Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Sonia in Maharashtra, who wrote:
“Hey, I am facing an issue of trying to outrank an article that speaks negatively about our company. It keeps ranking on the first page even after tremendous efforts we’ve made to build backlinks, so I wondered if disavowing their link to our site will help in pushing their article to the third or fourth page of results.”
I empathize with the pain apparent in this question.
When negative content about your company ranks highly in the search engine results, the most frequent response is panic.
Everyone from the CEO to the lowest level employee wants the negative content to disappear right away.
Dealing with negative items is akin to the stages of grief.
And of course, the first stage of grief is denial.
The first stage in dealing with high-ranking negative search results is usually also denial.
Denial comes from all aspects of the company.
Questions like, “How could this rank for our name?” or “This item is unfair!” are the most frequent denials we hear.
The road from denial to acceptance can be a long and bumpy one.
But the quicker a company realizes that the negative item is a reality and there is no magic bullet that will make it disappear, the quicker the problem can be effectively dealt with.
Don’t Fix Your Reputation – Create A Better One
When a negative piece of content starts ranking in the SERPs, the first inclination is to do anything you can to get rid of the offending item.
I’ve seen legitimate companies try to illegally hack other sites in desperation.
Don’t do that.
The best strategy is to tell your story, early and often.
Work to create a better reputation.
Talk about the good that your company does.
Talk about the satisfied customers you have.
Create content on your properties and other people’s properties that puts you in a better light.
If a negative item is surrounded by many positive items, the negative item loses some of its teeth.
If necessary, tell your side of the story around a crisis.
In some cases, it’s appropriate to buy keywords in Google Ads to tell your side of the story.
But beware of bringing more attention to the negative item than necessary – it’s truly a judgment call as to whether or not to buy Google Ads to respond to a negative item.
It’s About SERP Real Estate
When you are trying to move a negative item, it’s all about the real estate on the search engine results page.
Traditionally, there are 10 items on the front page of a search engine.
Of course, each SERP is different.
Some SERPs have maps listings. Some have knowledge panels. Others have a lot of ads.
And now, some mobile SERPs scroll infinitely.
It’s important to understand what is in the SERPs for all of the queries where the negative item shows up.
Then you need to create a plan to dominate the real estate on each SERP.
This can be a daunting task – and it’s why pushing a negative item down can be time-consuming and very expensive.
And in some cases, you can’t get the negative item to move no matter how much effort you put in.
There Is No Magic Bullet
Building links is just one part of the formula in taking over real estate in a SERP.
The best way to deal with a negative item is to build a positive story and tell it early and often.
Disavowing a link isn’t going to do anything for you.
One disavowed link isn’t going to send a strong enough signal to Google that a site is spammy.
And on that same note, if you are going to try negative SEO, I can tell you that when I’ve seen people that try that in the past, it’s backfired and the offending results have become even stronger.
So to answer the question, don’t disavow the link unless you think it’s spammy – and even then, realize you won’t help your situation.
- How to Identify a Possible Negative SEO Campaign
- 3 Effective SEO Strategies to Beat Competitors in a Competitive Market
- Content Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
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