Today’s Ask An SEO question comes from Shannon in Vancouver, who asks:
“I have a problem and need to know if it is a huge issue or can be ignored.
Someone is putting my URL and those of other good sites onto a bunch of forums and other websites. This has increased the amount of backlinks Ahrefs and Semrush are reporting. Most are decent DA and even sites with high DAs and names I’m familiar with.
It’s like someone is working for me – but they’re not. I don’t know why this is happening.
I’m concerned because some of these posts are also promoting an escort agency, giving me the escort anchor texts in the Semrush and Ahrefs reports.
Does anyone have any idea why someone would do this? My site’s ranking has been going up, my Google impressions have been going up, but my organic visits fell. I’m not sure if I should waste time trying to figure this out.”
At first, this can seem too good to be true!
Somebody is building links for you, and it’s working? Awesome, keep it up.
If only SEO was that easy. (Narrator: it isn’t!)
I think a few things are going on here, so we should dive into them.
Without knowing your website or business, I’m going to guess it’s not an escort agency.
It’s normal to get some odd links from all kinds of websites on the Internet.
You can’t control who visits your site or finds it useful – and people who visit escort sites also visit the websites everybody else does and buy the same products.
It could be a relevant link dropped in a relevant discussion on an irrelevant website.
Too many SEO pros quickly disavow links like this, but I wouldn’t.
Given that you said there are multiple of these links, though, that’s not what I think is happening here.
It’s more likely that somebody is trying to perform a negative SEO campaign or is building some automated links for their clients.
In the case of spammy or automated link-building tactics, some SEO pros will not just build links to their clients but random websites as well.
This makes it slightly harder for search engines to trace it back to them (or their clients) and builds some plausible deniability if they get a manual penalty from Google.
It’s not really a good tactic for long-term results, but as you said, it can work – and does appear to be working in your situation.
I wouldn’t count on that bump for too long, though, as Google is really good at finding that type of link and ignoring any value they pass. More on that later.
The most likely cause is a failed negative SEO campaign.
Negative SEO is when somebody attempts to harm your website in various ways. The most common attempt is by creating spammy links to your site.
There’s much debate in the SEO industry about whether this actually works, though.
Google has said for many years now that it is very adept at picking up this type of link and just ignoring them, yet several SEO pros still continue to believe in the concept of negative SEO.
Here’s a tweet from John Mueller saying as much back in 2020.
No. We just ignore links like that. At most, it keeps them busy doing useless things, rather than improving their business. That's good for you, too bad for them :-).
— 🌽〈link href=//johnmu.com rel=canonical 〉🌽 (@JohnMu) October 13, 2019
(Side note: I’m not saying negative SEO isn’t real; it is, but it mostly pertains to hacking, XSS, and other exploits or illegal activities. More often than not, attempting negative SEO by building links to a site will only increase that site’s rankings – albeit only temporarily.)
If you’re really worried about these links, you could disavow them using Google’s disavow tool – but I wouldn’t even do that here.
The disavow tool is more for people with manual actions.
The best advice is to just laugh a little bit that somebody is choosing to spend their time trying to hurt your site rather than help their own, and then just ignore the links.
Clearly, whoever is doing this realizes that they can’t create something better than you have and are trying everything else to beat you.
Take that as inspiration that your content and marketing are working, and keep focusing your efforts there.
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