SEO, often looked at as a positive technique, can also have a negative impact on your website’s performance.
We are talking about negative SEO. It stands on the opposite side of white-hat SEO and is used to drag down competitors’ rankings.
What is it, and how can you stay safe from it? Stay on the post, and we’ll find out.
What Is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is an infamous technique where black hat SEO strategies are used to intentionally lower your competitor’s search rankings.
Using negative SEO attacks on a website can result in traffic, reputation, and revenue loss.
If you are hit with negative SEO attacks, search engines think you’re using shady SEO tricks to manipulate the algorithms to push money keywords and your website rankings up. And if you’re unlucky, Google strikes you with a penalty that is hard to shrug off.
Negative SEO: Is It Really A Big Deal?
Absolutely. Competitors, disgruntled individuals, or even automated bots can employ various tactics to sabotage your website’s SEO efforts and, consequently, its online visibility. It’s like someone trying to tarnish your reputation in the digital world.
7 Common Negative SEO Attacks
Before diving into the tips to protect your site from negative SEO, let’s explore some wicked tactics that negative SEO practitioners might employ.
1. Link Farming
The more backlinks your page has, the better it ranks on Google. So, if we look at it, links are like your supporters that can improve your web page rankings. But this isn’t as simple as it sounds. Your rankings also depend on the high-quality content of backlinks pointing toward your website pages or domain. And if your website has tons of low-quality links, your rankings can dip, and you are open to getting a penalty from Google.
Negative SEO perpetrators might build a plethora of low-quality, spammy links and backlinks pointing to your website owner’s name, hoping to trigger Google’s guidelines. Hence, you always need to monitor backlinks and metrics like spam score to track if the number of spammy links pointing to your website owners’ domain is under control.
2. Content Duplicacy
Imagine someone copying your blog post and pasting it to the WordPress website elsewhere. Several sites out there replicate your content on their own website just the way it is. And the worst part is you don’t get credit for that. Such duplicate content can lead to a drop in your site’s rankings as search engines struggle to determine the original source.
The worst-case scenario is either the page is penalized or removed from the search engine. And you wouldn’t want the valuable links on your page to be removed, right? So, the best way to deal with duplicate content is to submit the URL to Google as soon as you create a new page on your site.
3. Modifications In Your Content
This is a tiring but one of the most impactful negative SEO attacks. In this tactic, a hacker could gain access to your website and tweak its content to improve its own site’s SEO. And since you’ll identify major changes, these hackers make minor changes that won’t even catch your eye, like pointing a link to their own domain or adding redirects to your pages.
So, as soon as you encounter these changes, try to go to the revisions of your content to check when it was last updated and who did it.
4. Fake Reviews On Google
It is probably one of the easiest negative SEO tactics to kill your credibility in the market.
Think of it as a rival hiring actors to post fake negative reviews about your business.
Fake reviews can tarnish your brand’s image and credibility.
When competitors or other jealous individuals want to pin you down and lose rankings and can’t do that ethically, they resort to posting fake reviews. They create fake accounts and post negative reviews on Google about you.
This makes the search engine think that you’re not keeping your customers happy. As a result, it hurts your rankings.
5. Social Media Impersonators
Fake social media accounts can damage your online reputation and confuse your audience. This is like someone impersonating you at a party. You may think, who’s gonna put this much effort to tarnish my reputation? But there are people on the prowl for profiles they can impersonate to post negative reviews, low-quality content, or even extort information or money sometimes.
Once you get popular in your domain, chances are you might see some profiles representing you and your brand on your social media. So make sure you assess the social media to find if there are any accounts impersonating you.
6. Overloading Your Server With Heavy Crawling
Excessive crawling by bots can overload your server and slow down your website owners’ own site performance. The more load on your server, the slower your website loads. In extreme cases, your site can also crash, and Google doesn’t like either of these cases.
So, you need to keep checking if your website’s speed isn’t going down. Not every time heavy crawling is the reason behind a slow website, but if you want to tackle this challenge, having firm DDoS protection could be your savior.
7. Damaging With Malware
The most common and painful negative SEO attack is using malware to hack into your site. If someone gets access to your website, there are plenty of damages it can do to your site. For example, the hacker can leave malicious code or a virus on your site to store sensitive data, change your robots.txt file to stop your pages from ranking or crawling, update your content with spammy links, and whatever negative you can think of.
This is the most dangerous kind of attack and not even the last thing you want to see on your domain. Hence, it’s a must to audit your website at regular intervals to detect any potential threat and eliminate it before it eliminates you from your game.
9 Tips to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO
Now that you know the vulnerabilities, it’s time to fortify your defenses to prevent your website from negative SEO and keep your website secure.
Here are nine battle-tested tips to protect your site from negative SEO to safeguard your site from negative SEO.
1. Use Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console)
Google Search Console is like your early warning system. Set up email alerts to receive notifications about critical issues, such as security problems or sudden drops in traffic. It is just like an alarm system that alerts you when something suspicious is happening.
Whenever something fishy happens on your site, it alerts you through email. Just go to your Google Search Console settings and enable the notifications by email. This will give you an alert on instances like:
- There’s a Google penalty on your site
- Some server issues are there
- Indexing problems with your pages
- Any malware intrusion encountered
This will keep you updated about any negative SEO attacks so you can deal with them to keep your site secure.
2. Audit Your Links Regularly
As I said earlier, the best backlinks really are recommendations to uplift your website ranking. However, these recommendations can work against you if they do not belong to a reliable source. Thus, you need to keep track of your best backlinks to find out if your backlink profile is staying stronger or not.
There are some metrics you can keep an eye on to understand the performance of your backlink profile:
- Spam score: It is a percentage that shows the quality of a website’s backlink profile. The lower the spam score is, the better. Ideally, a spam score within the range of 1 to 30% is considered good. So try to stay under this range and keep checking if this score spiked.
- Percentage of quality backlinks: This indicates the total number of backlinks from quality or authoritative websites. A higher percentage will show that your site is receiving backlinks from trusted sources. This makes a good signal to Google about your rankings.
- Total backlinks: Total backlinks are the number of all backlinks that are pointing to your website. Having a count of total backlinks makes it easy to calculate the ratio of quality backlinks on your site.
- Domain authority: Introduced by Moz, Domain authority is a score from 1 to 100 that indicates how authoritative a website is. A high domain authority is a trust signal for both search engines and users that the website is safe and reliable. The number of quality backlinks can increase your domain authority with time.
So, regularly check your backlink profile to identify any suspicious, unnatural, or toxic links. Tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz can help you with this task.
3. Maintain Your Site Speed And Performance
The faster your site loads, the happier your site visitors will be. Not just visitors, Google also loves speedrunning websites and can increase their search engine rankings.
The average load time for a website is 2.5 seconds. With every second from this point, you’ll start losing your visitors. Not just visitors, a sluggish website also impacts other metrics like bounce rate. This signals to Google that people are not having a positive experience on your pages. As a result, it puts your pages down on the search results.
So, the point is negative SEO can deter your website’s content speed and kill your rankings. To make sure you don’t fall prey to this, keep checking the loading speed of your website. You can use tools like GTMetrix to analyze your site’s ranking speed and find out the reason for slow loading if there is any.
4. Keep An Eye On Your Content
You need to be careful with your content. Whatever you publish online marketers or on other websites, keep monitoring if there isn’t any other website that has published a copy of your content.
Having multiple pages with similar content can trick Google and make it confusing for the search engine to identify the original page. In this case, it can strike a penalty or deindex a page it finds as a copied version.
Of course, you don’t want that to happen, so make sure to update your sitemap with the newly published page’s URL to tell Google about your newly published page. Adding the new page’s link to your sitemap also allows Google bots to crawl the page so that it can index and get page rank on the right keywords.
Though you don’t need to do this manually since sitemaps are automatically updated, you can still use the Google search console to submit your new URL. But to keep everything in check, you can just access your sitemap and check whether it is updated with the latest links.
5. Monitor Social Signals
Social media has made an important place in our lives now. Whatever we see there, we don’t ponder and often believe in it. This takes a scary turn when it comes to negative SEO. There could be someone out there, jealous of you, looking for a way to crush your brand’s credibility.
And social and brand online media can play a vital role there. You can get fake reviews on social media, negative shoutouts, and more, which can create negative PR about the hosting company and your brand. As a result, they won’t visit your site, try your products or services, or consider you for the solution.
This could result in revenue and traffic loss. So, it is critical to keep a check on social media platforms to see if you are getting any negative signals from social media until it is too late.
Also, keep those platforms on your radar that your brand doesn’t even use. For example, if you’re active in social media mentions on Twitter and Instagram only, keep a check on Facebook.
6. Conduct Regular SEO Audits
Regular SEO audits are like giving your website a checkup to ensure it’s healthy and running smoothly. These audits could be your armor against a negative SEO tactic. They help you spot any sneaky moves your competitors might be making to harm your website’s ranking.
A few things you can do in your SEO audits are:
- Backlink Scrutiny: SEO audits help you review your backlink profile. If you see suspicious or spam links that you didn’t put there, it’s a red flag for potential negative SEO. You can disavow those links to protect your site.
- Content Check: Since negative SEO involves duplicating your content elsewhere on the web, ` regular SEO Audits help you find any content clones so you can take action to remove or address them.
- Traffic Patterns: SEO audits also let you monitor your website’s traffic patterns. If there’s an unusual and sudden drop in your visitors or even a quick spike in your traffic for a specific day or time, it might be due to negative SEO strategies. You’ll catch it early and take measures to recover.
In essence, frequent SEO audits can help you identify and dodge any negative SEO attack that comes your website’s way.
7. Consistently Monitor Your Rankings
Keeping a close eye on your SEO rankings lets you stay in the lead and make sure nobody’s playing dirty. It helps you in several ways to tackle negative SEO:
- Spotting the red flags: Negative SEO tactics like spammy backlinks or content duplication can drag your rankings down. If they suddenly take a nosedive, it’s a signal that something fishy might be going on. Catching these issues early is crucial to prevent the last damage.
- Swift action: By monitoring regularly, you’re not just watching the game; you’re actively playing it. When you notice a drop in rankings, you can jump into action. You’ll investigate, identify the problem areas, and take steps to recover your lost ground.
- Staying ahead: In the game of SEO, staying ahead is the name of the game. Regular rank monitoring helps you stay one step ahead of potential negative SEO attacks.
Monitoring your search rankings isn’t only about knowing where you stand on search results. It is also about figuring out an unusual event that dragged your pages down so you can fix the errors and solidify your position.
8. Secure Your Website
Keeping your site secure doesn’t only protect your website, your website’s security, from negative SEO; it also shields it against other possible vulnerabilities. Here are a few ways you can ensure your website security:
- Use strong passwords for all your accounts, and make sure to update them from time to time.
- Use a web application firewall (WAF) to protect your website from common attacks.
- Keep your software and plugins up to date. This includes your CMS software, plugins, extensions, and themes.
- Back up your website regularly. This way, if something does happen, you can restore your site to a previous version and not lose your data.
Securing your site is one of the best ways to strengthen your site’s security against any negative SEO, as well as malware, viruses, or other hacks.
9. Be Careful About Negative Reviews
A few bad reviews cannot defame your business. But negative such attacks? SEO doesn’t work like this. In a negative SEO attack, your business gets bombarded with negative reviews about your business, putting you in a negative light.
If you encounter such an issue, just go to Google Maps and search for your business. Find the fake reviews and flag them so they don’t do damage.
So those were a few ways to safeguard your website from a harmful, reputation-damaging negative SEO strategy. Employing these tactics will not just shield your website from negative SEO but also strengthen your site against other common vulnerabilities out there.
So, if you have a website and are looking to keep it safe and search engine friendly, these above tips are the way to go.