Negative SEO: Are you aware of it and know how to answer back?

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Image courtesy of Brooke Novak at Flickr.com

Negative SEO includes all sort of attacks designed to damage your website position and reputation online, and may even cause Google to penalize and remove your website from its index. Unfortunately, many people do not play fair when positioning their websites in search engines, and instead of striving to be better and achieve better rankings because of their good results, they prefer to do everything possible so that others do not achieve what they can’t reach either. This post is about this way of doing SEO and how you can respond to these malicious acts.

Understanding why some people are so into negative SEO is not hard. The good positioning in Google’s first results is actually a business. A very profitable business in some niches, so to speak. Whenever there is a chance to make money, there are people who are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, especially if implementing Negative SEO is simpler, faster and cheaper than doing a good SEO. That’s why you should always expect this, sadly: when your website starts to build a reputation and you become an obstacle for your competitors, sooner or later you will find one or more attacks of this type, just like in any kind of business.

Many believe that it is not possible to do harm by using negative SEO, but considering such thing is a mistake. If you overpopulate your SEO Off-page by getting many links quickly, from suspicious sites with an exact anchor text, you can earn a Google penalty. If you do this against someone else’s website, you can make him/her lose a lot of time and money.

However, even though no one is shielded from these types of threats, it does not mean that nothing can be done. In fact, you can defend yourself against any negative SEO attacks if you understand the mechanics.

Negative SEO through Link Building is the most usual practice of negative SEO, although thankfully it is not usually the most effective, especially if your site is not new and has some authority.

On the other hand, Negative SEO with Backlinks of low quality and nofollow is also one of the most common forms in which they usually perform attacks, since it is relatively simple and economic. Almost anyone can learn to comment and insert links massively in blogs without moderation, abandoned websites, forums, etc.

Recommended: Negative SEO: Destroying Businesses One Spammy Backlink at a Time

If you normally monitor your links profile and receive this attack, you will see hundreds or thousands of links that appear suddenly out of nowhere. Fortunately, most non-moderated sites, where links can be inserted automatically, include the nofollow attribute to the links, which cancels or greatly lowers their power. Nevertheless, negative SEO through quality and do-follow backlinks is a bit more harmful, especially if the links are created very quickly, at a speed which is not the usual on your site. With this attack you run the risk that Google thinks that you are trying to position yourself by buying links, and it is most likely for you to be penalized.

Although it may seem nonsense, the worst negative SEO attack you can receive is precisely the one that simulates a normal SEO strategy and, at the same time, seems abusive to Google. That is why it is increasingly important that, for long term-positioning, you try to stay as far away from the SEO techniques that Google considers questionable. If your only positioning strategy is to create links on abandoned blogs or with exact commercial keywords, it is very easy for you to drop first an attack that simply amplifies what you are already doing.

Sometimes, by checking your links with Search Console or Majestic, you may find that, suddenly, the anchor text of your links contains a lot of strange Keywords that you are not used to. If these links point you to keywords which are not normal in your content, nor can they be found in them, you really should not worry. It is unusual for this type of attack to affect the positioning of your good keywords or trigger a penalty.

Luckily, these types of links usually come from low-quality sites, and end up disappearing over time. They can still stain your links profile, though, and if they get to dominate it, they will block the keywords that really interest you: your commercial keywords, your brand keywords, etc. They could become a smaller percentage within your profile, and this may detract from authority when positioning some of those keywords.

There are other types of attacks, and surely will be created more in the future. That is why it is important to be aware of them, not only to avoid falling into SEO mistakes that could cost you dearly, but to know what to do when someone is attacking you.

Read also: The Dark Side of SEO, by ReputationDefender

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