SEO, or search engine optimization, has become a necessary part of business, especially for web-based services or sales. It’s what helps companies get their websites in the top results from search engines like Google or Bing. Most companies understand that it is now an essential item to include in their marketing plans. They consistently use SEO best practices to drive traffic to their websites.
But one of the most important things right now for marketing plans is to study up on negative SEO. Google has been more open about discussing this topic recently, even including a support page about link schemes in their Webmaster Tools. Some businesses have gone so far as to pay other companies to attach their links to less reputable sites just to generate more clicks. This might not sound like a bad idea on its surface, but when your links end up on sites that are associated with spam or shady practices, it can actually hurt your business by affecting rankings and traffic on your website. This is called negative SEO. In fact, there are now companies that offer services to businesses and individuals who are looking to use “black hat” tactics to sabotage their competition. The big problem is that these tactics violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Here are a few ways to identify if you’re a victim of negative SEO.
The best way to drive traffic to your site and keep things fresh is to create relevant content that is valuable to others and can gain popularity among Internet users. If your content is something people feel that they or others can benefit from, they are more likely to share your content with friends and colleagues, which can drive traffic to your site. Those who use negative SEO tactics have been known to scrape, or copy, content from successful sites. This is a definite black hat tactic, as it’s basically plagiarism at its worst. Some people are just lazy and don’t want to take the time to create their own valuable content, so they use programs that go through sites to find content and publish it to their pages. (When Google comes across 2 pages that are exactly the same, Google will often times devalue both pages in their search rankings.) There are tools that can help you find out whether you’ve been a victim of content scraping, such as Copyscape.
Use Google Analytics to spot irrelevant keywords.
Google has several tools that are extremely helpful when it comes to SEO. Google Analytics, for example, can help you find out which keywords drive the most traffic to your site. It’s important to know which keywords generate the most traffic so you can use them in your shareable content. If you spot irrelevant keywords, do some research to figure out why those keywords have referred users to your site. (For example, if you have an online corn dog business and you see from Google Analytics you’re getting traffic for the keyword “pay day loans”) It could be that negative SEO is having an effect. When irrelevant keywords drive traffic to a site that has nothing to do with the search terms, that site automatically loses credibility with Internet users.
Associate your links with other quality websites.
Most negative SEO is done offline, on sites other than the one that is being attacked. Backlinking is the most common way to generate negative SEO for a site. This is where Google’s page about link schemes comes into play. According to Google’s Webmaster Tools Help, “Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results may be considered part of a link scheme.” Educate yourself about link spammers and other black hat strategists and then take action to stop and prevent it from happening further. There are programs and tools that can help you figure out where and when backlinking to your site has taken place. A graph will show spikes and dips. If there is an odd spike in the results, it is highly possible that spam links have been created for your site. Make sure to research where exactly these links have been posted. (A good backlink checking tool is www.opensiteexplorer.org. You will be able to see what sites are linking to you with the exact anchor text.) A fairly new tool that will help you avoid negative SEO through link schemes is Google’s advanced Disavow Links tool. If you have tried to get rid of spam links but your page rank is still low, then you can disavow certain links, and Google will not take them into account when it assesses your site. This tool should only be used if you have done all you can to try to remove spam and low-quality links.
Google Alerts allows you to monitor web content based on specified search terms. Set one up with your personal or company name or other relevant terms that might cause your website to pop up. Knowing where your site has been mentioned each day will help you keep tabs on where traffic comes from and what sites have posted legitimate links to your website.
It is important to stay vigilant and be aware of what links are directing traffic to your website. Generating negative SEO will lower your rank in Google search results, practically invalidating your search engine optimization efforts. Don’t fall for shady companies’ schemes that promise more hits and higher search results rankings. Black hat strategies like the ones those companies might use will only hurt you in the long run.
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