Link building is a critical part of most SEO campaigns. If you have a solid strategy to obtain legitimate links from relevant websites, you’re adding value to the web and typically, raising your rankings within the search engines in the process. On the other hand, if you’re link building to sketchy websites for the sheer purpose of manipulating the search engines without providing any value, it’s easy for the search engines to see your shady tactics and adjust your rankings accordingly.
However, what happens when you’re a legitimate business that unknowingly hires a spammy SEO company? Or, what if your competitors decide to sabotage your rankings by throwing some money and/or resources at a smear campaign, filled with massive amounts of unnatural links? Does a business owner’s website deserve the“Google slap” when they had no intention of violating Google’s policies?
Personally, I have received an over-optimization penalty from the search engines because of my own stupidity. It was one of those “life lessons” that I deserved because I knew better, but applying the same consequences to all webmasters is borderline unfair.
For example, I currently have a client who has had prior SEO campaigns from illegitimate, overseas companies that did more harm than good. Those companies got him 340,000 external links over the span of 18 months in the footer and sidebar of 90 different domains using their main keywords. They also had keywords with Chinese and other Asian characters. Oh, I almost forgot, there were porn sites in there too. Did this trusting website owner deserve a penalty from Google because his SEO company is engaging in wrongful strategies?
If you had an established company and you saw a competitor quickly coming up in the SERPs, how far would you go to stop them? After all, you want to stay at the top and dominate your niche. If you were experienced enough to understand that building an unnatural link profile to a website could result in penalties, would you? I wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m an honest person. I’m willing to bet, however, that most people would try and destroy their competitor’s rankings given the chance.
Google: Help us, Help you
This isn’t the first time somebody has suggested Google allow us to disassociate our websites with another linking website. Dr. Pete from SEOmoz already gave his modest proposal in an excellent blog post on 6 ways to recover from bad links. I’m sure others have covered it as well.
There are a few ways Google could allow us to help them combat webspam. One excellent way is to create a robots-only file on your website similar to a robots.txt, where you can specify what websites you want to disallow.
If that method doesn’t work, it could always be built into Google Webmaster Tools. This concept isn’t complex and I can’t imagine it being difficult for the search engines to execute, but it definitely would protect business owners from shady SEO firms and prevent unethical competitors from sabotaging your website.
Dr. Pete already did an excellent job with his suggestion, but if this blog post has any purpose, it’s to raise awareness of this problem. Being able to disassociate incoming links at the very least, would raise the standards and practices of SEO companies and prevent oblivious business owners from getting screwed.
To me, it would make sense for Google to allow webmasters to do this. At the very minimum, it would allow inexperienced site owners to quickly recover their losses after being duped by an illegitimate SEO firm. It would also protect new websites from being sabotaged by big competitors. However, what reasons do you think Google has for not doing this?