It is on the minds of every webmaster, especially in light of some of the changes we have seen from Google in recent years with updates like Panda and Penguin: should we be worried about competitors abusing the system by employing a “negative SEO” campaign against their competition? It is one of those questions that can have great consequence for your website and business especially if you are in a niche or market where there are dirty players. And there is increasing evidence that there are quite a few “professional” businesses out there offering negative SEO services and in turn clients who are happy to get on board. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk and to stay on top of any foul play that you may be able to catch and report.
The first thing to really consider is the risk that you have. Unfortunately, the people in the riskiest positions on the basis of size are the small and medium websites which may not have the resources to really monitor and keep their site hygiene as high as some of the big guys with seemingly endless coffers. Some vigilance on your part can help you avoid disaster though. The first thing to really keep an eye on is the backlink profile of your website. This is where a lot of negative SEO is going to happen especially in light of the newest Google updates as it is very easy for competitors to blast thousands or even millions of spammy links to your site which may raise flags with the search giant. Thankfully, there are a number of tools which make it pretty easy to monitor backlinks these days including Google’s own webmaster tools. Open Site Explorer is another great option. It is best to employ more than one tool as no tool will catch everything. If you see suspicious backlinks it may pay off to contact Google ahead of time. You can also disavow bad links in Google Webmasters. Furthermore, you can set up alerts in Google Webmasters to alert you if you are getting dinged for anything in particular.
Another negative SEO technique may be competitors trying to take out your high profile backlinks by impersonating you to get other webmasters to remove their links. This is where you reputation is very important coming down to the small details like what email address you use- always use one that is at your domain rather than a free site like gmail.
Stealing content has been a tool of blackhatters for what feels like eternity and it is important to monitor where your content is being republished for this reason. And from there try to take whatever action you can to limit that reproduction on spammy, blackhat sites.
Unfortunately with how competitive many markets are becoming negative SEO is probably something that we will continue to see more and more of. Try your best to stay on top of it and continue to fight the good fight as it will hopefully pay off in the long run and you’ll have your conscience to thank!