During the internet’s early days, when SEO was still in its baby stage, various companies would employ various marketing techniques to boost website SEO. Since everything was still in its development stage, regulation was not as stringent as it is nowadays.
SEO tactics can be broken down into two groups: white hat and black hat marketing.
Black hat marketing traditionally refers to a disapproved practice of manipulating the criteria that search engines use to rank websites in order to boost a site’s SERP (search engine result page) placements. Black hat practices are prohibited by the search engine’s regulations and use of such tactics usually results in being banned from the search engine altogether.
WordStream outlines the following black hat SEO techniques that should be avoided at all costs if you want to develop and maintain a good Google Quality Score.
- Content Automation
- Doorway Pages
- Hidden Text or Links
- Keyword Stuffing
- Reporting a Competitor (or Negative SEO)
- Sneaky Redirects
- Link Schemes
- Guest Posting Networks
- Link Manipulation (including buying links)
- Article Spinning
- Link Farms, Link Wheels or Link Networks
- Rich Snippet Markup Spam
- Automated Queries to Google
- Creating pages, subdomains, or domains with duplicate content
- Pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing, viruses, trojans, and other malware
On the other hand, white hat marketing commonly refers to approved methods of search engine optimization that abide by the terms and conditions set by search engines.
What makes white hat SEO marketing so important? Google, the world’s largest search engine, is the largest source of traffic that currently exists. Successful digital marketing techniques rely on traffic, impressions, clicks, leads, and conversions. With Google’s rules and regulations deeming black hat techniques unethical it really is important that you remain in the good books, especially when it comes to your Quality Score and improving SEO.
Implementing white hat SEO is truly a no-brainer if you want to create a successful and sustainable SEO campaign.
As Google’s regular algorithm updates filter out black hat SEO, some marketers have resorted to another practice known as negative SEO which is a term that refers to lowering the SEO of your competition.
Before we go any further, let’s have a quick look at what negative SEO is all about and why it is important to be aware of it so you can avoid it. Negative SEO is when a rival or competitor uses unethical practices to decrease your rankings on SERPs.
Basically, negative SEO is used by rival companies to damage the flow of traffic to your site, with the intention of bettering their own traffic. Usually you can tell when you are the victim of negative SEO when your website’s ranking and traffic suddenly plummets.
How is negative SEO used?
Artificial backlinks are used by competitors that are trying to get your site penalized by Google. The first method involves sending hundreds of spammy backlinks to your website. Spam links are usually sent from websites that have acquired a bad reputation as being irrelevant and deceitful.
In addition to spammy backlinks, a competitor could try and damage your existing backlinks by trying to sabotage existing backlinks from genuine sources.
How to avoid it
To avoid this sort of negative SEO you should be monitoring your backlink status regularly. If you find that spammy backlinks have been planted on your site, you could make use of Google’s disavow list. By specifying which links are useless you can let Google know which backlinks to disregard during its ranking process.
Duplicate content is another negative SEO tactic where a competitor takes the content of your site and copy-pastes it onto other sites.
How to avoid it
- There are a variety of sites and software out there that can track the content on your site and can detect whether it’s being duplicated and shared elsewhere.
- Add a clause in the terms and conditions section of your site that clearly disproves of content duplication.
- But by far the best protection you can use against content duplication by malicious parties is by adding a canonical tag into the URL of your content.
By now you may be wondering ‘what is a canonical tag?’
According to moz.com a canonical tag ‘is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs. Practically speaking, the canonical tag tells search engines which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.’
This next form of negative SEO is more direct and somewhat more malicious; this of course is hacking. A competitor employing negative SEO tactics can hack your website and compromise your settings, content and site functions to cripple your search engine ranking.
How to avoid it
You can safeguard the integrity of your site by ramping up the security; implement two-factor authentication, regularly changing your passwords, set up backup files, use antivirus software.
Customer reviews are often a great way of boosting your site’s Quality Score if they prove that you are generating relevant and quality content. However, bad reviews can hurt your SEO. Why? Because it’s fairly easy and quick to saturate a site with negative reviews.
How to avoid it
You ought to be monitoring the reviews left behind by your customers as it’s a prime opportunity for you to engage with any issues that may arise. Furthermore, it’s a great way to perfect and iron out any problems that your customers are having with your business offering. If you do notice spoofed reviews, you can report it to Google.
Negative SEO may seem daunting and can even make you feel helpless; but this is not the case! Google’s algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated and with artificial intelligence evolving heaps and bounds search engines are becoming increasingly better at distinguishing between white hat and black hat SEO and can pick out negative SEO.
It all boils down to one thing: tracking. You need to keep a close eye on your site’s metrics and monitor any sudden changes, giving you enough time to take appropriate action. Good surveillance of your site could be the difference between shielding against malicious activity and SEO success!