Things are getting tight in SEO world and ecommerce sites, like BigCommerce, need to keep up with the changes. If you lived under a rock you will soon enough learn that negative SEO is a real outbound threat and over optimization might dump your site into nothingness.
The heat is getting bigger for smaller businesses because they are not perceived by Google as big brands. They have authority, age and a ton of backlinks. High quality backlinks that are hard to get.
Given the fact that more than 70% of the clicks in the search engine result page are directed to organic results, not paid ads, there is a lot a gain if you remain on the "white hat" path. Yes, it is harder, but safer and more rewarding over time.
Whats is the fuss about negative SEO?
Negative SEO is a term to describe buying lots of links from spam sites and then directing them to the competition. It is a bad, bad thing to do this. As much as you'd like to nuke your competitors sites things like this will eventually come and hunt you back.
Aaron Wall makes a great point that, because Google looks at these bad inbound links as a signal that your site is scamming the algorithm, negative SEO will be on a rise in the near future.
Hitting competitors sites with many bad backlinks is a practice quite known and old, but it got a lot of attention recently due to the fact that Google has started showing warnings about unnatural links in Webmasters Tools.
A recent example that you can nuke competitors sites using negative SEO is the situation where Dan Thies (seo guru at seofaststart.com) got a ton of bad backlinks resulting in warnings in his Webmasters Tools account.
Aaron Wall argues that if this practice becomes a wide scale activity the only one who can win form this is Google, because the incertainty of ranking will be all over the place.
Should you sink your competitor's site down to page 10 using this tactic? NO. However you feel about that fact that is not "right" for the other ones to rank higher than you, do not employ this tactic. If you start doing this then you will be next victim and the game starts again. Time and opportunity to create great content and sales will be wasted with this.
What happens if you are victim of such an attack? An answer is given by Aaron Wall in this comment:
But generally speaking, the stronger your site's profile is & the more balanced it is (lots of high quality links, not pushing too hard on anchor text, good usage data with loads of brand searches, etc.) the harder it is to knock out.
Over Optimization: What Is It and How To Avoid A Google Penalty
If you want a quick rundown on what over optimization is then head on to the Webmasters World Forum and read all the details and answers from there. Now answer a question: did you do this in your site? Cross your heart?
I had the chance to talk to someone about one of the most common types of over optimization - keyword stuffing - and she had her main keyword 10 times in a page where it wasn't needed more than two times. After a long talk I realized that, if you are in the middle of all this, it is hard to see that you went over board with the optimization thing. She wouldn't admit that there was an issue with that page what ever reasons I would bring forth.
So, over optimization has these characteristics:
- keywords used too many times in page - reading gets slow because of this, seems artificial
- too many domain redirects to your main domain
- same anchor text for too many backlinks - use variations, sometimes use even "here", "click here", or whatever, to get more variety
- doorway pages - pages made specifically for affiliate activities
- link schemes - getting many (automated) backlinks in cheap packages
- too many keywords in the title tag
- manipulative internal links
- too many unrelated links in footer
- content blocks made specifically for planting keywords in the pages
- backlinks from untrusted sites
- many pages targeting keyword variations
- makes you blind
The blindness part is due to the fact that you get used with what you do and, after a while, it does not seem an issue if you simply go "a bit" over the line. In this case you really need the help of a (non-SEO) friend. Spammy pages are easy to spot and your friend will tell you if it sounds artificial.
So, what to do to be safe and not get a Google penalty? The theory is easy, the practice is what is hitting us hard.
One of the best ways to avoid a penalty (of any sort from Google) is to take preemptive actions and dive into the 32 white hat ways to build quality content and user experience and, in the same time, to get high quality backlinks. When should you start doing this? Tomorrow? In a week? Hmm, how does yesterday sound like? You already need to be in the middle of this and if not start NOW.
Rand Fishkin, helpful as always, has created another great video in which he explains some of the steps that you need to take care of in order to ride a safe way in the SERPs.
The 6 changes needed to avoid a penalty will make your Friday way more informative.
Have you looked at you BigCommerce store? Are all things okay or do you need to work more to "de-optimize" it? Remember: if you will have to change the titles and URLs of the products make sure to have 301s in place to redirect to the new URL. Stay safe and rank well!
Click here to subscribe and download the BigCommerce SEO Bible ebook.