Can Your Competitors Destroy Your SEO?

Can Your Competitors Destroy Your SEO?

Can Your Competitors Destroy Your SEO?  Most of us would like to think that black-hat “negative SEO” is a thing of the past. But even with the tools to fight back, negative SEO persists—and is making a resurgence, thanks to a wolfish new tactic.

A Brief History of Bad Guys

Negative SEO is any tactic where you try to pull down your competitor’s ranking (as opposed to just building up your own, which is fair play). Historically, the way this was done was simple: you created lots of low quality links that all pointed at your competitor’s site. You could see links to them, for example, on dubious link directories or low quality “guest posts.” Under Google’s notorious Penguin update these low quality links would be penalized, and your competition with them.

(Note: EverSpark does not condone these tactics and will not provide this service.)

It took less than a year for Google to catch on to this and supposedly provide a fix. The fix is simple: once signed up for Google Webmaster Tools you can use the Disavow Tool to distance yourself from those bad links. In other words, your competitor can pile as many dirty links on you as they see fit, but—theoretically—you can disavow them all.

So this totally stopped negative SEO, right?

Two Kinds of Dirty Deeds

Unfortunately, negative SEO still exists and is often tragically effective. It comes in essentially two forms, one tried and true and one cunning new one.

The tried and true method is when your competitor just points dirty links at you anyway. They keep on doing  it, even though you can Disavow. Why? Because they know it will still work for two reasons:

  1. Disavowing links is a time consuming process and often takes multiple requests. They could ding your SEO for weeks or months before you set it right.
  2. Lots of business owners don’t even know about the Disavow Tool, or how to check for dirty links pointing to their site. In other words, many sites suffer from negative SEO and don’t even know it.

That’s underhanded enough, but there seems to be a new negative tactic going around—one that’s even harder to beat. As reported in Free SEO News, the tactic was first identified and demonstrated last month by Polish SEO expert Bartosz Góralewicz. It has to do with “faking a bad user experience,” or in other words, rigging your click-through rate (CTR).

CTR is a major ranking signal for Google and other search engines. The idea is that if several websites all appear in the same search results but one gets the most clicks, that one must be most relevant. Unfortunately, clicks are easy to fake.

To demonstrate how, Góralewicz created a bot that went to the search results and clicked thousands of times, over and over, on every site except the target site (Góralewicz sacrificed one of his own sites for the experiment). Sure enough, Google saw the target site as falling behind in CTR and its ranking dropped.

This tactic is dangerous because it’s not clear that Google has any way to differentiate bot clicks from organic clicks. And Góralewicz first conceived of the idea in trying to identify what was holding back a client’s website. That implies that someone is already using the tactic in the real world.

Protecting Yourself

Can Your Competitors Destroy Your SEO?

As with most aspects of cyber security, negative SEO isn’t something you can completely prevent but it is something you can minimize with smart precautions. Those precautions include:

  • Regularly monitoring your position in relevant SERPS
  • Run a full backlink analysis on a regular basis and deal with problem links immediately
  • Take care of all the factors that are in your control—like on-page optimization
  • Make sure your website isn’t cannibalizing itself

A simple SEO technical audit can turn up dirty backlinks and check for scores of other problems in just a few short hours. For more information about audits or to schedule a free consultation contact EverSpark today.

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