Googles recent Penguin update was designed to reduce the impact that low-quality backlinks had on a websites natural search performance. And while this news was mostly greeted with frustration by webmasters who had been using linking schemes to artificially inflate their SERP rankings, there was one group that was happy about the change: the black hat spammers who utilize negative SEO to bring down their competitors rankings.
Negative SEO is the practice of attacking other websites using techniques that are likely to result in known SEO penalties, rather than taking a proactive approach to investing in ones own website. As an example, somebody using negative SEO might direct these same low-quality backlinks to point at a competitors website, rather than taking the time to build high-value links back to his own site.
For a long time, Google denied that negative SEO could have an impact on the natural search results, though severalconclusivecase studies demonstrated that this type of attack could be used to dramatically lower a competitors rankings.
As a result, the best way to prevent negative SEO is to stay informed about the tactics that these spammers use and to monitor your site for any indications that an attack is underway. Heres how to do it:
Since weve established that negative SEO is a viable tool for damaging a competitors rankings, its imperative that you be proactive about preventing these tactics from influencing your own sites performance. Really, the time to take action against negative SEO spammers is before you see your sites listings start to slide down the SERPs!
Currently, the primary tactic being used in negative SEO attacks is the low-quality backlink, pointed at a competitors website. Its cheap, easy to do, and difficult to trace, as Google has no way of knowing whether you or your attacker pointed that 10,000 links for $10 package at your website.
As a result, you best course of action for preventing negative SEO attacks is to monitor your websites backlink profile for evidence that malicious links are being directed towards your site. There are a number of different tools that will give you this information, although if youre seriously concerned about the potential damage a negative SEO attack may cause, Id recommend using a paid program like Raven Tools or SEOMoz PRO.
While there are free tools out there that will give you some data on your sites existing backlink profile, using a tool that allows you to sort links according to certain criteria will make the process of monitoring for negative SEO attacks much easier. As an example, if you decide to run a negative SEO check weekly, using a tool that either flags potentially damaging links or allows you to filter out only those links that were created in the last week will make the process of identifying malicious links go much faster.
As you peruse your sites backlink profile, keep an eye out for any of the following indications of negative SEO:
Now, keep in mind that seeing a few links that meet these criteria doesnt necessarily mean that youre the victim of a targeted negative SEO campaign. There are plenty of different black hat SEO techniques out there that could result in low-quality links being pointed at your website, so the presence of a few bad backlinks doesnt conclusively prove that a competitor is gunning to bring you down.
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How to Prevent Negative SEO