Negative SEO is a way that competitors can try to hurt your site ranking by setting up low quality inbound links to your web site. These links are then associated with your site and can affect your ranking position. This is collectively known as negative SEO.
The types of negative links that come under the term ‘Negative SEO’ include links from sites with a poor linking neighborhood, links from gambling, adult entertainment and other less desirable types of sites like splogs. With link building automation and free blogging platforms, someone can create many sites with poor quality links very fast.
Negative SEO is not a new phenomenon although it has been getting a lot of attention lately when a recent Google algorithm update specifically took aim at web sites with a lot of poor quality inbound links and artificially dropped their ranking accordingly. Many sites hurt by the update lost more than 60% of their visitors and income overnight, when the update moved their ranking position off the first page and back to a low ranking position for many search terms they were targeting.
Many site owners became very concerned because they were perfectly aware that it was all too easy for their competitors who rank below them to pay a offshore link building team to set up tens of thousands of automated links from low quality sites to their site. This has always been a worry, but with Google now actively adjusting search results to penalize sites with poor quality links, website owners felt powerless to defend themselves against such a threat.
Five Defensive Steps to Take
There are five steps that you can take to keep a watchful eye out for negative SEO being used by your competitors on you.
- Set up Alerts to check for problem terms
- Run regular searches on Google to check for problems
- Search for site name, domain name and “site:yourdomain badterm”
- Add email contact information for updates from Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Central.
- Track your inbound links with OpenSiteExplorer or MajesticSEO
- Keep a list of previous inbound domains linking to you & look for new domains added recently.
- Review new domains that are linking to you.
Contacting Website Owners Who Link to Your Site
If you find an inbound link that you do not think is appropriate, you can check out the site and track down the Contact Us section. If the site lacks contact information, you can try to find a contact email address by running a WHOIS domain search.
Sometimes domain name ownership is hidden, but even then you usually can find an email address offered by the service provider for domain privacy services and email sent to that address is often forwarded to the site owner.
If you cannot find contact information, check if it is a blog that has commenting, where you can leave a comment asking for contact information or leaving your own details.
It does take time, but it can be worth asking for the removal of links that you think might affect or are currently affecting your search engine ranking position. There is no quick and easy method to this, despite what people might try to tell you when offering a paid solution.
Google’s Disavow Tool
Recently, Google has add a new tool to the Google Webmaster Tools site, to allow webmasters to enter the domains that are sending negative links to their site.
This can be an easy way to mark the links that are undesirable. However, Matt Cutts, the head of Google Spam Team, recently answered in an interview that webmasters should still try to get links taken down first by contacting site owners, because disavow requests are manually reviewed and the Google team wants to see link removals, not just disavow requests.
In many cases it is not possible to know for sure which links may be hurting a site’s ranking position. It is easy to disavow the wrong sites linking to your site, and hurt your ranking even further. Therefore, usage of the Disavow Tool should be carefully considered first.
Follow The Steps
Rather than feeling powerless to protect your niche site empire, if you follow the steps provided above, you can go some way to monitor the situation, contact site owners putting up negative links, and if necessary, use the Google Disavow Tool to try to remove their negative affect on your ranking. It is not a perfect solution and will take some time to deal with each week, but generating online income is a very competitive business and where there is money to be made, there will always be some underhanded business tactics being used.