Negative SEO! You must have heard about this term a lot and why not, it is a controversial and scarce topic in the SEO industry. The worst thing is that it can happen anytime and with any website. Even, handling it is quite tricky!
Google has made every attempt to reduce the effectiveness of negative SEO techniques and discourage renowned agencies from using this sort of strategy. However, a large number of users are using negative SEO techniques to attack their competitors.
If you want to protect yourself from negative SEO, then you must know everything about it. So, here is our comprehensive guide on negative SEO that you cannot afford to ignore if you don’t want to be its next victim.
What Negative SEO is and What Not
So, what exactly does negative SEO means?
Negative SEO is the practice of using unethical and black hat techniques to sabotage the rankings of a competitor in search engines. This form of SEO can attach a website in different ways.
Some of the common negative SEO practices are:
- Hacking your site
- Building thousands of spammy links to your site
- Redirecting links to your website that include illegal or vulgar keywords
- Copying your content and dispersing the same all over the internet
- Preparing fake social profiles and using the same to ruin your online reputation
- Identifying and eradicating the best backlinks of your website
Is Negative SEO Fake or Real?
Believe us, negative SEO is real and a large number of websites have already been attacked with it. The best solution to combat this problem is preventing it.
Various online forums and blogs confirm the attack of negative SEO and its ill-effects on various websites. In fact, Google too has introduced the Disavow Tool to help webmasters deal with the problem, but it is necessary to use such tools with due caution and as only the last attempt. It is because using the tool will penalize your website for at least 1 month, which definitely you would not want.
Hence, there are some preventive measures that you can follow to keep your website protected from negative SEO. Alternatively, if you have already been attacked by the site then we will share with you some tips and tricks that can help you come out of this trap.
How to Detect Negative SEO?
Luckily, you can identify negative SEO tactics targeting your site before it does severe harm to your website. Here are the 5 ways that you can practice to identify and prevent negative SEO from affecting your website.
1. Sudden Drop in the Search Traffic:
If you identify a sudden fall in your search traffic, possibilities are that you are attacked by negative SEO. This is true when you have not done anything specific or incorrect to your website.
2. Sudden Drop in the Keyword Ranking:
Indeed you are witnessing a fall in the search engine traffic then there are chances that your keyword ranking may drop too. In this case, it is suggested to use keyword ranking tools in order to monitor the performance of the keywords.
3. Receiving Penalty Notifications from Google:
This search engine is extremely vigilant. If your website has been attacked by negative SEO tactics, like broken links, keyword stuffing, content milling or spammy links sharing then you might receive a penalty notification from Google.
4. Reduction in the Speed of Your Website:
Another indicator of your website being attacked by negative SEO is a drop in the speed of your website. There are numerous online tools that you can use in order to test the speed of your website and determine issues that are affecting the performance of your website.
5. Request for Removing Face Links:
This negative SEO is quite common. In some cases, you may receive a request for removal of links that might appear sneaky. The purpose of this is to remove the quality links from your site. If you get a link to remove requests from reputed websites, then it is a big red flag for your site.
Negative SEO Tactics:
There are various kinds of negative SEO tactics or techniques practiced by spammers to attack website. Have a look at them so that you can take the desired action accordingly.
1. Spammy Backlinks or Link Farms:
It is a highly common form of negative SEO tactic where a bunch of bad quality links is used to target a website. It also involves a clear violation of black hat techniques from Google to intentionally harm a website.
In this situation, spammers create a bunch of negative backlinks by writing content with similar anchor text on numerous low-quality sites. This makes your website is making poor and unnatural links so that your site gets flagged for penalties and drop in rankings.
2. Scraping Content:
While the above-mentioned negative SEO technique takes advantage of Penguin updates, this negative SEO technique takes benefit of Google’s Panda updates.
This is a duplication of content when the scrapers copy your content and repost the same as their own. Though Google is excellent at identifying the original and copied content posts, there are chances that your site gets punished for copied content instead of spammers.
3. Malware Attacks and Hacked Sites:
Hackers are like criminals and they pose a serious threat to your website. The subtle negative SEO techniques that they practice are they directly break into your site with the intention of implementing negative SEO practices.
The few practices that they may practice are:
- Add disturbing or low-quality content to your webpages.
- Replacing or adding links to drive traffic to unethical sites.
- Replace the content with content copied from other sources.
- Removing images and high-quality links from your pages.
- Hiding the content changes in HTML so that webmasters get to know about it only if they change the code.
4. Fake Reviews Online:
Negative SEO does not only target your site, it even targets you across the web. Some site owners have witnessed a flood of bad reviews on Yelp, Google, and other accounts. This can result in a direct impact on your site’s local SEO.
5. Negatively Changing Your SEO Properties:
Moreover, there can be negative changes in the properties of your website. This can be changed in the alt text on your images or removing important content from your post.
6. Altering the Robots.txt:
It is related to the most vital files on your website as it informs crawlers about the way to interact with the website. It is essential to inform Google which part of your site you don’t want them to crawl and index them as an alive but incomplete page.
If an attacker has access to your website then it can conveniently modify robot.txt to let Google ignore the vital pages of your website.
In addition to these conventional and subtle negative SEO attack techniques, there is a newest and highly severe negative SEO attack that you must notice. This is canonical negative SEO.
What is Canonical Negative SEO?
It is a new negative SEO attack technique that is extremely bad because it makes it impossible for you to identify the attacker. Since the source of attack stays unknown, so there is no way to recover your website.
This attack functions by copying the complete head part of the victim’s web page into a head section of the spammed webpage. With the canonical tag, Google is informed about the spam page of the victim’s webpage.
Tips to Protect Your Site from Negative SEO:
Fortunately, there are some ways to protect your site from negative SEO attack.
1. Establish Email Alerts from Google Webmaster Tools:
Email alerts are sent by Google in the following situations:
- When your webpages are not indexed
- When your site is attacked by malware
- Your site experiences severe connectivity issues
- You receive Google’s manual penalty
You need to create an account with Google’s webmaster tools and enable email alerts for all sorts of issues. Save the settings and you will be notified for all such problems.
2. Monitor Your Backlinks Profile:
The most vital action that can prevent spammers from attacking your website is closely monitoring your backlinks profile. In most of the cases, spammers attack websites with negative SEO by creating low-quality redirects or links.
Tools such as Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs are of great use to check whether someone is building bad links to your site. Rather than manually checking the backlinks, it is best to use a tool. You just have to create an account for the tool you are using and connect the same to your Google Analytics account.
3. Safeguard Your High-Quality Links:
While keeping your website secured from bad links, simultaneously it is vital to protect your site’s high-quality links. Usually, spammers contact the site owners of the link using your name and request webmasters to remove the backlinks.
This can be prevented by practicing two actions:
- It is best to use your email address from the domain while communicating with webmasters. This is proof that you are genuinely working for the site and it is not anyone else who is pretending to be you.
- Furthermore, you must monitor your high-quality backlinks. For this, visit your backlinks list and sort each one of them by social activity or Page Rank.
You can add tags to backlinks that are of high value so that you can easily verify when any one of them is removed. If you find any link has been removed then you must contact the webmaster.
4. Protect Your Site from Hackers and Malware:
It is extremely vital to maintain the safety of your website. You would definitely not want spam on your site without having any knowledge about it. There are multiple ways with which you can protect your site.
- For WordPress users, installing the Google Authenticator Plugin is the best way to go. Create a verification password, which you have to use each time you log into the WordPress site. Additionally, you have to include a code created by Google Authentication on your mobile.
- Establish backups of your database and files at regular intervals.
- Generate a strong password including special characters and numbers.
- If your site allows users to upload files then you must contact your hosting company and ask them solutions to install antivirus for preventing malware.
5. Check Duplicate Content:
A highly common technique that spammers employ is content duplication. Spammers copy the content from your website and post it everywhere. This way, your site content appears to be duplicated. As a result, your site is penalized and loses rankings.
You can check your site for duplicate pages by using an online tool like Copyscape.com. Using it is very easy and will let you know the exact platform where your copied content is posted without permission.
6. Monitor the Mentions in Your Social Media:
Moreover, spammers may generate fake social media accounts using the name of your website or company. You must try to remove such profiles by reporting them as spam before your followers begin to follow them.
Mention.net is an online tool that lets you know who is using your company’s name. This tool notifies you immediately as soon as anyone mentions your social media or site name.
7. Track the Speed of Your Website:
If suddenly there is a change in the speed of your website then this can be because someone is trying to attack it. You have to act fast in this concern so that spammers are not successful in putting down your server.
8. Avoid Practicing Unacceptable SEO Strategies:
Finally, avoid practicing SEO strategies that are unacceptable by Google as this can harm your website rankings. Hence, avoid linking to penalized sites, purchasing links from blog networks, publishing a huge number of low-quality guest posts, building multiple backlinks, and avoid selling your links to your site without a ‘nofollow’ mark.
Steps to Recover from Negative SEO Attack:
If your website has already been attacked by negative SEO, then you may follow some steps to recover it back.
- Prepare a list of backlinks that have to be removed.
- Remove the bad quality links.
- Prepare a disavow list.
Your website can be successful only if it is able to search engines and for this, it is of utmost importance to maintain the website’s security. Hence, it is best to practice all measures regularly to prevent your site from negative SEO as preventing is a better solution than recovery.