Negative SEO basically refers to any underhand method used by the competition to lower your site’s ranking. So is negative SEO effective? Should you be worried? These are the kinds of questions we’ll be looking to answer as we delve deeper into this contentious subject.
Does negative SEO exist in the first place and how does it work?
Google algorithms don’t take too kindly to manipulative link building and consequences include manual unnatural links penalties or worse yet, a trimming of your website’s position by the Penguin algorithm. If links that you made can work against you then surely someone else can use them as a weapon to get you to rub shoulders with search algorithms, can’t they?
Google says that that is highly unlikely insisting that there are extremely few cases of true, effective negative SEO; sentiments echoed by Google representatives Matt Cutt and John Mueller. However, taking into account the word changes Google have effected onto an assurance page where the phrase “nothing” was altered to “almost nothing” in reference to a third party’s ability to use negative SEO against your website, the aforementioned sentiments begin to look doubtful.
While this alteration doesn’t directly mean that Google has openly acknowledged that a site’s ranking can be lowered by throwing malicious links in its direction but rather they were accepting the possibility of negative SEO mudslinging. This, for instance, could come in the way of an outsider hacking your server and manipulating your robots.txt file such that it turns away search engines and curtails traffic flow to your website.
Where there is smoke, fire is often not too far away
Back in 2007, senior software engineer for Google Matt Cutts did not rule out the possibility of heaping links on an opponent’s site so as to tarnish their rankings although he stated that it was extremely difficult. 5 years later and that picture changed significantly due to the unveiling of a Penguin algorithm prototype that was bent on punishing unnatural links usage. Consequently, talks of negative SEO spurred up again with Google Trends data showing spontaneous overshoots in “negative SEO” searches after the algorithm’s release.
What has Google done to ensure your site’s safety from negative SEO?
Following massive public concern, Google revised the Penguin algorithm a few months after the initial release adding the disavow tool that would enable site owners to tell Google to overlook certain links they think might have a derogatory effect. This upgrade came with much relief to those in competitive, high money niches- e.g. super competitive casino, poker and such like areas.
What is Google saying in a nutshell?
First, they are outrightly declaring that your site is not in danger of harm by bad link flooding from other competitors. Secondly, Google has made their algorithm capable of recognizing patterns of unnatural linking to determine whether a third-party entity is responsible or if you are doing it yourself. The company has also stated that while you have nothing to worry about even if you come across bad looking links funneling traffic your site’s way, they might not get things right all the time so it’s important to disavow any spammy links you come across.
So does negative SEO really work? Well, the answer is highly unlikely with a very slight caution of yes. Most of the time, reported cases of negative SEO turn out to be nothing but it’s better to be safe than sorry so be sure to take protective measures- such as using the disavow tool- just in case.