• Negative SEO and website human shields from Penguin

    by  • April 27, 2012 • Search Engines • 2 Comments

    Cover of

    Cover of The Usual Suspects (Special Editon)

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist – Keyser Soze in the Usual Suspects

    Three very significant ranking updates have been put in place over at Google in recent weeks.  First a systematic targeting of  Private Blog Networks, then an update of Panda, and finally a new algorithm targeting webspam known as Penguin.   This trifecta of updates has caused an earthquake in rankings.  It has also resurfaced the age old debate about the possibility of Negative SEO.

    This isn’t a discussion just being held in the underbelly of the Internet.  Very notable people in the SEO community are tackling the issue.   Rand Fishkin posted an excellent Whiteboard Friday on negative SEO, with some excellent data that goes beyond conjecture.  Most interesting is a post on SEOBook about Google Bowling by Aaron Wall.  The post itself sets up a bit of the debate that is going on.  However the comments take it to a new level.

    From the user “BabyFace:”

    What I did when running link campaigns on a network was to include links to my competitors (using low value anchors but still “optimized”) so that no one would be able to point the finger at me…guess what, those competitors have dropped in rankings at the same time I did.

    While no transparent data has been provided, I can confirm that I have seen this tactic used quite a bit.  Large websites are being used as sorts of human shields to assure that negative rankings can’t be passed.  If a page gets marked via one of these updates, the innocents have a headache to deal with.  Rankings can tank, business can be hurt and the company had nothing to do with it.

    I personally advocate monitoring all new links to your website and assuring that you aren’t going to fall victim to this tactic.  It used to be that I would just ignore low quality sources, but now they are very likely to do real harm.  Look for links that are posted with a low quality site.  Then compare your link profile to that of the low quality one.  Where there is a great deal of intersection, you might be a website shield.  Send requests to remove that link, and keep evidence of doing so.   If the unnatural link notification arrives, at least you’ve done what you can and can show evidence.

    As an aside, it is very frustrating to have to put effort into preventing others from doing harm.  In a lot of ways, it’s like paying for a security system or insurance.  Its money or effort put into a product for which you wish there was no need.  I’m not canceling my insurance any time soon.  The devil does exist, and it’s incumbent on all of us to keep our guard up.



    Steve Hammer is President and co-founder of RankHammer, a full service search marketing agency. RankHammer provides Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click advertising services in some of the most competitive industries. Before founding RankHammer, Steve was Director of Search for ACE Cash Express and General Manager of Stir, a social network for going out. He has experience in industries ranging from online dating to senior care, including newspapers and cooking products. Steve took an unusual path to Internet marketing, with a degree in chemical engineering from Clemson, and an MBA from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management. This combination of analytical background and business acumen has offered RankHammer clients the tools they need to succeed. Steve has been a featured speaker at DFWSEM, Interactive Insights Summit, Financial Bloggers Conference and many others. He currently sits on the board of the DFWSEM as VP of web content, and was a board member of the Kellogg Alumni Association when they won Alumni Club of the year for the first time.

    2 Responses to Negative SEO and website human shields from Penguin

    1. Martha
      April 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      What do you mean by human shields?

    2. Steve Hammer
      April 30, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Human Shields was a tactic used in some recent wars. A “bad guy” would surround himself with a bunch of innocents so that he couldn’t be bombed without extensive civilian causalities. Since most wouldn’t make the decision to take out lots of innocent lives, it kept villains safe and put innocents in harms way.

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