In 2014, the SEO casualties are growing and accusations are flying all over the Internets. Negative SEO is largely to blame, but what is it exactly? How does it exist, and how is Google involved?
Negative SEO – Big Brand Penalties by Google
We have been seeing big corporate brands take a hit in Google rankings every month in the last year: Interflora, RapGenius, Expedia, and now the big bank Halifax. Those are just a few.
This should not come as a shock. Google has stated that any SEO tactics used outside of the Webmaster Guidelines are considered to be black hat SEO, and such actions will be punished.
Google started to penalize sites in recent years because some companies were trying to manipulate the company’s algorithm. The head of the web spam team at Google, Matt Cutts, has long railed against purchasing links and building up lower quality links to manipulate the Google algorithm.
But these techniques worked, so everyone was doing it. That is part of why the entire SEO industry sprouted, because Google was not enforcing their rules that strictly. In fact, some SEO companies even built their whole business model on manipulating the algorithm to get high traffic at low cost.
This changed two years ago. Google cracked down hard on exploitations of their algorithm with the Penguin updates that now punishes questionable links on a website. Many of those cheap SEO tricks stopped working. In a day, thousands of websites dropped from Google’s rankings.
These days, after several more Penguin updates, not even big companies are immune.
Expedia’s Drop Explained
Expedia dropped recently from Google search results. After an examination of their link profile, it became clear why: Expedia was using old SEO tricks, and Halifax was doing it too.
They did not get caught for a long time because their SEO tricks was in a giant backlink profile that had many natural links.
Also, their branded terms – Expedia- are more important by far than generic terms, such as ‘cheapest flights.’ So, it looked as if they had a healthier link profile than they really did.
Since then, Expedia has cleaned up its act and gotten away from its negative SEO practices. If you want your small business to avoid similar problems, keep a few things in mind:
- Do an ongoing link audit for all domains, including the ones that are redirected.
- Focus on quality link building not quantity.
- Automate link risk management. No one is able to examine thousands of links
- Do link disavows on an ongoing basis. Dump toxic links fast.