Regardless of whether you are a new or an experienced website owner, by now it is likely that you have come across the term SEO before, and have a relatively sufficient understanding of what it entails. However, what you might not know is the difference between negative and positive SEO, and what you can do to ensure that all your SEO is benefiting your site rather than hindering it.
When we talk about SEO or “Search Engine Optimisation”, we are really talking about structuring our websites is such a manner that Google’s search algorithms favour. Essentially, dependant on how effectively you can incorporate SEO into your website, will dictate the position Google will place your site for keywords. The reason why it is so important to getSEO right, is that you can waste hundreds of hours, thousands of pounds and even lose business, if you do not understand the difference between positive and negative SEO.
It is reported that whole online based websites can crumble at the feet of Google’s algorithms as a result of poorly incorporated SEO. So the question is of course… what is negative SEO and how can you as a website owner avoid it?
Simply put, negative SEO is a poor implementation of SEO tactics, which instead of gaining the website new traffic and customers from searches, causes the websites statistics to plummet and their sales to disappear. In an idealistic world, negative SEO would have a neutral effect on your website’s traffic and sales, however in reality it can mean that everything that you have worked for in terms of SEO in the past can be lost.
Some typical examples of tactics that diminish a website’s SEO success, include building low quality backlinks, engaging in forms of search engine spam, and most artificial traffic boosters.
It is with regret that many companies, who are unaware of the damage that such practices can bring to their site, end up spending money on negative SEO tactics only to find that they have destroyed any hope of success their site ever had. What’s worse, is that competing websites can hinder another’s SEO ranking, by creating low quality links for them or spamming their website’s credentials all over forms and the search engines. Furthermore, all of this can be executed without leaving a single trace to the perpetrator, which means that you have no basis to accuse one of your competitors of engaging in such activities.
Do you need to worry?
The answer to this question really is dependent on your situation. Since negative SEO is fairly easy to engage in, it could be easily achieved by any company owner, who has some spare time on their hands. However, most small companies don’t even have sufficient time to consider their own website’s SEO, never mind that of their competitors! For this reason, more often than not, the only negative SEO that you need to worry about, is the negative SEO that you are comitting to your own site. Additionally, it is easy to identify negative or low quality SEO, and therefore it can be easily remedied.
How can you detect negative SEO?
To discover whether your site has become the victim of low quality SEO, here are some effective analysis tools that can help to identify all of the low quality SEO coming into your site.
1. Google Webmaster Tools – This is a great tool that lets you see your most recent links, and is a fantastic place to start when looking to identify negative SEO. Simply go to “Search Traffic” and “Links to your site” to be presented with all of the available links that were found.
2. Fresh Web Explorer – this tool from Moz displays all of the recent mentions of a specific keyword or any link that you decide to search for. They have an incredibly useful daily alerts system, which allows you to keep up to date with the recent activity surrounding your website’s SEO.
3. Link Research Tools – Is a program that can run a detox analysis to not only examine backlinks, but also evaluate which ones have the highest likelihood of harming your site rather than help it with the search rankings.
Majestic SEO – This intelligent analytical tool allow users to see all available links incoming to their site, and allows you to monitor specific links.
Once you are able to get a list of sites that are linking towards your site, you should spend the time to check each one to see just what kind of effect they are having on your site. If you find that you have many sites linking to yours, which are low quality, spammy and generally useless then you can have reason to suspect that you are under a negative SEO attack.
What can you do about it?
Upon discovering that you are a victim of negative SEO attacks, there are three measures that you can take to address the problem.
1. Request removals – This is the first thing that you will want to do when you learn of the negative links incoming to your site. This is also the ideal solution to the issue, but you will need to contact the owner of each website that you find, which can be tedious if there are many sites. In some cases, website owners will even ask for a fee for the removal of the links, which can be problematic if you do not have the requested funds. It is advisable that you use your domain name as your email address, so that the website owner knows that you are who you say you are.
2. Deny spam links through the Google Webmaster Tools – Google does provide web owners with a method to let them know whether you have been the victim of negative SEO, and they can do an investigation and stop you for being penalised for the bad links. Generally, you should only take this measure if removal through contacting the website owners was not successful, or if they simply ignored your request for removal.
3. Change your domain name – It goes without saying that this should be a final measure, and should only be done in rare circumstances. Although there may come the scenario, where the sheer multitude of negative links referring to your site is overwhelming, and the problem can be easily solved through launching your site under a new name. Do bear in mind that this is the same as completely starting from scratch, and therefore should only be done after some careful consideration.
Of course if these measures do seem to be overwhelming to you, there are several SEO specialist companies who are available to help. They know exactly what they are doing when it comes to combating a negative SEO attack, and can do a lot in the way of cleaning up your inbound links.
In summary, in most cases you will not need to worry yourself with negative SEO whatsoever. But why not arm yourself with sufficient tools to ensure that you do not fall victim to such attacks, which can ruin your websites SEO and hence any sales/traffic you could hope to acquire.