Does Google Love You?
Don't you just love landing on a website and discovering it's full of thin content, advertisements for diet pills and not much else? No? Well, the rest of us hate it, too. That's why Google invests so much time into tweaking their search algorithm, to ensure search results look more like what people want to read and less like the portfolio of really wily black hat SEOs. If you've been generating some really odd inbound links or you've suddenly experienced a major drop in search ranking or traffic, you've got cause for some further explanation. Negative SEO is relatively rare, but it's still essential to keep a close eye on your back link profile and ensure you've got nothing in common with a spammer:
1. You Have No Clue What's in Your Back Link Profile
Do you have any idea who's granted links to your blog? No? Well, that's a problem. Negative SEO to your site from competitors is rare, but it's been known to happen. Some businesses hire black hats to deliberately build links that could make you look like a spammer. Search Engine Journal recommends you watch out for the following:
Links from Adult or Gambling Sites
Links from Foreign Language ites
Links from Pages That Appear to Be Spam
Links From Pages With More Than 50 In-Text Links
Links from Pages That Trigger Malware Warnings
2. You're Really Repetitive
Are you using the same keyword repeatedly in your content? We're not talking about including a natural long tail keyword in your title, meta description and alt text - that's just good SEO practices for bloggers. We're talking about using the keyword ad naseum in the copy, a practice known as keyword stuffing or over-optimization. Matt Cutts has never told business bloggers what density they should strive for in the world of the modern search engine, but it's not very high. If your content sounds a little awkward, you've exceeded the limit. Break out your thesaurus and make it your new BFF for writing with varied language.
3. You Plagiarize
Are you stealing content from other websites, or "syndicating" without permission? We're not talking about curating content on social media or featuring quotations, videos and infographics will full credit given. That's just good content marketing strategy. If you've failed to cite your sources for entire pieces of content or haven't generated anything fresh in months, there's a good chance your website isn't viewed as good quality.
4. Your Website is Maze-Like
Is your website filled with broken links? Do you remove or move pages constantly without using 301 redirects? Google is going to start thinking something is a little fishy if you're still publishing content on a site filled with broken links that lead to a "page not found."
5. You Bought Back Links
Not every link back to your website is a good thing. If you've only ever gained inbound links through honest practices like sharing fresh data, writing high-quality information and networking with other bloggers, you're almost certainly okay. Was guest blogging a significant part of your strategy? You're probably okay - the guest blogging industry isn't entirely innocent but it's generally a wise SEO tool. If you ever paid money for links from a low-quality website, it's time to break out Google's Disavow tool.
6. You're Using Microsites
If you're reading this blog, you're probably innocent of this tactic. Owning a large number of "microsites," websites that are never updated and comprised of just one page, is a major red flag in the eyes on major search engines. If your entire website hasn't been updated since 2008, but it's packed with ads, that's definitely a terrible sign. The great SEO associated with publishing often is just another reason you can't put off business blogging much longer!
7. You're Wearing a Blackhat
The main reason websites are hit with negative SEO is that the owners and administrators have been employing dishonest and shady practices, known as black hat SEO. We'll review a few of the most-common practices that are almost sure to get you dinged:
Doorway Pages - Pages built around a long tail search phrase, used just to direct website visitors to another web page. These almost always contain thin content and a prominent "Click here" link.
Using Misspelled Content and Keywords - There's no doubt that one of your prospects will search a misspelled key term at some point. This doesn't mean you need to build a page around the phrase to rank #1 for it.
Hidden Text - Adding text that's commonly stuffed with long-tail keywords and misspellings to the web page that's the same color as the background, visible to search engines but not humans.
Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles