Expedia’s Painful and Public Demonstration of Negative SEO

Recently, multinational travel company Expedia took a massive 25 percent drop in web visibility. This drop is likely due to their excessive amount of inbound exact anchor-text links for the term “hotels.” While some speculate that this was a result of Expedia’s own heavy-handed linking, others believe that this massive drop in rankings was a powerful example of negative SEO in action.

Due to recent Google algorithm changes, which attempt to minimize self-promotion through anchor text calculations and related factors, negative SEO has become much easier and effective than ever before.

How Does Negative SEO Work?

Prior to recent algorithm updates, search engine optimization was a much simpler process. With a handful of pages and large enough amounts of specific anchor-text backlinks, ranking for a given keyword was within reach. However, because of filters created by these updates, having a high percentage of links with a specific anchor-text can actually destroy search engine visibility and rankings. Because of this, with the right tools and ability, one can negatively affect a website’s rankings through these tactics; this process is known as negative SEO.

In the case of Expedia, recent drops in rankings are thought to be a result of the extremely high concentration of links with the anchor-text “hotels.” According to USA TODAY, this specific anchor-text was used over 15,000 times. Spokesman for Expedia, Dave McNamee, has refused to comment on this matter.

Potential Causes

There are a few primary theories about this dramatic drop in Expedia’s ranking for the term “hotels.” Some of the most popular of these speculations can be found below.

Was it a Negative SEO Campaign?

The most popular opinion is that Expedia was the victim of a very powerful and successful negative SEO campaign. While this seems like a viable possibility, there are few sources to back up this information, and no individual or company has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Did Expedia Effectively Negative SEO Themselves?

Another very common theory about the radical drop in rankings for the term “hotels” is that Expedia hurt themselves through reckless linking practices. If this is the case, it reflects very poor management within their online marketing team. Some consider it to be the work of a third party SEO company that was looking to improve rankings through outdated tactics. The last, and likely the most plausible, theory is that these links were built a long while ago and were overlooked; this theory has extra credibility as many reported unannounced changes in web rankings across the board during the time Expedia took their hit.

What to Take Away

Regardless of the cause of Expedia’s drastic reduction in web visibility, there is certainly a lesson to be learned for SEOs or anyone with an online presence. At the very least, it is essential to constantly be on the lookout for poor quality links that were created in-house or by another individual or company.  For those who believe that they are suffering from a negative SEO attack, there are a variety of ways to counteract the situation, such as: link removal requests and the Google disavow tool. While this is something anyone can do, it is a good idea to consult an expert or company before beginning the process, especially if you’re not exactly sure what you’re doing. Additionally, one can change domains if absolutely necessary. According to SearchEngineLand, Expedia has seemed to remain strong even after this SEO disaster, a testament to diversification.

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