Is SEO really PR’s frenemy? SEO Expert Joe Laratro warns brands to be aware of SEO terrorism and the dark side of SEO.
Let’s face it: crushing your positive search results and bashing your online reputation can be an online public relations disaster. SEO can be the BFF of public relations today, but throw in a little negative SEO and all of a sudden a frenemy (aka an enemy pretending to be your friend) and the evil arch enemy can appear from the depths of your marketing black waters of doom.
Negative online public relations equates to more than just bad Yelp reviews, say hello to negative SEO. At the SFIMA/PubCon conference last week Laratro reported on the dark side of SEO, a new trend that brands need to put on their radar.
Laratro shared an eye opening set of warning signs. The reaction: heads were turning at the negative SEO reality and the potentially negative PR disasters.
When it comes to SEO, do not be seduced by the power of the dark side
Implementing the dark side of search engine optimization can lead to long and hefty search engine penalties. What’s important to know about these dark and evil SEO practices is how they can be utilized against you by competitors, not only harming your results in the search engines but also your online reputation with real life customers.
Linking with negative intentions
While you are likely using some sort of link building strategies for your company, you probably don’t think about others who are link building towards your site with negative intentions and a goal to get your site penalized. It can happen, and does happen, where companies will link to a competing website with SEO, payday loans, debt, pharmacy, and other frowned upon search terms to devalue your link portfolio.
Deadly viruses from competitors
With a little programming and hacking knowledge, your competitors can set up redirects that point your site to banned domains, unrelated domains, or to malware. If your site gets infected with a virus, even if it doesn’t actually get a virus, someone can report it as malware to McAfee, Trend Micro, and other software programs and these antivirus programs may list your site as harmful. If your competitor decides to report it to Google and to the hosting company, your competitors could have your site could be removed from the web entirely. Ouch!
Fake social profiles targeting your website
Negative SEO has another facet that has emerged with social media growth: profile games. The practice of using fake user profiles to promote competitors in a spammy way and linking back to the competing site can be harmful in the eyes of Google. Some very real scenarios have also involved competitors that email Google employees with spam selling paid links from sites that aren’t actually selling links. The threat of someone labeling your site as detrimental or spam-filled for searchers can have lasting negative online PR repercussions, so it is important to protect yourself.
Competitive terrorism with hosting, scraping and duplicate content
The possibility for an online fiasco doesn’t stop there. Your competitor can find out your web host and scrape your site content and post it on theirs, then file a complaint for duplicate copy stolen from their site, even if it was yours to begin with. You can also be submitted to link farms and low quality content directories which can devalue your site.
Social network bullying and employee kidnapping
But your links aren’t the only place that competitors might look to mess with your reputation or your business. Through social networks like LinkedIn, people can identify your employees and send fake resumes out to other companies, send bad press to project directors and even make valuable employees think their job might be at risk.
Negative SEO self-defense
Protect yourself, your company, and your online reputation from competitors looking to ruin your positive SEO efforts with negative tactics and black hat methods. Manually audit your links to make sure there isn’t anything fishy going on, and remember to keep your own SEO practices white hat and abiding by Google and Bing’s guidelines.
What can you do right now?
Do Not Repeat The Mistakes of Our Past – Keep Up To Date With Latest Webmaster Guidelines
Monitor Your Backlinks For Negative SEO
Beware of Companies (or Employees) that Want To Use Black Hat Tactics
Don’t Forget: Things Change
Follow Joe on Twitter @jlaratro and catch him at Pubcon Las Vegas, October 21-25, 2013.