One day, you're flying high in the Google ranks. The next, you've all but disappeared from the top rankings, sunk into the Mariana Trench of search results. Worse yet, maybe you can't find your site at all. What happened? Negative SEO, attacks by competitors to sabotage your ratings, is a frightening possibility that can damage your business's reputation on Google. Whenever a user inputs a search into a search engine, the search engine then spiders the internet looking for relevant websites. Link-banks, or links on one site to another, are one of the factors it uses to generate search results and their rankings. In beneficial SEO, links on other websites to yours make your site seem like a legitimate authority on the keyword. These high-quality link-backs will improve your rankings.
However, Google is programmed to detect websites doing this in excess to artificially inflate their standing. These low-quality link-backs will drop a site's Google ranking. By seeding thousands of websites with low-quality link-backs, an unscrupulous business rival can destroy your good Google ranking or even get your website removed from search results entirely. The best way to prevent negative SEO is to stay on top of your ranking statistics. When you work with a SEO company, they often do this for you. Keeping an eye on your website's link-back profile is the best way to spot potential negative SEO before your ranking starts to slip.
Keep an eye out for:
- Unusually large numbers of link-backs appearing at once
- Links on foreign language sites
- Links on gambling or adult websites
- Sites with large numbers of links in their body text
- Sites that look to have been created just to spam links
A small handful of link-backs from sites such as these don't necessarily mean you're the victim of negative SEO. Also make sure you thoroughly investigate every site to make sure it is, in fact, a low-quality link-back. You don't want to accidentally take action on a quality link that could be improving your ratings after all. In the past, tackling negative SEO was a tangled web of begging website hosts to take down sites filled with low-quality link-backs. However, Google has added a tool to help registered webmasters combat malicious link-backs. They have recently introduced their Disavow tool.
To use the Disavow tool, you will have to create a text document, called "disavow.txt," listing each link you want devalued and your reasons why. Each link requires its own line, and comments should be preceded by a hash tag, "#." If there is a whole domain you want devalued, type "domain:" followed by the domain or sub-domain in question. Tread with caution when noting whole domains. A misstep could cause serious damage to your rankings.
It is best not to report any links unless you've consulted a SEO professional, but the sooner you follow up on it, the better. Early action is the key to preventing the effects of negative SEO.