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To combat webspam, Google released its most recent significant algorithmic improvements. Its common name, the “Penguin Update,” caused webmasters to go crazy. If your website has ‘too many’ unnatural and spam backlinks, Penguin may bite you. Nice. Google’s intention to keep its SERPs free of spam is worth applauding. But what if your competitor has hired some professionals to create ‘too many’ bad links to your website? You are ethical but can get an ‘unethical’ penalty. This is negative SEO and Penguin Update has again ignited the debate.
Negative SEO is an unethical practice that intends to demote or lower the ranking of a website in SERPs. The process is simple. All search engines strictly prohibit something like paid backlinks and traffic exchange. Negative SEO is the application of these prohibited techniques on a chosen website or webpage. The basic idea is rather than doing ethical SEO tricks on a website, use something bad, prohibited, and terrible so that the target website can get some sort of penalty.
Obviously, you will not use negative SEO on your own website. But your competitors can. Apart from ‘unnaturally’ linking your website with lots of spam content, they can use many other techniques. Hackers and people with malicious intent can inject spyware and malware onto your website. Search engines will definitely not like to give a good rank to a website with malware. They can also enter your website and edit robots.txt files to block bots from visiting your web content.
Spam reporting is another method used. It is specially done against those webmasters who are more or less indulged in manually building backlinks. Even if your website, with a few unnatural backlinks, is out of the purview of Penguin, it can become a victim through spam reporting. Google does take notice of spam reporting. Here comes the dilemma. You have created backlinks to gain good SERPs, but in the process, you can lose good search result rank. If you are trying to manipulate Google’s algorithm, get ready for these types of potential risks. Negative SEO is a real danger.
The best way to detect Negative SEO is Google and Bing Webmaster tools. Register yourself there and keep an eye on all links that are pointing to your website. If you find a series of malicious links, take some immediate steps.
You can also use SEOMoz Open Site Explorer to understand the link profile of your website.
Apart from these, there are many internet tools you can use to detect Negative SEO.
The first defense you can consider against Negative SEO is to block all security loopholes.
Ensure that your website shows a clean and natural link profile. Negative SEO professionals or your competitor can’t attack it if you have maintained impeccable link-building practices. You can still get spam backlinks, but in this scenario, it will not hurt your ranking. Avoiding manipulative backlinks at your end is strongly advisable.
Bing has recently introduced the ‘Disavow’ link feature on its webmaster tools. Register yourself there and check all backlinks. If you find any bad, malicious, spam or undesirable backlinks just check the box indicating disavow this link. Bing will not consider those links for ranking purposes. Google is expected to come out with its own policy over Negative SEO. As of now, you can check all backlinks on Google Webmaster Tools and send a preemptive reconsideration request to Google if any malicious link is there.
The user interface matters a lot. Always endeavor to provide impeccable user experience to your users. If someone has sent a ‘spam report’ for your website to Google, the user-friendly interface can save you during the manual checkup.
Try to make your online business a brand. You don’t need to worry about any Negative SEO if your business is considered a brand. You can also take the help of SEO for branding your business.
White Hat SEO is recommended by all search engines. It helps in enhancing the user experience. Go through all quality guidelines of Google and other search engines and try to adhere with those. A website optimized with white hat techniques is less prone to Negative SEO attack.