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Negative SEONone of the big search engines like to talk about it, but negative SEO has been a problem for years. By Google’s admission, negative SEO has been occurring since 2007 – though they claim it is rare.

As “rare” as negative SEO may be, it has managed to cause serious problems for sits as large as Expedia, and it has been enough of an issue for Google to have to reword their own documentation on the subject.

If you’ve yet to run into any cases of negative SEO, it is a practice of using purposefully bad SEO against a competitor. For example, it is possible to point huge numbers of low-quality links towards a competitor’s site and potentially cause the competitor to be punished by Google’s Penguin algorithm. Penguin is designed to take down sites who build backlink profiles filled with low-quality links in order to cheat the search engine for high rankings.

You would think search engines would be actively trying to fight the possibility of SEO companies using their skills against competitors or former clients, but according to Search Engine Roundtable, it is only getting easier.

Barry Schwartz reported on a conversation occurring over at WebmasterWorld, where a site administrator going by Engine said “negative SEO is now much easier to do than it was prior to google’s latest updates.”

It turns out, the majority of webmasters and SEOs seem to agree. The overwhelming response to the question on WebmaserWorld agreed with Engine’s statement, and over 70% of the respondents to a poll on Search Engine Roundtable sided with those who believe negative SEO is getting easier.

Considering the latest algorithm updates from Google are receiving the majority of the blame for this trend, it isn’t particularly surprising they remain relatively mum on the issue. But, business owners have every right to be concerned. Hopefully, Google’s next big algorithm they unveil will be aimed at protecting innocent webmasters from the “black hat SEOs” who use such destructive practices.

Since Google unveiled the Disavow Tool in October of 2012, webmasters and SEOs have treated it almost like a magic cure-all for bad linking decisions, black hat SEO, and any sort of penalty they receive from Google.

Despite the obsession with the Disavow Tool, every online poll of the effectiveness of the tool suggests it isn’t as smooth of a solution as some make it out to be. For example, a poll from Search Engine Roundtable claims that only 13% of webmasters had success using the Disavow Tool.

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Source: Search Engine Roundtable

Of course, Search Engine Roundtable openly admits their polls are far from scientific (you can read their disclaimer here). But, while many are taking these results as proof that the Disavow Tool doesn’t work, it could very well indicate something very different. People seem to just be using the tool wrong a huge amount of the time.

As Barry Schwartz points out, there is no doubt that the Disavow Tool can help remove penalties, but it doesn’t always lead to better rankings. With Google’s constantly changing algorithms, it is impossible to expect to return to the exact positions in the results you were already at.

Not only that, but Google has given very specific instructions for how the Disavow Tool is intended to be used, and experts have been regularly updating their own guides for the tool. But, a lot of webmasters see that they received a penalty of some form and immediately go into panic mode. They mass disavow links, without doing the work to ensure the links were ever the problem.

What do you think? Is the Disavow Tool not reliable, or is the tool being misused?

Source: Search Engine Roundtable

Source: Search Engine Roundtable

Chances are you are just beginning to get adjusted to Google’s widely-talked about search engine result pages (SERPs), but you may not have noticed the smaller details that have been tweaked to make the page look clean and coherent. For example, several eagle-eyed members of the SEO community have noticed that the redesign appears to have affected the visible title tag length for results.

The title tag, or the blue clickable link in the Google search results, doesn’t really have a defined number of characters allowed. It isn’t like Twitter, where you have a hard character limit. Instead, Google uses an algorithm to determine exactly how many characters are shown.

Obviously, Google hasn’t disclosed the details of their algorithm, but Pete Meyers from Moz says the title lengths range from 42 to 68 characters allowed, with most showing 57 to 58 characters.

Most importantly, this change has no direct impact on rankings. Google still reads your entire title and uses everything to helped determine rankings. However, this could make some titles less click friendly or attractive as they used to be.

You won’t be punished directly by Google for using the same strategy you previously have for titles tags, but you might refine your technique slightly to keep future titles as appealing to readers as possible.

Late last week the SEO community had a good laugh at the expense of a self-proclaimed SEO expert who openly tweeted at major brands about renewing link buys. It appears the links were initially bought through iAcquire shortly before the service was penalized for participating in link buying schemes, and now that they are expiring, a former client is attempting to reach out directly to the link buyers.

The conversation that caught the eye of the SEO community was a long and outright discussion between “Vince” (@VitaliyKolosWDL) and T-Mobile. Search Engine Roundtable managed to screenshot the entire conversation before T-Mobile wisely began deleting their responses. Interestingly, “Vince” hasn’t deleted any of his tweets despite openly talking about selling links and even linking to the page being used to sell links.

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Obviously, if the SEO media noticed the conversation, it didn’t take it long to reach Matt Cutts from Google, who probably summed up the situation in the shortest way possible:

Cutts wasn’t the only member of the webspam team to notice, either. Brian White also tweeted at “Vince” with a mocking photo of himself using an Android cookie jar like a phone.

While the person tweeting to companies hasn’t deleted anything, it does appear their website has been penalized already. It took five days since the first tweets started to appear, but unsurprisingly Web Design Library has tumbled down the search results. Search Engine Watch says the site was appearing on the 8th page on a search for [web design] on Monday, but come Tuesday the site didn’t pop up until the 48th page of results.

If you haven’t gotten the notice that selling links can get you in trouble, take this opportunity to look up the numerous other sites that have learned the hard way. Google is treating both those who buy and sell links harshly, and they show no sign of stopping. If “Vince” was as educated in SEO as he claimed, he would have already known this and he definitely wouldn’t have been using an open forum like Twitter to talk about it.

AdWords violations can throw a massive wrench into your advertising plans and completely derail a campaign. Any good marketer tries to avoid making the mistakes that can get your text ads disapproved or suspended, but many will still encounter the fearsome email from the AdWords team warning you about violations.

In an effort to further explain exactly how Google decides who to punish and how these violation systems work, three Google employees posted a video hangout to the Google Adwords Help Forums, as Search Engine Roundtable reported.

The 10 minute video was posted by Google’s Courtney Pannell, with the majority of the presentation coming from Ly and Joshua. They discuss the most important AdWords violation topics including:

  • How Sites are Reviewed by Google
  • Why Sites Are Disabled
  • How to resubmit Sites

If you encounter a warning from Google about AdWords violations, you will definitely want to watch this video.

For anyone using online advertising, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is a great opportunity to see a spike in your ads’ views. Search Engine Roundtable reports, however, that a “technical issue” on some AdWords accounts caused ads not to show over perhaps the biggest online shopping weekend of the year.

No word yet on the official cause of the problem or how Google plans to deal with the backlash. I think I would want to be compensated in some way for the inconvenience and possible loss of business. Wouldn’t you?

Google Webmaster Tools has always been a way to see some backlinks to your pages on a site you control. They’ve recently made a change to give you a “link download option” where you can download a full list of backlinks to your site and include a column for dates each link was discovered.

This way you can check and see how old your oldest links are as well as what links have surfaced recently.

To find this option, go to your site inside Webmaster Tools, click on Traffic->Links to Your Site. Then from there choose “More >>” under either “Who links the most” or under “Your most linked content”. On the following page you have three options:

  1. Download this table
  2. Download more sample links
  3. Download latest links
The new option is the third in this list. This is where you can get a full list of all the sites Google has listed that link to you, plus the date this was discovered.

You can see pictures and other details at Search Engine Roundtable.

It’s been mentioned previously that AdWords has been going through some serious changes.  Well, it appears that they are also stepping up in their quality check on their advertisers.  Google has taken action by banning some of their advertisers that don’t meet up to standards – permanently.

This is quite major news for several advertisers.  These bans are hitting hard, and the first major revision on AdWords users and who Google will accept was done yesterday, December 3rd.  The Search Engine Roundtable has more information and a good copy of the ban letter that they published today.