Should I worry about negative SEO? When you first learned about search engine optimization, you probably never expected this question to arise. “What does negative SEO even mean?” you might have wondered. “Why would someone negatively influence a site through SEO?” Unfortunately, it is a real issue, born out of competition, desperation, and bad sportsmanship. Negative SEO is the act of using unethical, “black hat” SEO techniques to harm a competitor’s search engine rankings. Using a variety of methods (fake social network profiles, spammy links, fishy anchor text, etc.) someone could be sabotaging your website’s success at this very moment! “So should I worry about negative SEO?” you ask. Let’s find out!
What Is Negative SEO?
Before we answer the question, “Should I worry about negative SEO?”, let’s talk about what negative SEO is and how it can damage your search rankings.
Negative SEO refers to unethical SEO techniques that are used with the intent of hurting a competitor’s search engine rankings. This dishonorable practice isn’t incredibly common, but it does exist, and it can be accomplished with any one of a number of techniques. The guilty party might create spammy links that lead to your website (and those links might have dubious anchor text). They might ruin your reputation with fake profiles on social media websites. They might hack into your website, tear it apart, and fill it with spam. Whatever form the negative SEO takes, it is successful only if Google interprets the action as bad behavior on your part and penalizes your website for it.
Should I Worry About Negative SEO?
While negative SEO does exist, you shouldn’t be overly concerned with it.
First of all, negative SEO isn’t very common and small businesses are rarely the targets of a negative SEO scheme. Attempting negative SEO is risky and it can easily backfire, so most people wouldn’t risk it unless they were targeting a major competitor.
Second, Google is aware of the problem and has addressed it with their Disavow Links tool. To utilize the tool, you simply list the links (or domains) you would like Google to ignore. In theory, Google won’t count them toward your ranking and any negative effect they had will disappear. I know…you shouldn’t have to disavow links that you didn’t build. But at least there is now a tool for you to do so.
Protecting Your Website
So should you worry about negative SEO? Probably not. While negative SEO does exist, it’s very unlikely that your site will be harmed. That said, there are some worthwhile ways to protect your website from black-hatters.
First, set up e-mail alerts with Google Webmaster Tools. That way, if your site is attacked, improperly indexed, or penalized for bad links, you’ll be aware and ready to take action. Then, be sure that your website is very secure. Use a strong password (long, with numbers and special characters) and create back-ups regularly. After that, check that your website’s content hasn’t been copied and duplicated elsewhere (Copyscape is very helpful for this). This sort of plagiarism can lower your ranking. Finally, keep an eye on your company’s social media presence, watching out for fake profiles.
If you think your site has been affected, check Google Webmaster Tools and watch for links from fishy domains. If you find any, use the Disavow Links tool to tell Google not to count them toward your ranking. The tool will take 2-4 weeks to work. You should also contact the webmaster of the websites and ask for the link to be taken down.
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Negative SEO is (mostly) all talk and little action, but if you’re wondering, “Should I worry about negative SEO?”, take a moment to go over your site’s privacy features and familiarize yourself with its backlinks for added security. Good luck!