Over the last three year’s Google has really pushed the idea of creating quality online. Great content, respectable natural links – essentially good SEO marketing practices.
In order to help make sure their search results show the highest quality sites Google has systematically penalised anyone trying to game the system. This has meant that article directories, directories and low quality guest posting have all gone out the window.
And overall this is great. It means that we, as marketers, can focus on delivering value in our campaigns. We’ve got more creative in our approaches to online marketing and we’ve all benefited from exceptional content being developed for consumers.
Over the last year a problem has arisen.
The Rise of The Negative SEO Campaign
In the deep, dark corners of the black hat SEO world we can now find people offering negative SEO campaigns. These people will literally destroy your website and your competitors websites for a price. I’m not going to mention where these people can be found as we don’t want to encourage anyone to follow this type of practice.
What these unscrupulous individuals will do is conduct a campaign specifically designed to make your company fall fowl of Google’s algorithm.
- Create thousands of spammy, over-optimised spun articles with links pointing to your website.
- Create hundreds of do-follow comment links
- Create hundreds of directory listings
- Copy your content and try to have it indexed before yours is
- Create negative reviews about your business on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Google+
- Create negative content on legitimate domains to outrank your own positive reviews
These campaigns tend to focus on one or both of two things. Either they aim to ruin your online reputation or they aim to make your website disappear.
We’ve seen reports of people losing their rankings after sustained negative SEO campaigns.
Sometimes these negative campaigns are specifically targeted at destroying a business but in the majority of cases they are being used as a form of extortion.
The Link Scam
What will happen is you will notice a number of links pointing to your site from poor quality link directories or article sites. These will show up in your link auditing tools. When you contact the company asking to have these articles removed you will receive a polite response like this.
“Thank you for contacting us. We can remove your links at a cost of $7/link. We have 125 links on our network pointing to your domain”.
If you argue that you didn’t place these links here you probably won't get a response and you may dig a deeper hole as they may add even more links to your website within their huge networks of low value directories.
So your options here are to pay up to have the links removed (not advisable) or to potentially suffer an algorithmic or manual penalty.
Well not quite
The good news is you can Disavow these directories using Google’s disavow tool. This tool essentially lets you tell Google to ignore these links next time it crawls your backlink profile.
The downside is that this tool doesn’t affect how other search engines view your website. To be effective with the disavow tool we also want to take steps to remove negative links.
- Use the Google webmaster forum to publically expose any individuals perpetrating these types of attacks on your website.
- Contact DMCA to try and use their "takedown orders" arguing that these sites have used your content without your permission.
- File complaints with the domain reseller and hosting network. A lot of these negative campaigns use fake online data - if they are caught doing this their network can be taken down.
These are just a few ideas of what you can do.
However, you really need to go to war with these perpetrators to to be affective which will mean spending alot of your time and resource.
Here is a great article to show you to what extent you can go to in order to remove spammy links :
Avoiding Negative SEO Attacks
There are, currently, no ways to prevent these types of negative SEO attacks. The only real defence is to monitor your links regularly – twice a week. This way you can respond to any negative or suspicious links BEFORE they actually damage your website.
Contact us if you have any questions or concerns raised above.