Negative SEO Protection
Earlier this year there was a significant amount of commotion in the online world when business websites were hit where it hurts them the most, namely in their search engine results. Google search engine updates with names like Panda and Penguin had a detrimental effect on the page ranking of what the company deems to be over-optimized or spammy websites. While this should have been good news to website owners who follow Google's best practice guidelines carefully, even they are not safe thanks to the increased chance of being hurt by so-called negative SEO (search engine optimization).
What is Negative SEO?
There are a number of techniques that fall into the category of negative SEO, and some are easier to protect yourself against then others. Let us take a look at the three most damaging negative SEO techniques that can be used against your website.
The hack/malware technique is often used by malicious programmers to break into your website and make changes so that your website visitors unwittingly download malware (harmful software) onto their computers or mobile devices when they visit your site. But the technique can also be used to infiltrate your website's HTML code to make it tell the Google search bots to no longer index your website. The best way to protect your website against the hack/malware technique is to implement security files. These files will prevent the uploading of commonly used “botnet” scripts. Protective files can be found online, but you may prefer to ask your webmaster to write one specifically for your website.
Unfortunately there are people out there who take pleasure in reporting websites to Google because they contain a few spammy links. If your website happens to have a few inbound links from less reputable websites, and someone takes it upon him- or herself to report you, Google may penalize your site, but how much this affects your page ranking depends on the overall quality of the links to your website. On the other hand, you are well within your rights to report a competitor who is using illegal, or black hat, SEO techniques to achieve an unnaturally high ranking in search engine results.
The spammy links technique involves placing links to a competitor's website on a site that has a reputation for spam, for example, the so-called link farms. They exist only to provide inbound links to other websites. This used to be a way of boosting the volume of inbound links, hence making Google think that you are more important than you really are. The Panda and Penguin updates, however, have put a stop to that. Links from websites with a less-than-savory reputation now lead to penalty points and a lower score in Google's search engine results. In some cases it could even lead to your website being removed from the Google index altogether.
How to Protect Your Website against Negative SEO
Large websites are relatively safe from negative SEO. Large companies with high-ranking websites have enough quality content and quality links to convince Google not to punish them too severely for a few spammy links. In contrast, small websites are much more vulnerable. With less content and fewer links, they are more susceptible to the damaging effects of negative SEO.
While there is no fool-proof way of immunizing your website against the effects of negative SEO, there are a number measures you can take to protect yourself. Google places a high value on quality content, so when you regularly add interesting and relevant content to your website, you can gain extra points to help you to achieve a higher page ranking. A second measure you can take is to ensure that your link profile is varied and natural. Inbound links are most effective when placed on websites that have an affinity to your own website. Finally, the design and structure of your website is important too, and not just to users. Bad code that doesn't adhere to industry standards will cost you valuable points.
Negative SEO isn't new, but because of the developments in Google algorithms earlier this year it has become a more effective way to damage a competitor's website. The protective measures set out above let Google know that you are serious about wanting to help people with your website, and you are not just trying to gain a higher position in the search results.