Negative SEO and Penguin 2.0

Penguin 2.0 and Negative SEOBy now, you’ve heard us screaming about negative SEO and for the most part being “pa-shawed” by people and called Negative Nancies, but we have a very bad feeling that it’s about to take front and center during the latest release of what Google is calling Penguin 2.0.

For those late to the party, negative SEO is when “Company A” can pay black hat agencies to set up massive amounts of links in bad neighborhoods linking to “Company B”. When Google sees these massive amount of links, they start penalizing Company B in the rankings because it looks like Company B is illegally buying links. Company A wins.  Google denies that it truly has this desired effect, but at the same time released a Disavow Tool for Company B to put in place to tell Google which bad sites to ignore.

Now Google is set to release Penguin 2.0 in the next couple of weeks and will continue in waves over the summer. Penguin 2.0’s primary focus is to clear out and/or penalize websites that are practicing the art of buying links or that try to essentially game Google‘s system, which is exactly what negative SEO is designed to make unsuspecting sites look like they’re doing to Google.

The question is now, how will Google be able to sort out which companies are victims of negative SEO and which companies are actually breaking the rules. Google’s Matt Cutt’s put out a video explaining that Mom & Pop stores shouldn’t worry (see the video on our previous post), but what if you’re not a Mom & Pop store?  And as mentioned, he then denoted that you could use the Disavow tool to indicate what websites have you listed on them that you want Google to ignore. The problem there is that you have to know those sites exist and by then, it’s too late.

While we know we sound a tad like Chicken Little here, this simply has bad news written all over it that Google would release an algorithm change that would play right into the hands of negative SEO. People should expect to hear more about this in the coming 1+ months as companies far and wide begin to fall off the Google SERP’s and start screaming foul. Just remember this post when all hell breaks loose in the coming weeks.

What Can You Do?
Unfortunately not much, because if you can find those bad links (if you have them), so can Google and they’re much quicker than you probably are.  Any bad sites that have your site listed on them are probably already indexed by Google. But if you haven’t experienced any bad effects of their presence yet, the time to act is now.

Use tools like Arelis/IBP to start looking to see if your website has been placed anywhere that you are not familiar with or didn’t setup yourself. You should expect to see certain growth patterns and an occasional bad anomaly, but if you start seeing placement on completely irrelevant websites or sites that contain questionable content, use the Disavow tool like your life depended on it because when Penguin 2.0 is in full swing, your companies online existence may very well be in major jeopardy.

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Negative SEO & The Disavow Tool – Too Little Too Late

Negative SEOI recently received an advertisement for a company claiming to be able to remove a competitor from the Google rankings per my request and a nominal fee of about $5000. If you’re in a highly competitive realm, 5K may seem a very fair sum to remove competition from that Google SERP. I began to wonder if this indeed was possible to do, as I have in years past, but never spent much brain power on it until now.

If a black hat company could run a mass push to place links in very bad neighborhoods (porn sites, gambling sites, link farms, etc.) and do it so that it appears that the company is trying to buy links or acquire better rankings through techniques that Google greatly frowns upon, it could very well do what they say. Google could see those efforts and recognize them as tactics that don’t comply with the Google rules and regulations and hit the site with penalties or worse, de-indexing.

Google great Matt Cutts released a video (shown below) to discuss this practice referred to as “Negative SEO” and he mentions that it’s “very unlikely” and then uses statements such as, “We TRY really hard to create an algorithm that is resistant to those types of thing.”  Most of what indicates to anyone reading between the lines, that they know the practice of negative SEO exists and have algorithms in place to recognize it, but that it doesn’t catch it all.

So much so, that they’ve implemented a Disavow Tool which allows you to create a text file listing websites that you wish to, well, disavow. That way, Google can ignore those websites that you’ve listed and not consider them when deciding where you’re going to rank.

The problem with the disavow link is that you have to already be aware of where those bad links are, decide whether they are actually bad links (as best you can guess in Google‘s mind), and to have either already been a victim of a rankings hit or guess that the presence of your link on that website will have a negative impact on your rankings.

While Google may well be able to identify a huge percentage of the companies that are trying these negative SEO tactics, the very existence of the disavow tool only acknowledges and gives credence to those companies claim that it can be done. And with fees upwards of $5000, this also gives those companies some monetary “wiggle room” to buy links on those evil sites which adds even more validity to their claims.

While 90% of the black hats that claim it can be done, couldn’t pull it off if their life depended on it due to Google’s efforts, there still remains a 10% chunk that just may be able to do what they say. As Matt Cutts noted in his video below, if you’re a company trying to oust a competitor from the front pages of Google, your time would be better suited putting efforts into your own site to make it better. But it’s still disturbing to know that it can be done.

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