Does Negative SEO Work and Can I Protect Myself?

After Google’s recent shutdown of several different link building platforms, there’s been a lot of chatter in the SEO community about the potential abuse of so-called “Negative SEO.” Negative SEO refers to the practice of building unnatural links in high volumes to a competitors website in the hopes of getting them flagged for purchasing links or building them in an unethical way. The goal would be to have Google noticed this and flag their website, dropping them in the search rankings and boosting the website of the person conducting the negative SEO campaign.

The fact of the matter is that negative SEO works. It has worked for quite some time now, but is only getting a lot of attention due to Google’s recent penalties for unnatural links. The ability to sabotage and penalize a competitor has always been there, but people are seeing more of these attack happening simply because of the coverage in the SEO community.

One thing to keep in mind is that negative SEO is an extremely dangerous tactic. Not only are you actively bringing someone else down instead of bringing your own website up, you could be choosing the wrong targets. If you build a lot of links to a competitors website, there was always the chance that this could help, rather than hurt. This would mean you have now spent money building links to your competitors websites that could’ve been spent on your own website.

There is not a whole lot you can do to protect yourself from an extremely crafty person who is looking to conduct a negative SEO campaign on your website. As always, focus on attaining high quality, relevant links and building up a wealth of content and community interaction. These signals are often strong enough to counterbalance the brunt of any negative SEO attack. However, if you are targeted heavily with unnatural link spam, you can reach out to the Google Webmaster community and plead your case. They have been known to manually review websites and adjust their punishments accordingly.

Google is a company that is continually striving to provide the most relevant results. As SEOs, we often look for loopholes and tricks to get our sites ranking higher, which is what was happening with these link building platforms. Google has taken a strong stance against these, but perhaps it is too strong since it is opening the door even wider for negative SEO attacks. That being said, it is still extremely difficult to conduct a negative SEO campaign effectively.

One of the key factors for successful campaign is to build a wealth of links and then get them removed in a short time period. This is a huge red flag for Google versus just building a lot of links and having them stick. To do this requires quite a bit of SEO that most people simply do not have. The entire SEO community is probably overreacting to the recent changes that Google has made and it is likely that the negative SEO conversation will fade into the background shortly. This does not mean that it is irrelevant, only that it is just another thing to consider among many when planning out any type of SEO campaign for your own projects or client work.

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