Today we’re going going to look into negative SEO, a controversial topic to say the least. If you haven’t worked it out from the title, negative seo-ing is the practice of purposefully demoting a web page’s ranking in search engines such as Google and Bing. Although its hardly a common practice, its still worth being aware of its existence, as it has the potential to seriously harm a sites ranking.
Negative SEO is nearly always conducted by third parties, such as disgruntled former employees, competitors, or in rarer cases, activists. Thankfully, there are ways to diagnose and combat negative SEO attacks, although the best way to combat its effects is to have a ‘healthy’ site to start with.
How to Spot it
Although spotting negative seo-ing is very possible, unfortunately there are no ‘silver bullets’, but there quite a few, nearly as effective, ‘bronze bullets’. Should you follow the 5 steps outlined below, then you should be able to ascertain whether you site is suffering from negative seo-ing, and if so, to what extent.
1. Set up E-mail alerts from Google and Bing
Google’s Webmaster Tools and Bing’s Webmaster Center both allow the user to set up e-mail alerts to inform you if there is unusual activity with your site, giving webmasters the ability to catch suspicious activity early on and combat it accordingly.
2. Arrange what kind of activity you want to alerted about
Unless you want to be inundated with near useless messages, you will have to set up what you wish to alerted about. Start by specifying what site(s) and domains you wish to alerted about. Once you have done this, you will need to tell Google what kind of traffic you wish to alerted about, start by entering a few generic spam terms which would hurt your site (Nigerian lottery, Viagra and so on).
3. Arrange alerts for other problem signs
Set up further alerts for sudden declines in traffic, falling bounce rate and other similar scenarios.
4. Identify ‘problem’ links
Negative SEO often boils down to poisoning a site with toxic links, which in turn has a negative impact on page rank. Spotting this is relatively easy- a sudden unexpected boom in inbound links is a tell-tale sign of negative SEO. Tools such as Majestic and Open Site Explorer can provide you with a detailed list of inbound links, all that’s left to do is to compare one month to the next for any drastic changes (doing a side-by-side comparison is probably the most effective tactic).
5. Browse your site
Recruit a volunteer to browse your site, scrutinise your site and test how effective your targeted search terms are. If a third party thinks your site is fine, then you doing something right, but if they are having issues, then it would seem that work needs to done some place or another.
Once you have gone through the steps listed above, you should have a fairly good idea whether your site is being impacted by negative SEO work. You probably (hopefully) won’t find anything, but should you do, its advisable to break off any ‘toxic’ links you may have found, along with finding out who may have been the culprit (Google doesn’t look too kindly upon negative SEOers!)