Just like any other industry, there are plenty of people who aren’t afraid of playing dirty when it comes to their search engine rankings.
We’ve talked before about the various “black-hat” SEO tactics that some other Melbourne SEO agencies might be using as part of their strategies.
In our opinion, there are no shortcuts when it comes to SEO. While these tactics may net you some short-term gains, in the long-run, they’re more likely to end up harming your site.
Luckily for us, Google has been taking steps in recent years to reduce the scourge of dodgy SEO tactics. As a result, many of these tactics are on their way out.
Instead of taking this as a sign to start doing SEO the proper way, many of these dodgy agencies have crafted new and even more underhanded tactics and strategies.
One of which is negative SEO.
What is “negative” SEO?
Instead of trying to convince Google that their site is relevant, credible, and trustworthy like we do in white-hat SEO strategies, “negative” SEO is all about tearing down the competition.
Under negative SEO strategies, competitors might try to sabotage your SEO strategy in so-called SEO attacks. Essential, they try to game the system and make it look like you’re the one that shouldn’t be trusted!
The idea is that by dragging the competition down, they’ll experience a rise in their own rankings by default.
Yes, we agree, it is incredibly underhanded and unethical!
How do they do it?
Like we’ve mentioned before, Google takes active measures to ensure that sites that use unethical black hat SEO tactics aren’t rewarded for doing so. It punishes these sites by:
- Ignoring black-hat SEO efforts
- Decreasing their search rankings
- Blacklisting sites altogether in extreme cases
One of the ways negative SEO operates is by trying to make it look like your site is using black-hat SEO tactics. When Google notices your site “using” these tactics, it will take swift action and punish you with a decrease in search rankings.
Additionally, many negative SEO strategies also focus on making you look bad to potential customers and clients.
There are a number of techniques a dodgy SEO might use…
Reviews are a crucial part of any SEO strategy. In particular, they:
- Tell Google that your site is trustworthy
- Factor into your search rankings
- Make you look good to customers, simple as that!
So-called “review bombing” is a tactic many fly-by-night operators use to tank your SEO strategy. By spamming your business with fake 1-star reviews, the goal is to lower your average review score.
By doing this, they’re not only ruining your hard-earned reputation and scaring away potential customers and clients, but they’ll also cause your page rankings to slide.
Building spammy, low-quality links
Links to your site from other parts of the internet are a key part in building domain authority (which in turn, influences your search engine rankings).
Many black-hat SEOs abused this by setting up “link farms” that try to artificially inflate their site’s credibility. Google has since taken measures to better detect and punish these tactics.
In response, many dodgy SEOs have simply repurposed this tactic – instead of using it to pump up their own sites, they’re now using it to tear down the competition.
By flooding the internet with low-quality, spammy inbound links from dodgy websites, they aim to trick Google into thinking that you’re the one using these tactics – essentially, they’re framing your site for a crime you didn’t commit!
Removing your best backlinks
So Google punishes sites that receive a lot of links from suspicious sites. However, the opposite is also true: sites with links from reputable, high-profile sites are rewarded with improved search rankings.
Say you’re a cake decorator and you receive a link from a high-profile cake publication or blog. Alternatively, you might be referenced in an online news article or review.
Links from reputable, high-profile sites such as these can work wonders for your SEO. These people know their stuff – if they say that you’re trustworthy, Google’s going to take their word for it!
Take these links out of the picture, and you may experience a drop in your search rankings.
As part of an SEO attack, your competitors might contact the sites that host these high-quality links. They’ll create a fake email and impersonate you, spinning some excuse for why “you” want that link removed.
Google values high-quality, original content – stolen content is often punished with ranking drops. That’s why you can’t get away with copy-pasting high-ranking content from elsewhere in your content marketing strategy.
Normally, Google’s pretty good at figuring out which one’s the original… but not always.
But before we discuss that, we need to talk about crawling.
Essentially, this is when Google “reads” your website. Google tries to figure out what your website is about, identify additions or changes, and re-evaluate your current page rankings.
No-one really knows how often Google crawls websites – some sites get crawled regularly, while others might only be crawled once every few months.
That’s what dodgy SEOs rely on. As part of an SEO attack, competitors might:
- Look for content on your site that hasn’t been indexed yet (there are tools for this)
- Copy it and paste it elsewhere on the internet (perhaps even to their own site)
- File a request to have their version of your content crawled
By getting their copy of your content crawled and indexed first, they establish themselves as the original. That makes you look like a plagiarist and invokes Google’s wrath – even though you created that content!
Hacking your website
Let’s be clear: cyberattacks such as hacking attempts are not the same as negative SEO.
That said, many SEO attacks may also include attempts to hack your website!
Hackers may enter the back-end of your site and wreck everything you and your Melbourne SEO agency have worked so hard to set up. As part of an SEO attack, hackers might try to:
- Delete pages
- Remove files and content
- Copying content from elsewhere (making you look like a plagiarist)
- Sabotage your linking structure
- Get your site de-indexed
- Link to dodgy sites (tarnishing your reputation by association)
- Mess up your sitemap
If you have backups on-file, you may be able to restore your website and reverse the changes made. However, in many cases it can take time for the damage to undo itself.
And think about how many potential customers you might have missed out on in the meantime!
Tune in next week, when we discuss what you can do to protect yourself against SEO attacks
We know we’ve been talking in pretty alarmist tones. Luckily, you don’t need to worry too much – while negative SEO tactics are a real threat, statistically the vast majority of businesses needn’t worry too much thanks to:
- The resources needed to pull it off
- The risk of being caught and blacklisted
- Google taking steps against it
That said, there will always be plenty of less-reputable SEOs out there who are willing to use underhanded tactics to get ahead.
If you ask us, the best way to protect yourself from negative SEO attacks is to hand your digital marketing off to a SEO agency Melbourne like iformat. In addition to keeping tabs on all the numbers, we also have the tools to reverse and minimise the effects of negative SEO.
Additionally, there are also plenty of things you can do on your end to protect yourself from the consequences of negative SEO. Tune in next week when we go over them!