Manila, Philippines – When you’re online, you’ve probably seen webpages display text and images and allow you to navigate to other webpages. They are called hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks tell users or other web applications that more information or data about a subject can be found on other pages or online addresses. The more useful information a page has on a particular subject, the more likely it will be read and receive more links.
Among digital marketing professionals who practice search engine optimization (SEO), these are called backlinks. And they are worth their weight in gold.
Search engine giants like Google are known to use these backlinks as one of their signals to gauge the importance of a subject-related page. Websites and pages that get a lot of backlinks are placed higher on search engine result pages.
News websites, especially those that produce regularly updated, unique, authoritative and informative content, get many backlinks and therefore rank higher in search results.
GAMING THE SYSTEM BY ARTIFICIAL LINK BUILDING
In contrast, other commercial or marketing websites that don’t regularly create original content on a daily basis struggle to get those backlinks.
So how do marketers get around this?
They reach out to authoritative sites in hopes of getting linkbacks. For example, Rappler has received many of these requests over the years because it ranks high on the results page.
Savvy SEO practitioners are now using search algorithms to make the websites they advertise more visible on search results pages. The usual practice was to set up numerous sites to artificially build these backlinks.
This is not difficult.
The World Wide Web is full of services that promise to automate this process of creating links to sites. A quick Google search will also bring up services that automate the website building process. These websites can also be easily populated with tools that take content from other websites and “spun” them to make them look different than the source site.
The industry now refers to these unethical and manipulative techniques as Black Hat SEO. And Google, with its professed mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” has been at war with these black hat operators for years. .
For these black hat SEO practitioners, it doesn’t matter if the website built is of poor quality and has very little content. Backlinks are important.
The search optimization industry refers to backlinks built through these link building schemes as harmful backlinks. Google released a series of algorithm updates from his 2012 as these toxic websites prevalent on his web. This is intended to discourage or minimize the practice on search results pages.
This technique is not only used to promote sites and pages, but also as an attack tool against competition.
Stacy (not her real name), a digital marketing practitioner who worked for an Australian SEO firm, told Rappler about one case in late 2021 in which the technique was used to target competition. .
The marketer recalled a sharp drop in search result traffic to the client’s local retailer’s product website. To identify the cause of the decline, Stacey said he looked at various metrics. For example, did the articles with backlinks still exist? Were there any stories where those links were removed or the hyperlinks were broken?
This process led to one metric. A significant increase in backlinks from harmful domains.
“We fully believed our competitors were paying online marketers to improve their rankings,” says Stacy. “It’s a competitive industry and they were too targeted to be random.”
Initially, Google said it would only devalue the low-quality links that websites accumulated through these black hat link building schemes. That should have been the end of the story, but the Black Hat Operators found another way to maintain their raison d’etre. That is, using the same technique to intercept the traffic entering her website of the client’s competitors.
Industry experts call this “negative SEO”. For years, Google has denied that such techniques work. In March 2021, Google’s Web Trends his analyst John Mueller argued that “negative SEO” is just a meme.
Then, in October 2021, following a new update to the Google search algorithm, Mueller said that if there was a clear pattern of spamming or manipulative links by the site, the algorithm would simply distrust the entire site. I acknowledge that it is possible.
Mueller was answering a question about how “toxic backlinks” affect a website’s visibility in search results. Here is his answer to the question: If our system recognizes that these links to a website cannot be ignored, if we see a very strong pattern there, our algorithms say that we have truly lost trust in this website. maybe. ”
Mueller acknowledged that Google tends to be conservative in its approach to the issue. “The web is so messy, and Google ignores links that are out there.” This drop usually happens “when there’s a clear pattern,” he said.
Fight Toxic Link, Hunt Black Hat Operators
What should website owners do if they are targeted by toxic linkbacks?
One way, according to Google and SEO experts, is to disavow those bad links.
Unfortunately, not all website owners have the resources and tools necessary to detect them, let alone fight spammers on a regular basis.
The hard part here is sifting through the mess of backlinks and identifying which ones are desirable and which aren’t. This can be a tedious process. This is a tricky business and Google itself advises website owners to use disavow tools judiciously.
In addition to identifying toxic links, it can be even more difficult to catch those responsible for sabotage. As in any digital space, bad actors can be hiding behind anonymous accounts and proxies.
“We weren’t sure if our competitors would have actively requested this attack,” says Stacy.
It’s also likely that competitors didn’t solicit attacks aggressively, she added. She said, “It is possible that improving a competitor’s SEO without explaining black hat tactics to clients was just ‘part of the service.'”
Buyers and readers, please be careful. – Rappler.com