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.Steven Hammer