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Negative SEO: How Do You Catch Spammers?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses primarily on changing a website so that it ranks higher in the SERPs. Whereas positive SEO is all about improving your own page, negative SEO involves surreptitious tactics to undermine a competitor’s website. These can range from legitimate but nasty to illegal and simply evil techniques. Here is how to guard against, or at least mitigate the damage of negative SEO:

1. Spammy, Paid Backlinks
The aim of the recent Penguin update was to recognize this malpractice and punish the offending websites. However, with Penguin, it is increasingly easy to create link farms with backlinks to a competitor’s website and wait for Google to issue a warning message. Commonly referred to as Google Bowling, the process takes a couple of days at most. Another alternative includes dynamic content pages, where different URLs show the same content.

The solution: Explain everything in detail in your reconsideration report and work with Google to eliminate the real offending websites. Additionally, ensure that there are no big variations in your URLs and no duplicate content.

2. Content Stealing
In a number of cases, a dummy website was created with the exact same content and everything new was added almost immediately. The site was then submitted for indexing before the original, making Google think the original was merely a copy.

The solution: Keeping an updated sitemap and constantly resubmitting for indexing will prevent competitor websites from successfully stealing content. Additionally, the absolute rel=canonical tag will establish your website as the original. Finally, when in doubt, search Google with a quoted phrase from your website and see if anything comes up.

3. Backlink Removal Requests
Third-party backlinks are an important source of traffic, but it only takes one e-mail with a copyright infringement claim to lose them. A complaint to the administrators can work just as well.

The solution: Keep a close eye on all your backlinking partners, and consider sending a thank you letter for each new link. Google Analytics can highlight all major sources of traffic. Furthermore, establish a secure e-mail address, which your partners can use as a reference, and advise them to ignore e-mails from other accounts.

4. Denial of Service (DOS) Attack
A DOS attack involves a large number of computers trying to access a certain site simultaneously, eating up its bandwidth in the process. As a result, the site is inaccessible both to normal users and to Google crawlers, and its subsequent traffic and SERP standings suffer. A more powerful version is the distribute DOS attack by thousands of computers.

The solution: Choose a reliable service provider or web host with a strong reputation of repelling DDOS and DOS attacks. When such an attack occurs, contact them immediately as he has the resources to deal with the threat.

5. Social Google Bowling
This technique involves the creation of numerous social networking accounts and sharing backlinks to your websites with negative keywords like “Viagra,” “porn,” “babes,” etc. With the latest Google update on network sharing, this method can now quickly get a website labeled as inappropriate or untrustworthy.

The solution: Again, contact the search engine with the aim to disavow the backlinks. Currently, Bing Webmaster tools allow the user to report backlinks from spam sources.

6. Increasing Site Loading Time
Every time a site gets crawled, it takes longer for it to load for normal users. Therefore, competitors might use artificial crawlers to slow down your website.

The solution: Identify the IP of the search engine crawlers and restrict all other crawler access to the site.

All of these are defense strategies, but the best solution is to gather evidence and locate the culprit and then take him or her to court.

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