Should You Fear Negative SEO?
Manual spam actions and algorithmic penalties are two things that many webmasters lose a lot of sleep over, and with good reason. If you get hit by a penalty, you can easily drop off the front page of the SERPs, and end up losing almost all of your organic search traffic. Penalties are typically handed out for unnatural-looking link profiles and spammy marketing tactics. It’s natural for a webmaster to wonder how hard it would be for a competitor to perform such “SEO” efforts against them.
Sadly, the answer to that question is yes, negative SEO is possible. It is incredibly difficult to pull off against an established site, but it can be done. Until recently, negative SEO was a popular black hat tactic. The good news is that there are several defences against negative SEO, and Google is getting much better at helping webmasters recover from ranking penalties. Firstly, Google allows you to disavow links that point to your own website (you can’t disavow someone else’s links). This means that if you keep an eye on your Webmaster Tools profile you can disavow low quality links when they crop up, helping to protect you against most penalties. If you have any concerns, get in touch with Google themselves: they’re more willing to help than you might first expect, and will be happy to reconsider your website if you think that it has been hit with an unfair penalty.
Secondly, if your site has plenty of high quality links, and a solid presence in social media, it will be much harder for a competitor to water down your SEO efforts. Just think of the number of low quality links that Wikipedia has coming in. Google doesn’t care about those links because the overwhelming majority of links coming in to the site are high quality, and the anchor text is varied. The same goes for almost any other popular website. Google understands that you cannot control the behaviour of other webmasters.
Negative SEO can happen, in theory, but it’s highly unlikely to happen to you, and even if it does happen the chances of your competitor’s efforts negatively affecting your website are slim. Instead of worrying about negative SEO, focus on building a better site and promoting it effectively. Not only is building a better website the best defence against negative SEO, it’s also the best way to boost your rankings.