Usually, whenever you read about SEO, it's about how to make sure your website is identified as high-value content by search engines' algorithms, and as something that's relevant for users interested in a certain niche. However, there's an unethical, black-hat counterpart to SEO which consists of using that knowledge to sabotage the pagerank of competing websites - essentially pulling your website up by pushing others down.
Why Is Negative SEO A Thing?
Black hat SEO techniques have always been a thing, and engines have been doing a very good job at rendering them ineffective. In fact, they've protected themselves so well, that ill-intentioned individuals have started getting creative and plotting to degrade their competitors' websites instead.
While relatively uncommon, negative SEO is a serious threat to any website, and savvy internet entrepreneurs should do all that's in their power to prevent it from happening to them. It's important to keep in mind that reversing the effects of negative SEO can be very, very hard, while preventing it tends to be a lot easier.
How Does It Work?
There are many things an unethical competitor could do to threaten your websites search rank score. The most obvious one would be hacking your website and simply deleting it, but there are many other lesser ways that can have a significant impact, as well.
Negative SEO attackers will often build fake, spammy links to a competitor's website - hundreds, even thousands of them, damaging their backlinks -, make fake websites that display copies of their competitor's content, or even creating a bunch of social media profiles to ruin their online reputation with fake reviews.
How Can I Protect Myself?
When a Negative SEO attack succeeds, it's usually because the owner of the website had no idea that was a thing, or simply wasn't prepared to deal with it. Fortunately, once you're aware of this danger and how to counteract it, doing so becomes trivial. All you need to do is constantly monitor your online presence.
First and foremost, set up some Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts for yourself. You can ask Google to send you an e-mail if your pages aren't indexed, if your website is suspected of malware infection, if you get a penalty from Google or if you're having server connectivity trouble. Usually, it's best to enable notification for all types of issues, just in case.
Another important action you should take to protect yourself from Negative SEO is keeping track of your backlinks. In order to do that, you can use Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs or a similar tool from time to time, or simply use MonitorBacklinks.com, which will notify you whenever something about your website's backlinks changes.
Last but not least, you should always protect your identity online. If a competitor gets access to an e-mail of yours, your Facebook page, or literally any other mean of identification, they could easily perform damaging activities such as contacting websites that link to you and asking to remove the link. Make sure to stay on top of your online relationships with other websites and influencers, too, as otherwise they could very easily impersonate you with a fake e-mail and achieve the same result.
Should You Use Link Removal Services?
Did you know that your website can be penalized because of the sites that are linking to it? As it turns out, if there are a lot of spammy or low-quality links pointing to your website, it could wind up harming its standing in the search engines.
Recently, the search engines updated their algorithms, adding penalties for sites that have too many incoming links from low-quality sources. This penalty system was implemented primarily because people were trying to game the system by getting as many links as they could to their site from any source, regardless of its quality.
For instance, webmasters would submit their sites to link farms - low-quality sites that served little purpose apart from providing backlinks to other sites. At the time, the search engines only really cared about the number of links pointing at a site - not the quality of those links. The basic underlying idea was that the more links a site had, the more popular it was. In fact, however, the number of incoming links a site had was often artificially inflated by webmasters who used these questionable linking techniques solely for the purpose of boosting their site's ranking in the search engines.
Once the search engines caught on to the fact that people were doing this to game the system, they made updates to the search algorithms that now penalize sites that seem to be falling into this pattern. As a result, if your site has a lot of incoming links from other websites that are deemed low-quality, it could result in a penalty against your site.
This, in turn, could cause your site to get listed lower in the search results, minimizing the amount of traffic that you can get from the search engines. In some cases, it can even get your site delisted, meaning that it is removed completely from the search engine listings.
To counteract this problem, companies that offer link removal services have recently started to crop up. These companies will analyze the links coming into your website to determine which ones could be harming your standing in the search engines. They then contact those sites to try to have the links removed on your behalf. Removing or disavowing these links can help get your site back on track in the search engines, allowing it to climb higher in the search results.
Although it is possible to remove unwanted links on your own, the process can be quite time-consuming. Not only do you have to look up where the links are coming from but you also have to decide which ones to remove. Once you do that, you have to find the contact information of the website owner and reach out to them to ask them to remove the link. Throughout the process, you have to track which sites you have contacted and whether or not the links have been removed.
The primary benefit of using link removal services is that they take care of all of this hard work for you. As a result, you are freed up to work on other aspects of your business. In most cases, your time is better spent working on building your business rather than trying to remove unwanted links to your site, which is why it is usually beneficial to outsource the link removal process.