Negative SEO – How Links Affect Rankings

Links & Search Engine Rankings

negative SEOGoogle and other SE’s decided long ago that external verification of every website’s content would assist their efforts to deliver the most relevant SERPs to their clients.

This was achieved by analysis of Anchor Text (link titles) in incoming links your website.  Think of good links as being like a series of good book reviews! If multiple, external, widely distributed sites are all saying that your site is about “blue plastic widgets” then the balance of probability is that your site is relevant to such a search. If your site’s content is also about “blue plastic widgets” then Google’s confidence in your site is positively impacted by this external and internal  confirmation!

A coincidence of keywords/phrases in both On-Site on-site page content and Off-Site Links reassures Google immensely! Those keywords in the off-site links are referred to as anchor text, and form the link title.

Basically, you could not previously rank well for “blue plastic widgets” if that keyword phrase was not well represented in Anchor Text in incoming links to your site. That is no longer the case!

How Google Changed the Rules on Link Building in 2012

Starting in 2012 with the Penguin link penalty algorithm, Google launched a series of punitive increments designed to identify and penalise link-building schemes designed to manipulate rankings. They arbitrarily decided that if you built links using any of the standard techniques and/or schemes, your website would be severely penalised.

Negative SEO

These changes have spawned a whole new industry;

“Negative SEO – whereby competitors can easily ruin your rankings by building low-quality links to your website!”

The most important aspect of links in this day and age is that you have a natural link profile! No links from / with;

  • Forum or blog signatures
  • Sites in unrelated genres
  • Low quality directories
  • Link farms, link rings and such schemes
  • Anchor text with exact-match keywords may be seen as over-optimised
  • Links to internal pages with exact match keywords in anchor text may be seen as over-optimised
  • Links without branding / business name

A natural link profile will usually have the majority of links with anchor text / link titles being to the;

  • Domain Name:
  • Domain URL:
  • Business Name /Brand Name:  Blue Widgets Co Ltd
  • Generic anchors: website, click here etc

A natural link profile will have;

  • very few deep links to internal pages
  • very few links with important keywords in anchor text

Even a slight deviation from the norm can now result in a penalty! From what I’ve seen since 2012, if the unnatural links exceed as little as 10% over the overall link count, penalties are likely!  As long-serving SEO consultants in NZ, we get to deal with a great many penalty reversal projects.

How Off-Site SEO Used to Involve Multiple Link Building Aspects

1.) Directories

Was once a quick way to get points on the board by expanding the keywords in anchor text.  Getting a range of listings in global web directories, with a series of varying Title and Descriptions boosted rankings fast.

Google now ruthlessly penalizes links from most directories, because they have no editorial standards. Most SEO-friendly directories have been de-indexed.

2.) Article Distribution

Writing a series of authoritative articles on relevant topics, and circulating these for inclusion in Article Distribution networks also worked well. The article usually contained an attribution of source – an “Authors Bio” with a link back your web site. A good article on an interesting aspect of what you do could potentially generate hundred of back-links to your site, because other people take articles from distribution networks and place them on their own sites to provide valuable content.

Google now harshly punishes links from most article marketing and distribution sites, which they now regard as low quality. Many have such sites been removed from Google’s indexes.

3.) Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking submissions were best for advertising events and items of significant interest. For some sites, Social Bookmarking can deliver significant short-term traffic bursts – more like a solar flare!

Depending on the site’s scope, product and services range, and of course budget, it may have been necessary to do one or more of the above to achieve a successful outcome. Going beyond basic link-building is almost certain to be required for sites that are targeting very competitive market sectors.

Google is now punishing links from many social bookmarking sites regarded as inferior quality, and many have been de-indexed.

Note: a methodical SEO Audit  include Link Profile assessment of your website.

– our professional SEO services rates are modest…