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By: Desiree Baughman on January 5th, 2013

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Protecting your Company from the Risks of Negative SEO

On-Page SEO

Negative SEOWe love SEO, but recently we’ve been hearing a number of concerns and complaints about the ominous “negative SEO”.  We thought that we’d take the time to get the facts straight, clear the air and tell you about what you can do to protect yourself from it today.

What Is Negative SEO?

We’ve talked a lot about SEO in a number of our eBooks, like “Ten Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your SEO” where we point out how SEO can be a very, very positive thing for your website and how you can do it fairly through using “White hat” practices.  But negative SEO has the opposite effect on your website.

The term “negative SEO” refers to having a web page or multiple web pages demoted from their search engine results page (SERP) through a number of unethical practices.  There are a number of ways that malicious marketers and web creators do this through:

  • Malware
  • Hacking
  • Injections

A hacker, for example, can find a vulnerable spot in your FTP logins and then wreak havoc on your WordPress account, creating bad fishy backlinks to other shoddy sites. Google’s search algorithm will then come along, “read” those links, and if Google feels that you’re trying to manipulate their search engine in any way you’ll either:

  • Receive a penalty; or
  • Be removed from Google permanently

Obviously, getting banned from Google forever is the last thing that you want.  Have that happen, and you might as well kiss your future inbound marketing strategies goodbye.

Hackers will also often head straight to your robots.txt file and put a block on Google bot or restrict the IPs within a certain reach. The result:  Google can’t find you, so your site will be virtually unsearchable and won’t appear in search results.

Should I Be Concerned?

The sad part about negative SEO tactics is that they don’t affect the giant high authority sites on the web, like eBay or Amazon.  These sites already have enough credibility to knock out any chance of them being banned by Google’s index.

What it can affect are the smaller websites that have a bit  of credibility and a bit of authority but still not enough to necessarily keep them in Google’s good graces should they become a victim to a negative SEO attack.Most website owners are alerted to this malpractice after receiving what Google calls an “over optimization penalty”.

While the bad news is that throughout the duration of having this penalty enacted on your website your site will be demoted and harder to find, the good news is that as long as web owners have been using the tips that we recommend in our eBook “Rank High In Google Without An Agency”, they can prove that they practice clean SEO and appeal that penalty by making full use of Google’s new negative SEO diffusing tool.

How Can I Prevent Being Banned?

When the words “negative SEO” started cropping up earlier this year, most small business owners were in a panic about it. The good news is that negative SEO attacks are rare, so having one happen to you is incredibly unlikely.

But Google knows that that’s not good enough, which is why their SEO pro Matt Cutts released a video in mid-December about negative SEO and how you can protect yourself from this dirty practice.  To prevent your site from being framed, Google’s released a tool called “Disavow links”.

Once downloaded, you can do a thorough scan of your website and sort through any links by how recently links were added, or you can download the CSV and go through the links yourself.  If you find any links that you want Google to ignore, you can easily upload the text files to Google and Google won’t take those links into account when organizing their SERPs.

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