With all of Google’s recent updates there has been a flurry of SEOs out there that have repositioning themselves as Negative SEOs – that is people that can intentionally hurt the rankings of your competitors.It would seem that when Google de-indexed the blog networks and started to penalise people for the anchor text they’ve been using they didn’t see the industry that would grow up around taking down a competitor, I mean let’s be honest, they’ve made good SEO so much more difficult the easiest thing for many smaller SEOs, or less experienced SEOs should we say is to target competitors and take them down.
Did Google Foresee Negative SEO?
I don’t think Google saw this coming because they didn’t put anything in place that would enable webmasters to deal with the problem should it arrise, in fact they still haven’t. Only now has Matt Cutts announced that Google is considering creating the facility to tell them to ignore certain links.
I’m still not sure this is good enough though, I mean most website owners will have no idea what their link profile is made up of, let alone have the knowledge of how it might be damaging their rankings.
Cutts stated (find this at Search Engine Land):
“The story of this year has been more transparency, but we’re also trying to be better about enforcing our quality guidelines. People have asked questions about negative SEO for a long time. Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on that part of our guidelines.”
There it is in writing, affirmation that Negative SEO does now work, something Google has always been at pains to stress isn’t the case.
Regarding the new anti-Negative SEO tool, Cutts went on to say:
Some have suggested that Google could disavow links. Even though we put in a lot of protection against negative SEO, there’s been so much talk about that that we’re talking about being able to enable that, maybe in a month or two or three.
How will an ignore links function help?
It appears that the key factors that will save your site from burning in a pyre of negative SEO links is your reputation, Rank Fishkin at SEOMoz recently challenged the SEO community to prove that a site with great reputation could be burnt and it would appear that no matter how many shoddy links were built those protections that Google spoke about worked their magic. The problem being that most sites out there don’t have SEOMoz’s reputation and therefore resilience.
I’ve got a couple of clients that have been burnt by the links in their profile – they’ll freely admit they’ve built them, so we’re not really talking about negative SEO here, just bad SEO. In these cases their high rankings have been obliterated and in my estimation it’s happened because they’ve got little is any brand presence when compared to other key players that target the same or related keywords.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how this works out, it will be especially important in giving some power back to the SEO industry to help people sort out the issues caused by the most recent changes. I think it will also give us an indication of how important links are in the new online game (I think they are still one of the, if not the fundamental factors if done right/well).