A few years back, someone or something started to inundate my site with spam backlinks in what I can only assume is an attempt at “negative SEO”. These attacks have continued on my site to this day. Ahrefs, for example, regularly shows me new websites that link back to my site with anchor text involving either porn or drugs, or gambling. Here’s a screenshot of a couple of typical backlinks:
I was understandably worried when I saw these; I honestly don’t know if I should be. Here’s what I’ve managed to find over the years.
Measuring the Impact of these Links is Impossible
The first question is, “Are these negative links impacting my SERPs?” And the answer is that there’s no way to know. That’s the problem with SEO in general. You can try many things, and you’ll never know if your search results have improved or declined due to any particular factor. Short of rigorous and unrealistic testing, where you hold everything constant for a long time and change just variables, there’s no way of knowing.
And even if you test like this, Google updates its algorithms often without telling us. So we can’t be certain. In addition, many updates take effect over a long period of time, which further pollutes the data since we don’t know if the results changed because of something you did or because a certain time had passed for something related to the original content.
Mueller Claims you Don’t Need to Worry about Negative SEO
For what it’s worth, John Mueller claims that negative SEO isn’t something you need to worry about:
I don’t know how realistic this is. Mueller has often engaged in a lot of “victim blaming” on Twitter, where he sometimes insinuates that a site is itself responsible for the negative backlinks, or that it’s a disgruntled employee or ex-SEO agency, or something like that.
But Google claims that it does an excellent job of ignoring spam backlinks. You can take that for what it’s worth, but on the other hand, what do you expect them to say?
Using the “Disavow” Tool is Unrealistic
When a site like mine is attacked relentlessly for years by spam links from hundreds or thousands of domains, always increasing, there’s no point in using the disavow tool. If I try, I’ll be doing nothing else in my life! A disavow tool is for specific instances of negative SEO where you know it’s having an impact. As I mentioned above, you can never be sure of this.
Moreover, Google has heavily implied that we don’t need to use the disavow tool since, according to them, they do a good enough job of ignoring backlink spam. So right now, I have no choice but to just go with the flow.
A Lot of These Links Come from Hacked Sites
While I get my fair share of spam backlinks from comment sections on websites that don’t do a good job of controlling their comment spam, I’ve also noticed a lot of “dofollow” links coming from otherwise reputable-looking websites. I can only assume that these are hacked sites, and attackers use the vulnerabilities to insert content without the site owner’s knowledge.
As further support for my theory, many of these links are taken down afterward, indicating that the site owners found out about it and have cleaned up the spam content.
Bottom Line: I Don’t Know the Impact – Hopefully, Nothing
So where do I stand after all this? I’m left with the hope that Google is smart enough to discount these links. I can’t be the only website targeted by these spammers, right? Surely Google can detect such activity and discount the links? Because if they don’t, I’m screwed. It’s not like I can call Google’s customer support and ask them whether these links are impacting my SERP results.
So, for now, fingers crossed and hope for the best!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!