You may recently have become aware of the term ‘negative SEO’ and wondered whether or not it really exists, whether it can affect you, and what – if anything – you should be doing about it. This article is here to try and clear some of that up.
What is negative SEO?
Firstly, negative SEO does exist, and it’s basically an attack intended to ruin a website’s organic SEO rankings by violating a search engine’s (or numerous search engines’) algorithms – and yes, this can affect you.
For small businesses, this is a very real threat, considering that organic searches can make up as much as 51 per cent of all visitors to your website.
How does it work?
The easiest way in for negative SEO is via your backlink profile, as all it takes is creating a few questionable content pages that are then linked back to you – no hacking or complicated tampering, it’s really that simple. It’s also something that you have no control over, as practically anyone is capable of copying and pasting links to your site wherever they please – but there is a way to stop negative SEO.
How to disavow?
Back in 2012, Google released a new Disavow Links tool, which not only opened up the discussion about negative SEO, it made its possibility seem far more real.
The good news is that Google does issue warnings if a specific link looks a bit shady or unnatural, recommending that you take action. This is one case where there really isn’t any doubt about whether or not it’s okay to disavow – but then there’s the case of whether or not to be pro-active.
The Disavow tool allows you to essentially disassociate yourself from any suspicious looking pages that have backlinked to you, but it’s also the source of controversy among many webmasters. After all, how can you always tell if a link is a hindrance or a help for your site?
Unfortunately, unless Google releases some very specific standards, it’s really open to interpretation which links could hurt you, and which are perfectly fine (although still may look a little odd) – it basically inspires paranoia and once you start going over all your backlinks, you will potentially find yourself disavowing some otherwise perfectly fine links, just in case.