There has been much talk recently about an "Over SEO'ed Website" algorithm update done by Google. Much of it started with the recent "nuking" of private blog networks and the consequential shutdown of link building companies like BuildMyRank that used techniques that Google and many others considered to be spam.
The only problem with this is that it opens the door for negative SEO to be extremely exploited. Providing blue prints for how to flag a competitor's website as spam by using off-site (and indirect on-site) SEO tactics that can shakedown a website from the top positions in the search engines.
Very - very quick rundown of SEO 101
For those of you that don't know, SEO is search engine optimization - and it has become a billion dollar industry. It is the process of achieving better rankings in the search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo by optimizing for different signals. Google in particular, uses 200+ different signals to position websites in their search engine results pages (SERPs). Much of SEO involves leveraging different online and offline assets to improve rankings - like your site's content for example.
Out of all the different signals that Google uses to determine your positions in the SERPs, no other is more important than your link profile (at least according to large amount of SEO professionals). This is a link pointing to your website (called a backlink) from another website. Links are the highway roads of the Internet, and therefore are able to provide valuable information about the quality of a web site. A healthy site has a good mixture of different kinds of links, with many different variations of anchor texts. The better your link profile looks in the eyes of Google, the more likely you are going to be to rank for your prime keywords.
Negative SEO uses these 200 plus signals (again links being a major one) and exploits them to make it seem like your site is overly optimized when really you have just become the victim of a malicious SEO attack. It is almost like hacking, except there is no coding that is involved.
Negative SEO Case Studies
Right now there is an epic thread going on about Negative SEO case studies. In this thread, there are people that participate in Negative SEO that have documented their strategies as well as provided information about results from their efforts to bring down websites from the top positions in the search engines.
Also in this thread, the founder of SEOmoz.org (one of the top SEO companies in the industry), Rand Fishkin, even offered up his site as testing grounds to see the full out potential of what Negative SEO can actually do to a web site (the consensus in the thread was that his brand and domain authority would ultimately be to much to take down). Why did he do this? Everyone in the SEO industry is interested about one thing right now. Is negative seo possible? Can you be a target and a victim? It seems that the answer as of right now is yes, and that there are many factors that just made Negative SEO go mainstream.
Ok so what is negative SEO finally, and how could it effect you?
Do you have any reason that someone would be "after you" or would want revenge or want to do any harm to you? These are usually words that you would hear at some type of investigation done by the police but are words that have now become very relevant in the online marketing industry.
Negative SEO is using known tactics that Google flags as SPAM on your competitor’s website which will result in a loss of rankings or even getting your website completely de-indexed in Google's search engine. If you are running a small to medium sized business then you are definitely susceptible to such an attack by one of your competitors.
Negative SEOer's will find your sites vulnerabilities and leverage them in hopes to exploit them. If you are a webmaster or a tech savvy business owner, here are some of the things you should be on the look out for when it comes to negative SEO.
SPAM link building using the exact same anchor text. Forum links, profile links, blog comments...ect etc. Google is alerted when you use the same anchor text and get around 1000 links a day (all of the sudden). If you are getting them legitimately (news story?) Google will move on. If not, you are going to get the unnatural links email from Google Webmaster Tools and possible see a drop in the rankings
Manufactured (fake) tweets, Facebook likes, and blog posts
Obtain tons of links from private blog networks like the ones BuildMyRank were affiliated with
Be aware. If your site adds new content daily, it is possible to scrape your site for the content, and post it and get it manually indexed before your new content gets naturally indexed. This creates duplicate content issues and the scraping of your site also slows it down causing double the trouble.
Targeting your Google places page with fake and spammy reviews can cause it to be delisted from Google reviews (a method with very quick results)
These are only the few of tactics being used by Negative SEO companies that can greatly effect your websites rankings.
What Can You Do?
The stronger your websites link profile is the harder it is for your website to get shaken down. Make sure that you are constantly building a diverse profile with diverse anchor texts and from quality sites. Be sure that there is no duplicate content already on your site and try to fix any vulnerabilities that could possibly be exploited.
If you think you or anyone you know has a target of Negative SEO, contact the SEO professionals over at ImageWorks Studio today. We will give you a free consultation about what you can do to repair the damage that has been done by an individual or third party Negative SEO company.