As many of you may have heard, Andy Greenberg has written an article on Forbes.com titled “The Saboteurs of Search.” This article poses the theory that one who understands the rules of search engine optimization can affect a website’s rankings in both a positive and negative manner. As an SEO agency this is something we need to both advise our clients about and to help our clients monitor in regards to their own websites.
While negatively affecting a website’s rankings may be difficult, it is definitely not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts has said that the folks at Google are mindful of the possibility and further commented that “I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s impossible.” As I am sure many of you are aware, there are definitely tactics in the SEO world that clients are told to avoid. Now lets say that one of your competitors is also aware of these tactics, or they hire someone with the knowledge, and then they help your website “not avoid” those tactics. You can see how this could cause a problem.
If you notice a sudden dip in your search engine rankings, or perhaps your site gets dropped out of the rankings altogether, then perhaps your website has been the target of an attack. If you think this is a possibility then take a look at your website’s incoming links using the command link:www.yourwebsite.com in either Google or Yahoo. Look for incoming links from a link farm. Look for links that appear to be paid links. These are items that will draw penalties from Google. You can also take a look at your website’s log files and see if the engines are still coming by regularly. If you notice a significant drop in engine activity in your website’s logs then it is a possibility your website has been penalized.
If you believe your site has fallen out of Google’s index, then you will want to notify Google of the situation by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note the following in your email: the website affected, mention that you think the site has been penalized, note your findings as to why you believe the site may be penalized, and mention that these items are not the result of your efforts but of those of someone trying to lower your site’s rankings. It is not likely you will hear back directly from Google, but you will be able to determine if they have reviewed the report by closely watching your site’s log files for activity from their crawler.
We can never be too careful with our search engine optimization efforts. Success draws attention and sometimes it comes from the wrong people. As I am sure you know, rankings drive traffic, traffic drives generates leads, leads convert to sales, and sales create profit. With high rankings so highly coveted, it is no surprise that some people will do whatever it takes to get them.
Have any of you experienced SEO sabotage?