Imagine!! You work day in and day out to start up your dream venture.
You work tirelessly to attract traffic via all the different social media sources to reach your desired goal.
And one unfortunate day, you realize someone has been bombarding your website with spammy backlinks to harm your link profile in search engine result page (SERP) which ultimately wreak havoc to your link profile.
Now you might be confused if this is really possible?
Are abominable SEO charlatans pulling it off without a hitch?
And the answer is YES!! By all means, it does happen.
Happened to the best-optimized sites. And the official term in search engines is called Negative SEO.
Negative SEO is a relatively new concept in SEO bubble. The “Google bombing” has been making rounds for years.
In fact, entire SEO has faced tremendous metamorphosis within the last two years. Ranking high in keyword game on Google is not a smooth sail anymore as it was a few years ago.
Few web tricksters, in turn, instead of making their websites more uplift, resort to attacking competitor’s sites with spammy links, unnatural, or even DoS (Denial-of-service).
In short, Let’s be honest, they prefer to blow in somebody else’s candle so that they can shine brighter. To take a closer look at what actually Negative SEO is, let’s dig the subject in detail.
What is Negative SEO?
Kissmetrics defines negative SEO as,
“It’s the practice of unethical techniques using black hat and to sabotage a competitor’s ranking in search engines”
Negative SEO acts like a double-edged sword.
- Negative SEO is any malevolent practice taken against your website in an attempt to sabotage your rankings in search engines.
- Black hat refers to aggressive techniques that go against Google search guidelines; the tactics mainly targets search engines and doesn’t focus on human audience per se. Black hat techniques are not done on your competitors’ website.
Types of Negative SEO:
Negative SEO techniques pop up in a variety of unseemly forms that are employed by unscrupulous web tricksters to bring the sites rating down.
Because for them, the allure of easy rankings is too much, and they just can’t seem to stop them.
Negative SEO is bifurcated into two subtypes:
- Off-page negative SEO
- On-page Negative SEO
Negative off-page SEO targets your site without interfering internally in any way. Most commonly, it entails externally duplicating its content or manipulating with the site’s backlinks.
Negative off-page SEO implies completely hacking the website or modifying the content altogether.
- Link farms and spammy backlinks
- Scraping and redistributing content
- Fake reviews across the web
- Copying your content and distributing it all over the internet
- Hacked Websites and Malware Attacks
Off-Page Negative SEO:
1. Link Farms and Spammy Backlinks:
We will start with a real-life example of a negative SEO for better understanding.
It’s about WP Bacon, a podcast site about Word Press. The site had fallen prey to hundreds of links with the anchor text “porn movie” attack.
This is one of the most common methods of negative SEO in which variety of link farms to create a bunch of low-quality, spammy links that lead to a website.
Nowadays though, link farming is an almost surefire way to get you into some big trouble with the engines.
As opposed to this earlier the same methodology of forming a network and building link popularity was the sure shot way to help upgrade rankings.
Generally, a single spam link is not capable enough to shatter sites rating severely. But with link farming, the negative links are often created across multiple interconnected sites that use exact match (and unrelated) anchor text to link back to your website. Or they might include a niche keyword to make the site’s link profile look like the owner is manipulating it.
The spammers go out of their way to make the links seem crooked and outlandish, so your website will get flagged for penalties and eventually will blow your rankings miserably.
2. Scraping and Redistributing Your Content:
Let’s be honest!! Google hates duplicate or copied content. And original work always takes the piece aka higher ranking on the search engine.
This is the second and most common form of off-page negative SEO that can severely ruin your rankings on Google.
Content scraping is basically copying a part or entire site altogether and pasting it to low quality, spam website.
In all this, you become victim to Google duplicate penalty. When Google finds duplicated content from multiple sites, it will usually ignore your version and pick only one version to rank.
Generally, though, they are “clever” enough to be able to gauge the epistemology of content unless and until the spammy content is somehow crawled first.
So the spammers (likely competitors) will copy and paste the site content and then immediately submit it to Google for crawling, hoping to outsmart the system.
3. Fake Reviews Across the Web:
Spreading lies is one thing that any jealous rival can commit because it’s relatively easier to damage someone’s reputation.
Petty!! Yes? Strange! Nay.
It does happen. Competitors do sabotage rivals rankings via posting mostly single word bad reviews.
A negative review across search engine has 3 disadvantages.
- Lower rankings on SERP
- Dip in revenues and Sales
- Drop in on site traffic and valuable audience.
It’s normal for businesses to get a mixed bag of positive and negative reviews but one should be smart enough to see signs of a negative SEO if they catch mostly one-word negative reviews.
4. Heavy Forceful Crawling:
What happens when Google wants to update your site’s ranking but the access becomes impossible because of heavy crawling.
Well, you get de-ranked!!
You will lose some major crawl budget unfortunately. This is competitors another tactic to get you out of Google’s ranking by forcefully crawling the site and causing the server to take down.
They might try and slow your website down, by flooding it with hundreds of requests each second.
On Page Negative SEO:
5. Hacked Websites and Malware Attacks:
This is one of the most extreme sorts of a step taken to tank down rankings for any website.
Usually, an attack of this kind drastically substitutes your website with another complete new web page that may contain some visuals, sometimes message, or nothing at all. We’ve all seen at least a couple of hacked websites.
Since wants to protect its users to refrain from entering the red zone aka. a hacked site, or a site hosting malware, they may de-rank the site.
Often a caution like “this site may be hacked” pops to your search listing to keep you cautious of upcoming danger.
6. They can Alter your content:
At times what a hacker or competitor party does is modify the content of your site. The modification would be so minor that it’s barely noticeable.
For instance, It involves adding spammy content (and links) to a website; the gimmick is, this content is often well concealed (e.g., under “display: none” in HTML), so it’s hardly noticeable.
Other times they might add some article that would seem like the administrator has published it. The possibility of hackers running scripts from the “header” or “footer” templates is also possible.
Tips to Protect Your Site From Negative SEO:
Beware!! Make no mistakes!!
Negative SEO is real and it has the ability to destroy years of hard earned search rankings.
SEO is a competitive industry and sometimes green-eyed monster can play with people’s sensibilities while making them cross the ethical line.
In all likelihood, bad links do not pose great threat to the sites because Google makes sure not to tank down your site’s ranking.
However, much like everything else, the internet giant admits that the filtering methods it uses aren’t fool proof either, which means that your competitors may get away with damaging your ranking. Down below are few tips to protect from negative SEO.
1. Perform regular backlink audits:
Mind you!! Always keep track of your backlinks.
Backlinks are the most suspicious and plausible activity that competitors attack. Regular link growth is a great way to keep a tap on your growth.
Auditing your links helps you to analyze the quality of your site. So don’t skip scheduling regular link audits for your site.
If you happen to observe any drops or too much of hike in backlink activity, analyze it carefully every now and then.
Monitor Backlinks – this is an authentic tool to check if any site is back linking to your website. This is pretty handy to use and it will also send you an e-mail every time when your site loses or gains a backlink.
2. Look for scraped (or duplicated) content:
Coming up with fresh and new content is not a cup of tea. Unfortunately the dedicated ones suffer at the hands of competitors who resort to copying content from websites.
If anyone scrapes content, they literally copy word by word. To further make matters worse, the attacker sometimes uses link farm attack for massive spamming of your site.
Since content marketing is highly significant in today’s world, Google has decided to put a final step on it and stop content copying.
Report to Google immediately; if in case your content was used by someone else without your consent.
Use “Copyscape” tool to check if someone has scraped your content or you can ask the webmaster to remove it
3. Monitor Reviews:
The thing about external reviews is that anybody has complete liberty to write reviews they deem correct.
The number of bad reviews will harm your SEO. Remember that it’s ok to get negative reviews on your business links, but always try to outbalance negative reviews with positive reviews.
The attackers resort to making fake Google account and post negative and fake reviews. If any suspicious comment pops up, you can publicly tackle it so that potential customers can consider the reviews as fake too.
Try your best to get that review deleted from your review list, or another best is to review those fake reviews to Google.
4. Update your website Security:
Be always sure that you use advanced software, apply all security patches and powerful encryption to your CMS software (if you are using it). This will protect your users.
If your site is still in HTTP, take action in migrating it to HTTPS. This is an essential step for e-commerce or any other sites that stores sensitive customer data.
Not only does this HTTPS encryption helps as a good ranking signal but also offers better security.
Remember that security and ranking signals weights a major role for your site SEO.
How To Recover From Negative SEO Website?
If you feel someone has initiated a campaign against your website, there are several step processes to recover from Negative SEO
1. True Case of Negative SEO:
Identifying an actual case of negative SEO can be one pesky task. You may be looking at a true case of negative SEO, if the website in question is ranking extremely poorly, has received a penalty or and no other cause can be found for an influx of bad links.
2. Identify The Harmful Link:
The first step is to identify links that are damaging your SERP ranking. There are an array of link audit tools that are at your disposal to perform this step.
To your bad links, add tags; by checking these manually and figure out and delete the ones that are hurting your rankings.
3. Delete the Bad Links:
Connect with webmaster of the website and request to delete the links once they are identified.
Use whois/ Whois.com/ to get email address, if you won’t find contact page for any website.
Add up the root domain of the website you are trying to contact and look for “Registrant email.”
Contact the website host directly if the link is not removed and request them to delete spammy links. Most companies do so upon request.
4. Create a Disavow File:
If even after reaching the deadline, some of the links requested to be taken down are still left, then the last resort is to open a disavow file.
If you have received a manual penalty, you can use the Google Disavow Tool and submit them to Google Webmaster Tools. This list can be easily created on your MonitorBacklinks.com account.
For improved ranking necessary traffic boost, website security and search engine impressions are extremely important.