What is Negative 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 rankings in search engines to drop!

The worst part is – this could happen to your website and you may not learn about it until it’s too late.

Negative SEO Wasn’t Always Negative

Once upon a time, if you wanted your website to rank well on search engine pages, you could literally buy or spam your way to the top.

Instead of ranking because you have a great website, a reputable company with a solid business base, and invested in SEO, back then your website could hold the coveted top spots in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs) because it instead had an overabundance of highly used keywords (also known as keyword stuffing) and/or you bought a ton of backlinks (often spam) to point to it.

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 de-indexed 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, clickbait filled, spammy and sometimes downright dangerous websites.

Search Engine users were displeased with the constant barrage of useless results to their queries – giving rise to the desperate need of changes to how Search Engines worked in the first place.

Search Engine Updates To The Rescue

Google logo with panda, hummingbird, and penguin to represent each update.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 update to the 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.

The Birth of Negative SEO

What happens when, one day, you see a huge drop in website traffic and soon realize you have been de-indexed 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.

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.

How Do You Keep Yourself Safe From Negative SEO?

  • Possibly the most obvious- try not to make enemies! Sometimes in business that is unavoidable and sadly, sometimes you are targeted for no particular reason.
  • Make sure your website and all the plugins are up to date so that hackers have a hard time finding a way in.
  • Make sure whoever hosts your website has the ability to detect suspicious activity and will work quickly to resolve any potential threats or issues.

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.

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