One of the more common SEO tactics in the past was to utilize blog signature links or “in-post” links as a method of increasing the number of inbound links to a website. This was commonly done through an automated process, using any one of a number of software systems like Scrapebox, which searched the internet for un-secured blogs that would allow the posting of comments, utilizing the signature link as a method of driving keyword stuffed links back to specific website pages. While the signature link tactic began to lose effectiveness, comment spam continued. Google’s attempts to combat comment spam for linking has lead to an unfortunate aspect of SEO with regards to potentially developing a “Google bowling” strategy. Negative SEO is a real thing, and the attempt to tear down your competition through utilizing tactics that could push their rankings down and therefor elevate your own is a consideration that many business owners entertain. It appears that comment spam may be the new way to achieve this.
Over the course of the past year, we have made some notations about content production not necessarily achieving the results that are desired. There are many theories as to why some content may have better effects for SEO, namely content length and unique value leading to natural linking. In our push forward to create new content, we began losing touch with the older content on our site. In many ways, the SEO method is to create new content, link bait it as much as possible, possibly interlink it with other pages in the website, then forget about it and move on to the next piece of content. As part of a site-wide analysis as to why older content had more and better SEO effect than the content that we were developing recently, we noticed that there were numerous pages that had been posted within the website that were several years old. All of this content was quite good and had taken a long time to produce and distribute, and it was always known that it was assisting in producing rankings for the targeted terms. However, these posts had not been re-analyzed in some time, due to the fact that they had been indexed and had thus been moved on from. Why would we need to re-analyze a page that had already been indexed by Google and served its purpose?
The answer as to why it is crucial to re-analyze your entire body of work on your website is comment spam. Over the years, we had employed different methods of dealing with comment spam. The decision to completely shut off comments and purge spam posts was made due to the volume of spam comments that were in play, but one thing that was overlooked was that the plugins used did not completely purge comments that existed previous to it’s install. On roughly 20 pages of quality content that was produced in the past, comments remained that numbered anywhere between 10 and 100, mostly peppered with foreign languages. While this would be meaningless in the past as the value it gained the person who was posting was minimal, the assumption that Google simply ignored the comments was incorrect. Google has now employed a system of de-indexing posts that are hit with comment spam. What this translates to is that we found that Google was quietly de-indexing older content from our site due to spam comments, and it was going un-noticed due to the fact that we had already notated that it had been indexed in the past. There was no reason to believe that Google would suddenly de-index a page that was once considered relevant. The gradual loss of crucial items within the body of work was pushing down rankings, and causing confusion as to why the new content was not achieving the same results as it did in the past. It turns out we were working with an ever decreasing body of indexed work, thus making it appear as though the site was remaining at either the same levels of content or actually decreasing if new content was not produced at the same rate as Google de-indexed the old content.
This brings us to the potential negative use of this knowledge. If a website is unsecured, it is possible to comment spam attack the unsecured older pages and get them de-indexed on Google, potentially reducing the rankings of a competing site. This is not a tactic that will work if the website is continually monitored and re-analyzed from a total standpoint, instead of just a “new content” standpoint, however it does prove that the potential to negatively impact a competing website does exist.