Jonathan Hawkins

Jonathan Hawkins is CEO at a leading SEO and Website Design Services firm in Fredericksburg, Virginia specializing in Search Engine Optimization and Custom Web Design. Jonathan's passion for computers started back in the 8th grade while creating programs in visual basic for AOL 2.0 in the winter of 94’. In 1999 he opened a web design firm which later turned into his current venture “TopoftheBurg SEO & Design”. If not spending time helping his clients achieve page one rankings on Google Search or designing a website, he spends most of his free time with family or kayaking on his local river in Virginia.

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How to Protect Your Online Assets from Negative SEO

Jonathan Hawkins

August 09, 2012

4.0/5.0 (4 votes total)

By now, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be the cornerstone of your Internet marketing strategy. The number of ways to optimize your business website grows every time Google tweaks its search engine algorithm. However, you can always count on integrating keywords into content, building links, and listing in business directories as three stable components of SEO.

The purpose of SEO is to get your business ranked high in the major search engines, most preferably on the first page of Google’s search engine return pages (SERPs). A new type of SEO-negative SEO-attempts to do the exact opposite of SEO: the goal is to reduce a web page’s search engine rankings.

Why Use Negative SEO?

The highly competitive nature of business has prompted some business owners to resort to negative SEO. They use negative SEO to improve their SERP, while at the same time downgrading their competitors’ websites. SEO experts refer to this practice as SERP bubbling, since it moves a web page higher in the rankings at the expense of other websites that fall in the rankings. Business owners also use negative SEO to downgrade the rankings of websites that are detrimental to their images. This practice is refered to as Search Engine Reputation Management (SERP)

Who is Most Vulnerable?

Larger sites that have been around for a while can tolerate more spam links, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and other negative SEO than smaller sites that have not established a strong reputation in the major search engines. Thus, it is more difficult to run negative SEO campaigns against sites such as Microsoft or Wal Mart. Newer sites do not have as much content or as many links. Whenever newer sites face negative SEO, they have fewer ways to fend off the negative SEO tactics. Most small business fall into the newer site category and business owners are terrified of negative SEO. Don’t pull the alarm just yet. You have ways to ward off negative SEO and protect the integrity of your small business website.

How to Protect Your Business Website from Negative SEO

Let’s start with quality content. Search engines measure the quality of content by visitor engagement. If a visitor finds you through a search engine and accesses you web page, search engines begin to measure the behavior of the visitor after he or she enters your site. An immediate click of the “back” link is not a good measure of the quality of your site content. Quality content means delivering information that solves problems or helps people make decisions about products and services. It integrates the words that visitors you to find you business, without over stuffing the words into the content. A website with compelling content has a better shield to defend against negative SEO.

The second way to defend against negative SEO is to have strong site architecture. No, you do not have to be an architect to accomplish strong site architecture. This means building a site that visitors and search engines can easily navigate. You organize your pages in a logical fashion. For instance, if you run a sporting goods business, you create strong site architecture by categorizing your products and then subcategorizing each main category. Develop a shallow click path, one that does not require search engine spiders to delve deep into your site to find the information they want to access.

A clean link profile is perhaps the most effective way to defeat negative SEO. Businesses that employ negative SEO tactics often implement strategies that create spammy links to a competitor’s site. They will link from link farms and other spam sites to lower your link rating in the search engines. You can use Google’s Webmaster Tool to check for low quality back links. Eliminate the links from sites that you have no affiliation with and to sites that may be stealing your content. Google penalizes duplicate content in its algorithm.

The Final Word

DMCA takedown notices help small business owners go after the biggest negative SEO offenders. Google has made the DMCA easier to use, so take down the biggest offenders every 3-6 months to prevent your site from losing it high ranking in Google’s search engine. Remember that Google’s algorithm changes more frequently now than ever before, so stay on top of the changes and make the adjustments you need to make to fight against negative SEO. Meticulously analyze back links to your site and eliminate the ones that come from low quality sources or from link farms.

Above all, do not resort to the low-ball negative SEO tactics. Eventually, Google will develop a way to detect which sites implement negative SEO and punish those sites accordingly.


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