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Protecting Your Website from Negative SEO

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in SEO


There has been a lot of speculation the last few weeks about negative SEO, especially since the Penguin update. Back in April, Google started sending various site owners notifications about “unnatural links,” letting owners know if it looked like they were part of a link scheme. Normally, naturally occurring links are considered an SEO win. You want people to find your website and link to your content of their own accord. However, since you can’t control who links to your site, some speculated that unscrupulous competitors would be able to sabotage a good website by pointing low-quality and spammy links towards it.

Since Penguin was designed to take out sites guilty of webspam, having a large number of paid links pointing to your site could theoretically throw up a red flag and a good site would be unfairly punished. Other negative SEO tactics include: hacking a website, review bombing (creating an excessive amount of 5-star reviews so it looks like the site paid for them or is reviewing itself), or by reporting a site’s “black hat” tactics to Google, even if they aren’t actively engaging in black hat SEO.

Many site owners have been panicking about the thought of negative SEO being a real concern. How can they possible protect their website from an attack when they can’t undo the damage someone else has done?

Here’s the thing—negative SEO isn’t going to derail a squeaky clean and white hat website overnight. Sites with a strong search engine trust factor, a well diversified and organic link portfolio, quality content, a good page load time and other positive SEO factors are going to much more resilient to any negative SEO attack than a site that is on the fence in terms of quality. So site owners that have been toeing the line and adhering to the Google Webmaster Guidelines shouldn’t be too concerned about negative SEO hurting their site. As long as you continue to product great content on a consistent basis and build your own quality links, your white hat SEO campaign should be able to offset any damage done by competitors trying to torpedo your site.

Think of it like this—let’s say your site has 1,000 inbound links. If 20 of them are “unnatural,” that means only 2% of your inbound links are dangerous. If you only had 100 inbound links and 20 were unnatural, 20% of your link portfolio is at risk for getting flagged by Google. Which site is more at risk for negative SEO and Penguin actually making an impact? The best defense your site has against negative SEO is just to keep doing what you’ve been doing (provided it was white hat!) Keep a close eye on your link portfolio, just to make sure nothing fishy is going on. If 1,000 links appear overnight that you had nothing to do with, you want to catch it before Google does.

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