What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO black hat SEO

We all know how important having a spectacular SEO and SEM strategy will give your website a well deserved boost- but what happened if there was a way for your competitors to sabotage your website with negative SEO? Unfortunately, negative SEO exists and it is becoming a real problem. More and more, black hat SEO mercenaries are springing up to take out the competition by manipulating search engine guidelines to make your website appear to not be within Google’s guidelines and cause your ranking to drop! The worst part is- this could happen to your website and you may not learn about it until it’s too late. Let us explain how.

Once upon a time, if you wanted your website to rank well on search engine pages, you could literally buy your way to the top. Instead of ranking because you have a great website and a reputable company with a solid business base, you could hold the coveted top spots in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs) because your website had a overabundance of highly used keywords (keywords that likely had nothing to do with your website, but were often used in search queries and therefore considered “valuable” to bring in traffic) and tons of backlinks pointing to your website. You could pay money to get your website listed all across the Internet. Times have changed- these practices are frowned upon by Google and the other search engines so much so that attempting to manipulate your ranking through these means can cause your domain to tank in the SERPs or be black listed altogether.

Over time, with more and more websites participating in these shenanigans, the top ranking spots of the SERPs were being crowded with low quality, click bait filled, spammy and sometimes downright dangerous websites. Search engine users were displeased with the constant barrage of useless results to their queries and so search engines designed and updated filters and algorithms that changed the landscape of searching forever. For example, in 2011 Google’s Panda update created an opportunity to filter out “low quality” websites, and encourage the creation of high quality sites by explaining to webmasters what they were looking to promote (i.e. quality content, less advertising, etc.). In 2012 Google released the Penguin update that specifically filtered out websites from their SERPs that were obviously using excessive backlinking to artificially build up their website ranking. Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm revolutionized the industry- not only did the algorithm anticipate user’s search queries, but it encouraged websites to step away from the overuse of keywords and bring back natural language and high quality content.

The intelligence of the search engine algorithms has definitely improved and will continue to improve, meaning that websites need to work hard to prove their worth in order to climb the SERPs. Let’s say you have an amazing business and a fantastic website and you are exceeding the expectations of your customers and search engine algorithms alike- what happens when, one day, you see your website has been blacklisted and removed from the SERPs altogether? How could this happen?

The unfortunate side effect of implementing these intelligent algorithms is that all the things that once got you to the top of the SERPs can be used against you to take you down. According to this piece by Jayson DeMers in Forbes, negative SEO attacks happen more often than you think. Your website can be hacked and thousands of backlinking requests can be sent to spammy websites, tarnishing your good name and drag you down. If you aren’t constantly monitoring your website, you might have no idea you are under attack until it’s too late and your domain is crushed. As described by Felix Tarcomnicu, bad backlinking is just one step in negative SEO your content could be copied and spread over the Internet, your social media presence could be hijacked, your website could be linked to keywords that are red flags…the threat is real and it is imperative you keep an eye out for an attack, especially if you are in a highly competitive market.

Although there are ways to monitor your site’s activity, and options to try to undo the damage, it is quite possible that the long-term consequences of an attack means you will have to start from scratch. Ryan Sullivan of WP Site Care illustrates well what it’s like to be hit with a negative SEO campaign and with all their headache, at least they were aware of how to deal with it swiftly. Most people aren’t so lucky.

So, how to you keep from being a target? First off- try not to make enemies. Sometimes in business that is unavoidable and sadly, sometimes you are targeted for no particular reason. Staying on top of your website security is imperative. Make sure your website and all the plugins are up to date so that hackers have a hard time finding a way in. Austin born Josiesque Designs offers a spectacular website maintenance service to keep your website current as well as a security protection plan that makes it more difficult for hackers to compromise your website. It’s like locking the door to your website instead of leaving it wide open. Further, if you host with us, we’ll be able to detect suspicious activity immediately and we can work quickly to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to take out websites for fun and/or profit. The least you can do is make yourself a difficult target. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to help protect your assets and keep your online presence secure.

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