Some people call it “negative SEO.” Malicious links are a competitive tactic that utilizes time to create bad low-quality links for another website with the intent to downgrade that website’s search rankings. It’s important to point out, however, that if you’ve experienced a decline in search rankings, it does not mean that you’ve been a victim of this type of malicious link building.
In fact, chance are, you haven’t been hit with a negative SEO campaign at all.
How Common Is Malicious Link Building?
Honestly, while negative SEO happens, it’s not that common. Most business owners realize that it’s easier and more productive to perform positive SEO on their own websites than to try and negative SEO a competitor’s website. But in highly competitive industries where shady characters are a dime a dozen, it could happen. In most industries, I wouldn’t make it my first concern.
Malicious link building does not take place over a long period of time. It happens quickly. If you’ve seen your website fall in rankings suddenly, don’t do anything.
I mean that. Don’t do anything. Wait. The search engines frequently update their search algorithms and when they do you’ll see websites rise and fall in the rankings. After a few days the rankings begin to settle and you’ll fall back into your natural ranking order. This happens so often that it should be your first thought when you see sharp falls in your rankings.
If after a few days you don’t see your site rise to its normal ranking level, then you can get concerned. But it doesn’t mean you are the victim of negative SEO. Ask your team if anyone has conducted a link building campaign or done something different in the last couple of months. Chances are, your rankings have been affected by what you and your team have done, not some anonymous competitive attacker with a chip on her shoulder.
But What If You Have Been Hit With Negative SEO?
If no one on your team has done anything recently, find out if you’ve hired an outside agency. Many times companies will hire cheap SEO services to conduct a link building campaign and those companies don’t always do things on the up and up. Ask them for a list of links they’ve built for you and if they refuse to give you the list, fire them immediately.
So, it wasn’t your team, it wasn’t the search engines, and it wasn’t anyone you hired. Then who was it?
It’s possible that you are the victim of a malicious link building campaign, but before you draw that conclusion ask yourself if you have seen a sharp rise in the number of inbound links recently. Then ask if those links are low quality links from bad websites. If so, then it’s time to take a look at your link portfolio more critically to see how you can get rid of those bad links.