How to Protect Your Organization’s Online Reputation from Negative SEO
Competition is healthy. To be on top of the game, some organizations though employ dirty tactics like the negative SEO.
What is Negative SEO
Search engine giant Google allows “white hat” search engine optimization (SEO) – defined as the legitimate ways of optimizing a site for search engines. What Google doesn’t allow are illegitimate ways of optimizing a site for search engines called “black hat” SEO.
Negative SEO falls under black hat SEO. Negative SEO is the act of sabotaging a competitor’s ranking in search engines. A competitor wanting to sabotage your ranking in search engines may build hundreds or thousands of spammy links to your website.
History of Spammy Links and Their Effects on Search Engine Results
A few years back, some organizations were able to successfully rank high on Google’s results by using spammy links. In early February 2011, the New York Times published an article that showed how J. C. Penney, an American department store chain, was able to successfully ranked number one on Google’s results for close to a dozen keywords by using spammy links.
To understand how J.C. Penney rose to the top of Google’s results, let’s understand how Google at that time ranked websites organically – not including paid advertisements.
In early February 2011, Google used hundreds of criteria for ranking websites in its search engine. These criteria are well-guarded secret by Google to prevent people from manipulating the search engine results. But one criterion used by Google to rank websites at the time was exposed and abused: links from one site to another.
At the time, links – regardless of their origin, whether from low quality sites or high quality sites – were considered by Google as votes of approval, listing sites with high number of links on top of its search engine results.
This happened to J.C. Penney. The New York Times report found that 2,015 pages with keyword “dress” bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com, making the company then the number one on Google’s search result for the keyword “dress”.
While some of these web pages were related to dresses, some weren’t. Sites such as nuclear.engineeringaddict.com; casino-focus.com; and bulgariapropertyportal.com were examples of sites with keyword “dress” that bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com in early February 2011.
Darcie Brossart, spokeswoman for J. C. Penney, told the New York Times, “J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies.”
Few hours after the New York Times’ revelation, Google placed Penney under what it calls “manual action”, demoting the site, for instance, in the keyword “Samsonite carry on luggage” from its number one position to number 71; and in the keyword “living room furniture”, from number one to number 68.
In April 2012, Google rolled out “Penguin” – an update in its search engine criteria, affecting 3.1% of queries in English. The Penguin update, in effect, demoted sites with spammy links.
While the Penguin update halted the practice of organizations from building spammy links to rank higher on Google’s results, this update emboldened some unscrupulous organizations to bring down the search ranking of their competitors by using spammy links.
In spammy links, Google has no way of finding who created the links. What Google does in the 2012 Penguin update was to demote the site which supposedly benefited from the spammy links. Your competitors may link unrelated sites – worst cases are porn sites and other low quality sites – to your site.
In September 2016, Google rolled out an additional update on Penguin, this time, devaluing the link spam instead of demoting the site it is directed at.
Disavow Links Tool
In a blog post dated October 16, 2012, Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, said that his team is aware of negative SEO. Cutts’ first recommendation to victims of negative SEO was then to contact the sites that link to your site and ask site owners to get these links taken off the public.
If the links aren’t taken down despite your request, Cutts’ then recommended the use of Google’s Disavow Links tool. “In general, Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking,” Cutts’ said. “However, if you're worried that some backlinks might be affecting your site's reputation, you can use the Disavow Links tool to indicate to Google that those links should be ignored.”
Negative Effects of Spammy Links
Spammy links won’t immediately go away when you use Google’s Disavow Links tool. It takes days and in some cases months for spammy links to disappear from the search engine.
While the spammy links are still in limbo on the internet, these may affect the bounce rate of your website. Bounce happens when a visitor to your website only views one page and then leaves your site. Is a high bounce rate a bad thing? According to Google, bounce rate can either be good or a bad thing.
“If the success of your site depends on users viewing more than one page, then, yes, a high bounce rate is bad,” Google said. “On the other hand, if you have a single-page site like a blog, or offer other types of content for which single-page sessions are expected, then a high bounce rate is perfectly normal.”
Prevention is the Key
In dealing with negative SEO or spammy links, it’s important to be proactive. Use tools that automatically detect spammy links. Contact the site owner if you notice a spammy link. If this request is disregarded, use Google’s Disavow Links tool.
Remember that aside from spammy links, Google has more than 200 criteria as basis for ranking your organization’s website. “The web has significantly changed over the years, but as we said in our original post, webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites,” Google said.
You don't have to do this alone if you don't have time or skills to spot and manage negative SEO. Our managed plans include toxic link monitoring and management as a standard feature. Call us today to protect your SEO.
Negative Reviews: Should Businesses Fear Them or Not?
In today’s digital world, consumers can easily sing high praises to your business or vent their frustrations over your products or services online.
Near Perfect or Perfect Rating is “Too Good to Be True”
High praises or 5-star reviews are instinctively embraced by businesses. Negative reviews, on the other hand, are instinctively feared. But should bad reviews be avoided altogether?
A new study from Spiegel Research Center found that, across product categories, purchase likelihood usually peaks at review ratings in the 4.0 to 4.7 range and starts to dip as review ratings approach 5. Put it in another way, the new study suggested that products with an average rating in the 4.7 to 5.0 range are less likely to be sold than those in the 4.0 to 4.7 range.
“This suggests that shoppers see ratings at the far end of the spectrum as ‘too good to be true,’” Spiegel Research Center said. “Readers are skeptical of reviews that are too positive and, in many cases, a negative online review is seen as more credible.”
Another study from the Northwestern University arrived at the same conclusion as the Spiegel Research Center study that a near perfect or perfect rating is “too good to be true”. The Northwestern University research results showed that the probability of purchase increases with rating to about 4.2 to 4.5 stars and starts to drop as the star rating approaches a perfect 5.
The two studies from Spiegel Research Center and Northwestern University showed that a small proportion of negative reviews can make a product or service more appealing to would-be consumers.
The Inevitability of Negative Reviews
An earlier PowerReviews research found that 82% of buyers seek out negative reviews; and among buyers under 45-year-olds, this number jumps to 86%.
“Shoppers are smart: they know that every item can’t be the newest, fastest, cheapest and highest quality,” PowerReviews study said. “As a result, they question products that claim to be all of the above.”
The PowerReviews study said negative reviews help businesses establish brand credibility and trust. Would-be buyers are skeptical about the lack of negative reviews, the study said.
Google's retail industry director John McAteer told the Economist that a few bad reviews are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he said.
The Spiegel Research Center study, meanwhile, stressed that business should embrace negative reviews. Showing negative reviews on your site, Spiegel Research Center study said, helps build credibility with customers. “While it may seem counterintuitive, negative reviews can have a positive impact because they establish credibility and authenticity,” the researcher center said.
The research center recommended that instead of trying to eliminate negative reviews, it’s important to monitor them and respond to them.
Negative Reviews as Baseline for Worst-Case Scenario
According to PowerReviews, negative reviews offer a baseline for the worst-case scenario when buying a product or availing a service of a company. For instance, if the negative reviews center on the complicated way in which the product can be assembled and the other features of the product are given good reviews, a would-be buyer may proceed with the purchase if he or she doesn’t care about complicated assembly.
Other Factors that Affect Online Sales
In addition to the presence of negative reviews, the following factors affect online sales:
1. Price of the Product
The Spiegel Research Center study showed that online reviews have a greater conversion rate for expensive products. The study showed that when reviews are displayed for a higher-priced product, the conversion rate increases by 380%. For lower-priced product, on the other hand, the conversion rate increases by 190%.
2. Degree of Risk Involved in the Purchase
A product can be considered as “risky” based on its price. Aside from price, a product can be considered as risky based on its effects on health and safety. The Spiegel Research Center study showed that online reviews have a greater conversion impact for risky items.
3. Number of Reviews
The Northwestern University study called “Too good to be true: the role of online reviews’ features in probability to buy” published in the International Journal of Advertising in June 2016 found that “although the majority of extant research suggests that larger numbers of reviews bring more positive outcomes, we show that it is not always the case.”
“It’s easy to assume that having more and more reviews will continue to help drive sales,” said Spiegel Research Center in the study called “How Online Reviews Influence Sales” published on its site in June 2017. “Our research found that more reviews help, but only to a point – and that point is much lower than many might assume.”
Spiegel Research Center’s June 2017 report showed that nearly all of the increase in purchase likelihood happens within the first 10 reviews, and the first five reviews propel the majority of this increase.
4. Number of Verified Reviewers
According to PowerReviews, consumers take into consideration, not only the review but also the reviewer. “If the author of a negative review seems unlike the reader, the reader may discount the authenticity of the review for them personally,” PowerReviews said.
This is evident in the way consumers view the reviews left by verified and non-verified reviewers. In the Spiegel Research Center, verified reviewer is defined as a consumer whose purchase can be confirmed online, while anonymous reviewer is defined as someone whose purchase can’t be confirmed.
The Spiegel Research Center study showed that purchase likelihood rises by 15% when consumers read reviews written by verified buyers as opposed to anonymous reviewers. This shows that reviews written by people who have direct experience using a product or service are more trustworthy and credible, compared to anonymous reviewers who may be paid to write reviews or from those who have ulterior motives against the company.
According to the research center, verified customers give an average 4.34-star rating, while anonymous reviewers give an average 3.89-star rating. This shows that having more reviews from verified customers can help boost the value of the reviews in a number of ways.
Monitoring and responding to online reviews can is a time consuming and a tedious task. Connect with us today to learn how we can fully automate the process of getting verified customer reviews, monitor and respond to both negative and positive reviews to boost your brand, and increase sales.
5 Avenues to Build Your Positive Online Presence and Reputation
Paid. Owned. Shared. Earned. These four media avenues are readily available if you want to build your positive online presence and positive online reputation.
Avenue #1: Paid Media
This type of media refers to advertising and sponsorships. Simply put, you pay for this type of media. It includes online video ads, ads served in search engine results, ads on social networks, ads on mobile devices and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
Avenue #2: Owned Media
Owned media refers to your company’s websites, newsletters and blogs. There are two views on whether your company’s social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be considered as your company’s owned media.
The first view holds that the content that you share on your company’s behalf across various social media sites is owned media. The second view holds that accounts on social media are “rented”, not owned. “Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are your landlords and you just lease the space,” said Mark Bonchek, in the article "Making Sense of Owned Media" published on the Harvard Business Review website. “But as your landlord, they can enter your apartment at will, renovate the building whenever they like ….”
Avenue #3: Shared Media
Your company’s interaction with consumers on your company’s social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are part of “shared media”. Shared media also includes social media postings shared by your consumers.
Avenue #4: Earned Media
This type of media refers to “word-of-mouth” marketing and public relations. For this type of media, you convert your prospects and customers as your brand advocates and influencers. Paid, owned and shared media can inspire earned media.
Control Factor of Paid, Owned, Shared and Earned Media
Who controls the cost and content in these four media avenues?
In paid media, the advertising company that you choose sets the costs, while you control the content.
In owned media, you’ve full control of the cost in getting your audience’s attention, and you’ve full control of the content.
In shared media, your company has full control of the company’s social media accounts, but your company has no control over what other social media users say about your business. With shared media, you control the cost of your time you spent earning your audience’s attention.
In earned media, your audience controls the content, while you control the cost of your time you spent earning your audience’s attention.
Trust Factor of Paid, Owned, Shared and Earned Media
Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising survey found the following interesting consumers’ media habits:
“The power of digital ad formats cannot be underestimated, as they offer many advantages for achieving effective reach,” said Randall Beard, president of Nielsen Expanded Verticals. “But few brands have mastered online word-of-mouth marketing techniques, the results of which can go viral very quickly.”
The Nielsen’s consumers’ media habits study was released in September 2015. Since then, the online landscape has changed a lot. The 2017 Edelman Global Trust Barometer gives new insights into consumers’ media habits. The new Edelman survey released in January 2017 offered the following interesting findings:
While owned media or business websites are more trusted than social media in the 2017 Edelman survey, this doesn’t mean that the public trusts business leaders more. The new Edelman survey revealed that a person like yourself, a technical expert and an academic expert tied as the most credible spokespersons, with 60% of the respondents trusting them. A company employee, meanwhile, is more trusted (48%) than the company CEO (37%).
Another important insight in the 2017 Edelman survey is the finding that 62% of company's social media are more believable than its advertising (38%).
Paid, owned, shared and earned media may have different approaches but they share the same purpose: to create awareness and engagement. A good mix of these four media avenues is important in getting the attention of your target audience and engaging them.
Avenue #5: Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an Emerging Media Platform
In May 2017, Forrester released a report called “The End Of Advertising As We Know It”. The report found that people aren't engaging with ads, with 38% of US online adults have installed an ad blocker; 50% of US online adults actively avoiding ads on websites; and 47% of US online adults actively avoiding mobile in-app ads.
The Forrester report said that online ad interruptions only work because consumers conduct their searches using interruption-friendly devices like desktops and mobile phones. But once consumers use anti-interruption devices like voice interfaces or AI-driven background services, consumers will feel even more hostile to ad interruptions according to Forrester.
The Forrester report said it isn’t hard to imagine a world in which intelligent personal assistants like Alexa would answer most of your questions you search on Google via your laptop or mobile phone today. James McQuivey, one of the authors of the Forrester report, said that today’s marketers can choose to invest in AI in order to build deeper relationships with their customers.
“That intelligent conversational relationship with the customer can begin now in chatbots on websites, in chat interfaces on mobile apps, in Alexa voice skills,” McQuivey said. "The tech will make conversations more satisfying to customers, but it's just as important that marketers learn how to make those conversations sparkle with the brand personality the CMO [Chief Marketing Officer] has committed the company to."
Search Engine Statistics Every Business Needs to Know
Through the years, the world wide web has accumulated billions of webpages that compelled search engines, not just to search webpages but to display search results according to importance. There are more than 1 billion websites on the world wide web today.
In 2014, the number of websites worldwide reached the 1 billion mark, with the inventor of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee announcing the big milestone. Afterward, the number went back to below 1 billion as a result of inactive websites. The 1 billion mark was reached again in March of 2016.
In the advent of the internet, anyone can add a document to the world wide web without telling anyone. A world wide web without search engines is similar to a library with billions of documents but without a librarian.
To determine the importance of every webpages, every search engines has its own algorithm which includes a number of criteria. Algorithms’ criteria are safely guarded by companies like Google as they don’t want people to manipulate the search engine results.
What is Search Engine
Search engine is a software program that search documents on the world wide web for specific keywords and returns a list of links or webpages where the keywords can be found. The search engine term is often associated with the top programs such as Google, Bing, Baidu, Yahoo, Ask and AOL.
Here are search engine statistics that every business needs to know:
Search engine is the most trusted source for general news and information.
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that search engine is the go-to place for people when they search for general news and information. Search engine is the number one most trusted media platform with 64% of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer survey respondents trusting it.
In the Edelman 2017 trust survey, traditional media is ranked as the second most trusted media platform, with 57% of the respondents trusting it. Online-only media is ranked third (51%); owned media is ranked fourth (41%), and social media is ranked as the fifth trusted form of media platform (41%).
Owned media refers to company-ran media platforms such as the company’s website and blog, while social media refers to social networking websites or mobile applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Google is the undisputed leader of search engines.
Every second, Google processes an average of over 40,000 search queries according to Internet Live Stats. This translates to more than 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches each year worldwide.
Google is a search engine built in 1996 by two Ph.D. students at Stanford University Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When Google was launched in 1998, the search engine was only serving 10,000 search queries per day.
In terms of global desktop search engine market share, Net Market Share reported that for the period of June 2016 to June 2017, Google’s market share was 76.13%, followed by Bing (8.51%), Baidu (7.41%), Yahoo (6.32%), Ask (0.20%), AOL (0.08%) and Excite (0.01%).
In terms of global mobile/tablet search engine market share for the period of June 2016 to June 2017, Net Market Share reported that Google’s market share was 95.17%, followed by Yahoo (2.47%), Bing (1.04%), Baidu (0.46%), Ask (0.04%) and AOL (0.01%)
More Mobile Searches than Desktop Searches
For the period of June 2016 to June 2017, according to StatCounter, 53.18% of searches came from mobile and tablet, while 46.81% searches came from desktops.
Google, for its part, announced in 2015 that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” Part of the reason that Google controls mobile searches is that it’s the default search engine of major phones such as Apple phones.
Consumer Search Behaviors
In 2014, Google commissioned research organizations Ipsos MediaCT and
Purchased® to understand consumers’ local search behavior. The Google-sponsored study found the following interesting insights:
1. When using search engines, people search with their location and proximity in mind.
2. Search engines influence searchers to take action.
In the case of car buyers, they spend up to 15 hours online researching, comparing and studying according to the 2013 Polk Automotive Buyer Influence Study commissioned by AutoTrader.com. Google’s internal data also showed that when people search online using their desktop for automobiles, they want to see visual presentations – pictures of their dream car. Google said nearly half of Google searches for cars contain images.
SEO can either stand for search engine optimization or search engine optimizer – a person or organization in charge of optimizing a website for search engines. Building a good online reputation requires a good understanding of SEO, especially for Google. While Google doesn’t publicly reveal how it comes up with search results, the search engine giant has provided some guidelines for optimizing a website for search engines.
Google suggests that if you’re looking to hire an SEO to improve your brand reputation, make sure the SEO use “whitehat” techniques, instead of “blackhat” techniques. Google said it’s vital to know the difference between these two techniques as blackhat SEO will essentially ruin your website and reputation.
Blackhat SEO is defined by Google as “Illicit techniques that manipulate search engines to try to rank a site higher are considered blackhat techniques that violate our Webmaster Guidelines.” An example of blackhat approach is buying or selling links. Instead of the blackhat approach, Google recommends for the “whitehat” approach – defined as “techniques aim to improve a site by focusing on the visitors instead of on ranking higher.” Examples of whitehat techniques include creating high-quality content.
When choosing an expert SEO provider, always make sure that they don't employ black hat SEO techniques, and only help you achieve desired results and secure more business through high-quality content.
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