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After Deindexing, Negative SEO Becomes A Major Issue

by Jon Cooper
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White hats, you can finally say it: “I told you so!”

After Google finally took down a few blog networks, I think we can all sleep a little bit better knowing that what we’ve been telling our clients all these years & what we’re now seeing in the SERPs is starting to look a lot more similar.

But at the same time, another issue is on the horizon. These seemingly public outings of these blog networks have many SEOs realizing that Google isn’t just ignoring some of these network links – they’re penalizing webmasters for them. 

Google Bowling, which I now call Negative SEO, isn’t new. There’s even a service for it (quote from their site: “we only use legal means to ensure your competitors get banned”. It’s hard not to laugh at that).

The real issue here is that people are sharing their alerts from Webmaster Tools showing that Google is detecting unnatural links, a direct result of the blog networks they’re a part of. And since these networks are now publicly known to be bad, and that they don’t cost much time or money to get links from, some are drowning their competitor’s link profiles in them.

Here is a good example. For those who don’t have a Wicked Fire account, this guy penalized his competitor with $200 worth of ALN links over a three week period.

Take a couple blog network blasts like that, throw in a few comment spam services, an Xrumer blast, and an SEnuke package, all over a 30 day period with spammy anchor text, and what do you get? Most likely, a penalty. I’ve even heard of people taking banned domains and 301ing them as a strategy, which, unfortunately, is working.

The most upsetting part of this is that it’s really an easy fix. All Google has to do is one of the following:

1)   Just ignore these links

2)   Let us flag bad links & 301s in Webmaster Tools

For those wondering about #1, think about it. If they’re ignored, the black hats don’t win because those links become money down the toilet, and for us, we don’t lose because we don’t get a penalty.

The solution

Believe it or not, there is a solution to this problem, but it’s not fool proof, and you’ve probably heard it before.

Take, for example, that you blasted a few big time Fortune 500 companies, whom have never (to your knowledge) engaged in any type of black hat strategies. What would happen?

Probably nothing. It actually might even help them (yes, I’m not kidding).

Why is this? Because Google trusts them. Yes, after all those years of being told to build trustworthy links, it’s starting to show how essential it is that you’ve listened and done as we’ve told you.

The reason is different now. We told you to build links for trust so you could rank higher; now it’s so a competitor doesn’t bomb your link profile.

So maybe it’s time you joined the Better Business Bureau. Maybe it’s time you also forked out $300 a year for a listing in the Yahoo Directory, and even picked up the phone (Gasp!) to join a few niche specific organizations & associations, regardless if they cost a bit more than you’d like for those 2-3 links.

Do whatever it takes to become trusted by Google. Chances are a lot of you won’t have a competitor perform a bit of negative SEO on you, but are you really willing to take that risk?

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 119 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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36 Comments
  1. J says:

    You guys keep repeating that negative seo isn’t illegal. Are any of you lawyers? If so, please explain why this particular form of sobtage is legal. Because to me it seems that the “it’s not illegal to link to someone” line wouldn’t hold much water in an actual court case, since that’s clearly not what is being done. It’s obvious that it’d be extremely difficult to get caught doing something something like this, but if you WERE caught and it could be proven that you were responsible for getting someone’s site tanked, I believe it would be foolish to go bed at night thinking you are free from any legal ramifications, especially if you caused financial loss. Unfortunately, negative seo is far too easy to get away with.

  2. uri lederman says:

    HI Jon,

    Great post,

    We did a quick test on negative seo to see if it is a live and kicking. check it out here:
    http://www.saasaffiliates.com/testing-negative-seo-has-google-opened-the-floodgates-to-competitors-hurting-your-web-ranking/

  3. Brian says:

    I think people are blowing negative SEO way out of proportion — in fact I haven’t seen a reliable & replicable report of it actually happening (the link in your article leads to a login page: I’d love it if you had any links to something I can read).

    I think people are confusing webmaster tool warnings for penalties.

    We have a couple of clients who were buying low-quality links (on their own & on the side — not something we do). They all got webmaster tool warnings, but none of them were penalized. One of them saw some rankings losses, but that was directly due to the fact that one of their link networks is now 50% deindexed — not a penalty.

    Even Uri Lederman’s comment a couple up points to a post where they tested and ‘proved’ that negative SEO works — but also noted that their rankings did not drop at all. Believe me — if your site gets penalized, your rankings *plummet* — all of them. So just because a webmaster tool warning shows up asking you to fill out a reconsideration request does not mean that your site has been penalized.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks Brian! Good point. I don’t think it’s easy to do, because as you said, a penalty is a lot more than just a warning, but it’s still something we should at least educate ourselves on. I think the common misconception of a GWT warning & an actual penalty is something that hasn’t been talked about much at all, and I’m glad you brought it up.

  4. Dan Thies says:

    I’ll believe it’s a major issue when I see real examples. Or when all the twits who are trying to knock my sites down with splog networks and all that junk actually succeed. They’ve been at it for years, but maybe it just takes time. ;-)

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