Protest ACTA 2012-02-11 - Toulouse - 02 - Anonymous guy with black hat

Negative SEO link building practices can take down your website? Huh? I thought I needed all the inbound links I could get from other websites to establish my site’s credibility and search ranking.

One of the cool things about blogging for Directory One is that I get to learn a whole bunch of new things. I stumbled on this topic of discussion while writing about Google’s latest Penguin algorithm last week. I found it fascinating, yet downright scary at the same time. Of course I had to write about it.

Negative SEO really grabbed my attention. I write web content, for goodness sakes. I’m neither a webmaster nor SEO guru nor techie. I know the best practices in SEO as it relates to content. I even maintain my own, humble site dedicated to relentless self-promotion.

One of the little bennies of stalking SEO forums is that you learn that SEO is not only content writing for search engines. It encompasses a whole lot of things like building outbound and inbound links, internal and external linking, site design, and a myriad of other techniques to get your site ranked. SEO is a strategic site engineering operation to gain ranking. You must have a plan. But I digress.

Negative SEO, I found, is reverse engineering a website. Any site owner knows that it takes time to cultivate your peers, build authority, and get other gurus linking to you. Backlinks from the masters are the best kind, not to mention ego-flattering.

What do I mean by reverse engineering?

We all know that using good SEO practices help increase your site’s search ranking. We spend plenty of time making crawling and reporting back easier for the bots. We’ve spent untold hours developing fascinating, informative, relevant content. We’ve carefully chosen our outbound links, pointing to authoritative, reliable sources.

Negative SEO is pointblank website sabotage with the sole objective of handing the site a huge demotion. A competitor launches an assault on your site, most often by using inbound links. These underhanded bums spend a lot of time building backlinks from not-so-savory neighborhoods to your site, hoping Google will penalize you. I consider it similar to athletes injecting themselves with steroids to be better and stronger instead of working hard.

Google’s Matt Cutts says that negative SEO won’t work. He assures us that Google’s latest algorithms prevent this. In addition, there’s a disavow links tool that lets you tell Google what backlinks to your site to ignore. Using the disavow tool is similar to using one of WordPress’ SEO plugins and checking the box not to index a page or a blog post. Only it’s a whole lot more work, because you have to disavow each inbound link individually.

I’m not really too sure how much credence to give Matt Cutts’ assurances. My Google search for “negative SEO” returned a company that is building their business on this in the first page results. It’s a one page site, no phone numbers or address, just a contact form and information about how good they are at this accomplishing the dastardly deed.

So this leads me to believe that either

  1. they have found a way around Google or
  2. they are just down-right rip-off artists.

What I did find out from my SEO forum stalking activities is that if you’re a small business and your site is less than 2 years old, you have cause for concern. The IBMs, GEs, Samsungs, and Amazons won’t be hurt by this devious attack attempt . It won’t matter one little bit if someone writes a negative review on Yelp or backlinks to IBM from a gambling website.

So here are some tips to help protect your website. If you’ve done any of the listed, you could be easily targeted by what I consider highly unethical competitors. So here goes —

  1. Don’t use “Click Here” links
  2. Don’t keyword stuff
  3. Don’t rip-off other folks content
  4. Don’t have a whole lot of microsites
  5. Don’t, whatever you do, pay for backlinks

Negative SEO may, or may not be, a growing trend among unethical competitors. The jury is still out as to whether the practice actually works. If you don’t do any of the above and regularly check your Analytics, you should be fairly safe.

Going the extra mile is a smart when it comes to avoiding becoming a target, wouldn’t you think?

If you have any questions on avoiding a negative SEO attack, Directory One is ready to help you.