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Can Negative SEO or Google Bowling really harm your site?

Negative SEO - Google Bowling



Latest Update:

Google has just released a "Disavow Link Tool" in GWT which should neutralize unwanted backlinks.

You can find it here: Google Disavow Tool

Can Negative SEO or Google Bowling really harm your site? Keep reading to discover the answer...

If Google Does Nothing, Will Google Bowling Become An Olympic Sport? Copyright ©

For the average site owner or webmaster, the whole notion of Google Bowling or Negative SEO... is downright scary. If ruthless individuals can start building countless spammy links on countless spammy websites and then point all these "same targeted keyword" links directly at your site - will Penguin know it is not YOU building those spammy links? Or will the Penguin algo turn your rankings and site into absolute Penguin poo poo?

That is the main question raging in the SEO world at the moment and for anyone scratching their head, perhaps a little explanation is needed. Penguin in the scenario above, refers to Google's latest algorithm change or penalty which may affect a site's ranking if Google believes a site is breaking its quality guidelines and trying to "game" or "manipulate" Google's all important search engine rankings.

Now, we all know "Google Bombing" exists and has been proven many times. Get enough people to place the same keyword link and you get results like... Miserable Failure = George Bush.

Google Bowling or Negative SEO is building countless spammy links and even low quality sites/blogs/accounts to bring down your competitor's site. In very lucrative keyword niches or markets, these top Google rankings can mean millions in sales and leads, to the companies or sites holding the top spots. Keyword battles are often dirty, ruthless and nastier than your average play-off hockey game.

Just forget Penguin and Google for a second, Negative SEO can have a "negative" effect on other aspects of your online reputation. If a potential link partner discovers you have a constant flow of spammy links going into your site, they might not want to do business with you or your site, even if you had nothing to do with creating those links.

Penguin has just added fuel to the fire. On a Post-Penguin web, these nasty individuals have gone from creating spammy links to their own sites to creating spammy links to their competitors' sites. There are even services on the web which you can hire to do your negative seo for you!

Despite this, there is much dispute about whether someone can actually do negative SEO, but if Penguin is mainly judging the quality of incoming links or your link profile, then it stands to reason that Google Bowling does exist to some extent. If you're a big brand site with lots of Google Trust, there's really no need to worry, a few million spammy links won't take down Amazon. However, for the majority of website owners, the situation is completely different. You are constantly building your credibility and trust on the web. A big part of that equation will be your incoming links, how many and of what quality. Someone with less than a little ingenuity can now disrupt your link building efforts and nuke your whole site with Penguin.

Or is it so easy? Many say Negative SEO is a myth, others like Aaron Wall of SeoBook say: Yes, Negative SEO Techniques do Work on Google

Others argue that Penguin also looks at the whole linking structure of your site, not just your backlinks - its your overall link profile that counts and this might not be so easily manipulated by outside forces. Is your site over-optimized with too many keyword phrases or links? Has it been built mainly for the search engines (robots) and not for regular "human" visitors?

While the Panda Update basically judges the quality of your content and site, the Penguin Update judges your site's link profile. If Penguin finds too many bad links and shady SEO practices, it will inform Google that you or your site is trying to "game" or "manipulate" its rankings in direct violation of Google's quality guidelines. Penguin will not only look at your site's incoming links but also closely examine the number of times a keyword is repeated in the anchor text of those links. What is the ratio of those kinds of links to your overall total? How many site-wide links do you have coming from the same site? How many domains are just sending you one or two links with unique anchor text? In other words, does your SEO and linking profile appear natural and not rigged to manipulate PageRank or the rankings?

Google has "more or less" admitted Negative SEO might affect your rankings and we often see these quoted statements:

'There's almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.'

'Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.'

In both cases Google is not denying other webmasters can't harm your rankings, they're just working hard to combat this issue. Google does give webmasters a reconsideration form to complete if someone believes their site is being unfairly treated.

Now, here's the real kicker, what if you find someone is building 1000s of links to your site - what do you do? You could try contacting this person but if their motives are devious, you probably won't get a response. Now Google does ask webmasters to report a site when they can't get their links removed... however, if you don't have a big high-profile site you will probably get the following response from Google's Quality Team:

'We understand that you are having trouble contacting a particular site. At this time, Google cannot contact the webmasters hosting inorganic links to a site for every webmaster.'

Disappointing as that may be, you have to understand this from Google's point of view, they can't possibly respond to all these requests. However, what is very hard to understand is the reason why Google doesn't simply put a button or a way for webmasters to block these "bad" incoming links in Google's Webmasters Tools. Then those webmasters, who want and are playing by Google's rules and guidelines, would have a legitimate way to neutralize or eliminate these bad links and negative SEO.

If Google doesn't do something about this issue, it could be open season on hard working honest webmasters who could see their sites and rankings disappear in a heartbeat. If Google is all about fairness and playing by the rules, then it should give webmasters the means to block these links from counting - render them meaningless when it comes to Google's indexing and ranking content on the web.

We already have the "nofollow" tag which webmasters can use if they don't want to pass PageRank to another site. Why can't webmasters have a simple "blocklink" tag in Webmasters Tools? Surely, if Google can create driverless cars, map the whole universe and spend a small fortune on those iconic doodles - they should be able to find a way for webmasters to block these bad links from affecting their Google standings or rankings?

However, like just about everything to do with SEO, negative or otherwise, this route has some major drawbacks. Some believe it could be used by spammers, one week spam and next disavow the links - then ringse and repeat. Regardless, something simply has to be done to give webmasters a fighting chance when it comes to blocking/disavowing unwanted links pointing to their sites.

Now quite recently, Matt Cutts has also gone on record saying that:

"Google will work on that [a disavow link tool] in the next few months."

His statement comes at a Q & A session at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle a few days ago. Let's just hope Google follows through on that promise.

To find out more about the "Pros & Cons" of this topic, there is a very detailed discussion here on Seroundtable - Block Unwanted Links In GWT

Laptest Update:

Google To Introduce Disavow Link Function For Embattled Webmasters

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Related Resources worth checking out:

Special Report on Google Panda/Penguin
Fixing Google's Penguin Penalty
17 Ways Businesses Can Survive Penguin
The Five Pillars Of Google Search - Do You Know Them?
Content Is Not King, Google Is King


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Titus Hoskins My name is and I am an artist, writer and webmaster. I am also a former art teacher who has been a full-time Online Professional Marketer for the last 10 years.

Bizwaremagic.com is my main website, but I have many more. You can follow me on Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.



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