Negative SEO Part I: key concepts and myths
We decided to create this 4-part article on negative SEO after our own site was hit by a negative SEO campaign for the 3rd time over the last 10 years in 2018. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory as an SEO company that consistently tops the search engines. Competitors sometimes play dirty pool (across all industries). It is never a fun process to fix, but take heart, just like many of our clients we have been down, but not out. We always right the ship!
If good SEO is something that positively impacts your search engine rank, then negative SEO is the opposite: something that happens within or without your site that tanks your rank.
Oddly enough, Google denies that negative SEO even exists.
What is negative SEO?
For part one in our series on negative SEO, let’s look at what this actually implies.
Negative signaling, sometimes known as “black hat” SEO, generally targets competing sites in an attempt to knock them back in the SERPs.
It can be described as any action performed with the sole purpose of negatively impacting a site’s rank. This can be done by manipulating content or a variable contained within a link that results in a harmful action – say, linking back to a harmful site or landing page that was not what the user intended.
Is negative SEO the same as hacking?
While the two activities share similar qualities, negative SEO and hacking are not (always) the same. Hacking can be best described as the process of gaining unauthorized access to a website with the intention of manipulating its code or content.
But not all negative SEO tactics can be called hacking—or black hat, for that matter.
For instance, you may reach out to a site with high authority in an effort to replace a competitor’s link with yours. You might argue that your company and its services or products are more worthwhile, and you could well get your way.
This kind of activity, while outwardly legit and justifiable to a certain extent, is raining down some negative SEO juju on your competitor. It’s just business.
Extreme competition drives extreme measures
In the vast majority of cases, black hat activities are focused on one of four categories of spam: diet pills, poker or gambling sites, pornography, or payday loans. The reason? These are easily the four most competitive niches on the web, so launching a successful campaign often drives webmasters to use some underhanded tactics.
However, even if you don’t do business in one of these sectors, don’t be so sure that you can’t fall victim to a similar scheme.
The problem is, negative SEO can be very difficult to detect. It’s practically invisible and some tactics – like pointing a link-bomb back to your site – are completely out of your control. You won’t notice any change in the look and feel of your website; however, you will notice a gradual or sudden dip in your site’s rank and traffic.
On the more obvious side, here are a few common negative SEO tactics:
- Links: Targeting a specific URL with a multitude (thousands) of “bad neighborhood” links.
- Content spamming: Keyword-stuffed commenting or a swath of negative comments and ratings intended to tank your rank.
- Copyright complaints: If a competitor claims you have used content that belongs to them, it may result in your site being taken down for up to 10 days while the claim is investigated.
Come back soon for Part II, where we will look at how to recognize when you’ve fallen victim to negative SEO.
Stay tuned for more in this series as we dive deeper into negative SEO, what it is and what you can do to protect yourself from it. Need SEO expertise in Houston? Reach out today to find out how we can help!