What is Negative SEO: Why and How People Attack Websites

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In years past, when webmasters were still actively figuring out the tips and tricks to getting noticed in the search engines, one popular blogger named John Chow figured out that if he encouraged other online writers to link to his blog with the wording “make money online” in the hyperlink – a phrase that’s called the anchor text – people who searched for that same phrase on Google would find his blog among the top results.

This tactic worked well to help turn the relatively popular writer into a blogging megastar, because the search term “make money online” received – and still receives – a large amount of daily searches from hopeful entrepreneurs seeking a way to earn an income via the Internet.

How Things Have Changed Since Then for Search Engine Optimization

Inevitably, Google caught up with the tactic being exploited by Chow and dropped him completely out of the rankings for the search term, at least temporarily. Today, if you perform a Google search for “make money online,” Chow is not in top 100 results (according to SEMRush).

The algorithms and formulas for ranking various website pages became more difficult to manipulate, but that didn’t stop people from trying to figure out how to make their own sites rank in the number one position for popular and profitable search terms. It was no longer a smart thing to “Google bomb” the search engine with the same phrase repeated a gazillion times. Search engine optimization became more sophisticated and complex, and so did the competition’s tactics.

When People Use Neg-SEO to Try and Destroy Their Competition

One interesting phenomenon that was birthed out of online gurus learning the things that forced Google to rank other websites lower for various search phrases was the evil knowledge that they could use that same know-how to force their competition to the bottom of Google by obliterating it with bad links and spam.

For example, Spencer Haws has been known to own and enjoy as many as 200 niche websites on a variety of topics back in the time, when he unveiled information about a negative SEO campaign lodged against one of his websites.

The SEO attack came against a website Haws had developed that sought to help buyers find the best survival knives based on customer reviews, and Haws made money via this website by inserting Amazon referral links that provided him with a cut of the sales made via buyers who bought products through those links. Thankfully, the website under siege wasn’t the only website he owned, and an interesting analysis emerged from a detailed look into the negative SEO campaign, such as the fact that thousands of unnatural links are what tipped Google to the existence of something fishy going on with the website.

Ironically, learning the types of things that your online competition might do to knock you down or out of the search engine results can actually end up helping you by learning what never to do in the future – as well as the steps to take to try and fix the damage done.

For example, one of the factors discovered was that there were an abundance of incoming links – thousands of them – coming into the knife niche website at a rapid pace, and many of them from cheap article directory type of websites. It was also discovered that using a large amount of profitable keywords to link to the website, let’s presume wording like “buy a sword” or “quiver reviews,” which speaks to a customer ready to buy, also played a role in the take down.

Why Do People Perform Negative SEO and How Can You Avoid It?

Some of the best ways to try and avoid attacks on your website that’s making money is to keep as quiet as possible – although this won’t keep you totally safe from those wanting to knock you out of the #1 spot.

If you runa site in a competitive niche and it brings in a healthy monthly income, your best bet is not to begin bragging online on blogs or in forums about the money it makes, because unfortunately there are those that lurk in the shadows seeking to take over the keywords you rank well for.

Why would they do this? Many times it’s simply a matter of earning money. If you discovered that a search-term like “buy Bitcoins with Paypal” was pretty easy to rank for in the number one spot, and you discover that featuring that service from various sites began to bring you a large chunk of referral income, of course other people might want to take over your position so they can earn that income instead.

+This article was first published (by my wife) back in 2012, but I decided to resurrect it in 2022 as I find it a good read for SEO beginners. Sad part is, there are around 100 searches, each month, for negative SEO services. But here is a tip, if you need blackhat negative SEO just order one of those “stunning” $5 SEO services on Fiverr and you are set.+

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