Many businesses competing online today are concerned about the threat of negative SEO attacks. In the passing year, we saw widespread reports of extortion emails threatening negative SEO. Even more people believed these attacks caused their sites to drop out of search results. Is negative SEO is a real threat you should be concerned about going into 2015?
According to a recent Forbes article, it is one of the Top 7 SEO Trends That Will Dominate 2015. Numerous SEO experts agree negative SEO is a real threat.
In discussing the future of SEO, Search Engine Land news editor Barry Swartz said “Negative SEO will become more and more of an issue for webmasters, SEO, and Google in 2015.” Moz’s Rand Fishkin said “…many SEOs will spend frustratingly long hours watching for and disavowing potentially risky links …”
Yes, negative SEO is a possibility. It happens and you should be aware of the possibility if you are in a highly competitive field. But will it be a dominate SEO trend?
I hope not.
What is Negative SEO?
People often refer to a multitude of tactics ranging from hacking into a site and injecting malware, to hijacking local business profiles, to spamming the web with fake negative reviews of a business as negative SEO. Basically, negative SEO is a campaign to reduce the rankings of a website, usually a competitor’s site.
The most common method of negative SEO is to build a multitude (hundreds or thousands) of spam links to the site. When you hear about negative SEO, more often than not it refers to this link building practice.
Businesses and black hat marketers hear negative SEO can help their site’s rankings by knocking down their competitors, and some will try it. Others send extortion emails threatening negative SEO attacks if a business doesn’t pay to prevent it.
Although Google is good at recognizing such attacks, negative SEO and other attacks against businesses online can cause companies to lose revenue, or at least countless hours cleaning up the mess it creates (which also costs money).
How to Respond to Negative SEO Attacks
Although it is unlikely you will face an actual negative SEO attack (read this Moz blog article), your best defense is to be proactive. Monitor your backlinks on a monthly basis. You can see a sample in Google Webmaster Tools for free. You can also use various free and paid tools such as OpenSiteExplorer.org, Ahrefs.com and RavenTools.com. I prefer to use multiple tools for a more complete audit of a backlink profile.
If you have hundreds or thousands of backlinks, an audit is long and tedious, but a necessary process. You will need to check each unrecognized domain linking to your site. If you do find a large number of unnatural links and are certain they are causing your site problems, try to get the links removed.
You can contact the sites and request removal, but do not pay for removal of the links. If you do, you could find many new ones added to other spammy directories in attempts to get more money for removing them.
You may also use Google’s disavow tool, but do so cautiously so as not to create more problems than you intend to solve. If you are certain links are causing your site problems and are unfamiliar with the backlink audit, link removal, and disavow process, consider getting help from an experienced professional. The same goes for cases of site hacking and attacks on a brand’s reputation.
If you receive an email threatening negative SEO, save it as proof in case you need it later. Don’t pay or even reply. Google recommends reporting extortion to law enforcement. If you received the message from a Gmail user, report it here: https://support.google.com/mail/contact/abuse.
When responding to what you think is a negative SEO attack, taking smart actions helps prevent escalation of the negative effects. If you need assistance with reputation monitoring and social profile management, the social media marketing team at Forthea can provide it. If you have questions about backlink profiles and negative SEO, Forthea’s SEO pros are here to help. Contact us.