Negative SEO has been a topic of debate for a while now, especially since links became dramatically more risky with the introduction of Google Penguin. It is entirely possible competitors could simply point hundreds or thousands of low-quality or negative backlinks towards your site with the intention of causing your site to be penalized or possibly even completely removed from Google’s index. Buying links went from being a tool for cheating to algorithms to a weapon for destroying, or at least handicapping, competitors.
Google acknowledged this issue with the introduction of the Disavow Links tool, by giving webmasters a way to protect their site. The problem is, everyone seems to be using it wrong. According to Marcela De Vivo from Search Engine Watch, the Disavow Links tool isn’t best used after a site has been penalized. Instead, it should be used in combination with a link audit before you ever run into trouble.
It makes sense, the entire point of a backlink audit is to check the quality and status of all of the links in your profile. If you’re auditing properly and regularly, you won’t ever have to worry about algorithm updates or manual actions. You could catch every low quality link and disavow before search engines identify them.
Auditing isn’t difficult either. All you have to do is download your backlinks from your Google Webmaster account or any other backlink tool, and look for any links pointing back to your site that you either don’t recognize or look questionable. Usually fishy or spammy links are easy to pick out. Then, you can take action by emailing the owner of those sites and asking for the link to be removed. If that fails, all you have to do is turn to the disavow tool.
Running these types of audits is like exercising for your website. When done regularly, audits keep your site healthy, removes any unhealthy links from the profile, and makes it easier to fight off outside attacks. If you’re regularly auditing your links, you’ll quickly spot any negative or blackhat SEO attempts. Everyone living in fear of Penguin updates is spending too much time being reactive. If you proactively manage your backlink profile, penalties will seem far less menacing.