Negative SEO is a set of dodgy practices which might superficially give you an SEO advantage or quick win. Negative SEO can also impact your business’s online ranking negatively in the medium to long term.
The industry refers to SEO in two distinct ways. In an analogy drawn from the old westerns, white hat techniques equate to ‘good’ SEO and black hat techniques are negative, or dodgy, SEO. And if you’re wondering what white hat SEO is, take a look at this and this.
So what techniques do black hat SEO practitioners use, and why are these risky?
Black hat techniques – these have been around as long as internet search engines have existed.
- In the early days of search engines stuffing your pages with keywords did the trick to get you a good ranking. Nowadays such an tactic, will work against you
- Other examples include a rapid proliferation of links back to your website . . .
- Or the creation of spurious articles stuffed with keywords, and which duplicate content from yours or competitor sites . . .
Black hat SEO’s spend hours doing what they do, time which could be far better spent in white hat SEO work.
Black hat SEO doesn’t create a website which provides a great user experience and everything which goes with that.
Unfortunately, black hat SEO appeals to gulible businesses because of the impression of quick wins. And it is that last issue which does so much damage, let me explain.
Google penalises black hat (negative SEO). Google does this by removing a site engaged in black hat techniques from search rankings. The size of a site, who it’s owned by or its previous high ranking make no difference to this decision. A dirty site is a dirty site, no matter how you dress it up.
Now, imagine your site is clean. But, imagine a situation where a black hatter floods your site with spammy backlinks in an attempt to take you down. Google doesn’t work on a set schedule or in real time. A victimised site might take a week to recover their excellent rankings despite removing all the negative SEO immediately . . .
. . . and there are firms which offer black hat specialists for hire, often through reps in the UK. Their appeal is their relatively low cost and impression of quick wins.
Here are the top 4 types of negative SEO and what you can do to counter them:
- Doorway pages – Less prevalent that previously but a feature in link spamming (see below), doorway pages are optimised purely for search engine spiders, thus can superficially seem to attract more users. Doorway pages are often optimised for one high value keyword or phrase.
- Link Spamming – This is defined by Google as “trying to deceive our web crawler by means of hidden text, deceptive cloaking or doorway pages.” Hidden text is when there are keywords written to the page in the same colour as background text, so invisible to the naked eye but seen by search engine spiders.
- Duplicate content– Google looks for duplicate content all the time. An excess of duplicate content, and your site can be penalised. The originator may receive a higher ranking with copycats receiving a lower one. But, not always . . .Hacking – The current trend is to place malware or malicious code in your HTML. You’re history if it’s spotted. Make sure that your content management host server has up-to-date security certification and practices in place. Keep an eye on your code to ensure that nothing is creeping in which doesn’t belong.
- Typically the first site to have the content indexed gets the high marks. Now, if someone steals your latest content and gets their site indexed first, Google will assume your site is the copycat. So, avoid penalties for duplicate content by checking your content – and often. Grab a unique sentence, put it in quotes and let Google search for it. If you find it, you can then take steps to try to have it removed from the other site(s) if you created it, but if you copied it, beware, you can be found out that way too . . .
Vigilance is the key, as always.
SEO and ‘digital’, like all marketing activity, are not contained in silos. The negative effects of black hat SEO are similarly shared across the business. Be very aware of this before you consider adopting black hat techniques or become the victim of them. You’ll not only be doing your own site a lot of damage, but might take down others with you and lose your customers’ trust . . . and that is when it really stops being a game.