it now – just with a different target and focus.
How to Fight Negative SEO
Undoing the effect of negative SEO is usually not as difficult as you might imagine. First though, you have to recognize what’s been going on. That requires regular search engine optimization audits, looking at your search rankings, the prevalence of inbound links, and other metrics. Once you determine that someone has been attacking your site with low-quality links, the next step is to have your web design team disavow them so they don’t count against you.
Finally, the best thing you can do to fend off the effects of a slimy competitor who uses negative SEO is to simply build a great website with lots of high-quality content and trustworthy links. The more trustworthy your site appears to Google, and its users, the harder it is for someone else to hurt you with negative search tactics.
As long as there is money to be made by getting targeted web traffic from Google – and we can expect that to continue for some time, with the world’s largest search engine handling more than 2 billion queries per day – there are going to be businesses looking for a way to game the system… and even harm their competitors in the process.
The moral of the story? Look out for negative SEO and be sure someone else doesn’t drag your website down into the mud.