If you have been in Internet marketing long enough, you know you need to understand the magic of SEO. You should at least have a working knowledge of how “doing SEO” brings traffic to your site and helps it move up in the world of rankings and relevance.
With this in mind, you have probably mapped out an SEO strategy for your site (if you haven’t you really should!). You’ve planned and executed and planned some more and then one day ... you find out you have ended up in SEO oblivion! You panic and wonder what you did that was wrong enough for Google to wipe you off the Internet ... but did you ever think that it could be someone else causing you this grief?
Welcome to the evil and sneaky world of negative SEO techniques. What’s negative SEO? You know how doing all the right things moves you up in the rankings? That is positive SEO. When someone else does all the wrong things to try to sabotage your site, that is negative SEO.
Here are five common ways unscrupulous competitors can try to hurt your site with their completely evil negative SEO techniques.
When someone is trying to send your site to purgatory (i.e. page 15 of Google), the first (and most common) tactic they will usually try is to send huge numbers of poor-quality links your way. True story. They will pay for hundreds of spammy links and point them to your site in an attempt to adversely affect your link profile. Then you will get a warning that looks like this:
How many links does it take for Google to send you a warning? I'm unsure of the exact numbers but let's just say if there is a sudden, completely unexplained spike of links to your site, it’s likely to sound off warning bells for Google. After Rand Fishkin put out the challenge for anyone to try and take down his site, he found out that even a site as well-known as SEOMoz will get a notice from Google for poor-quality backlinks.
Google’s head of search engine spam, Matt Cutts, has said that Google is aware of this growing negative SEO trend.
Can you avoid it? While you can’t stop someone from pointing links to your site, you should definitely monitor your backlink profile actively to make sure there are no unnatural spikes. You can monitor your backlinks using the Affilorama backlink checker.
If you notice unexplained growth, it may mean you’re under attack. In such a scenario, Google suggests contacting the webmaster first and asking him or her to take down the links. Should this fail, Matt Cutts suggests using Google’s Disavow Links tool to help you address the issue.
Watch Matt Cutts explain this in the video below.
Evil Content Scraping
Of course, negative SEO doesn’t just stop with backlinks alone. Duplicate content can get you severe penalties from Google. Those trying to sabotage your site can try to duplicate your content before your site is even indexed. Why? They are trying to make it look like the original site (yours) is actually the one trying to steal and duplicate the content.
How can you check if your content is being scraped? Run a quick Google search with any sentence from your site in quotes.
Can you prevent it? Yes. Just be sure to maintain an up-to-date sitemap, especially when you publish new content. Additionally, including the rel=canonical tag on your pages is also a good way to establish you as the authority.
If you’re really unlucky, hackers might try to take you down as well. If your site has any loopholes, hackers can try things like strategically placing a noindex tag within the code or even adding malicious links. Additionally, denial of service attacks, where your website gets overwhelmed with way more requests than it can handle, aren’t uncommon either. This makes it impossible for Google to crawl your site and could affect your rankings.
Make a habit of regularly scanning your site for any changes in code to secure it against malicious hackers.
Website speed is an important factor in SEO as well. Saboteurs can use crawlers to continually crawl your site. This will make it slow to load and use, and it will become a poor experience for users. This in turn will not just affect your SEO; it could even affect your conversion rates.Preventing and controlling web crawlers can be difficult, but there is some good advice here.
Customer reviews are valuable commodities in the SEO world these days, but if Google notices you’re making up fake reviews online, you’re likely to get punished. Competitors can do this to hurt you by making it appear these reviews are coming from you. If you start noticing a pattern on Google reviews that don’t look quite right, be sure to report the reviews to Google for review before they start affecting your search engine rankings.
Don’t panic—I don’t want to scare you off the Internet. The idea is to get you thinking and actively keeping an eye on the vulnerabilities of your site. If there are holes, you are better of plugging them before your competitors spot them. SEO can get competitive. It’s good to stay informed about what others can do to bring you down, and what you can do to prevent that from happening.
I’m interested—have you ever had your site brought down by negative SEO? Any stories to share?
P.S. If you want to build a Google-friendly affiliate site, our AffiloTheme product could be exactly what you’re looking for.