Do you own a website with a decent ranking in search results? That’s a big achievement! But what if your site is the primary target of malicious attacks somewhere else? How are you going to handle them?
Whether you are new or have been around on the world wide web, this post is worth your time. You will be introduced to the real world of search engine ranking issues, the good and the bad side.
The term might be your first time hearing it. So, keep your eyes open and learn as we discuss negative SEO, also known as “Black Hat SEO.” Be aware of how it works and what you will do if its target lamb is your well-optimised website.
SEO: Why Must You Be Watchful Over It?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is undeniably integral to business success. It is a digital marketing method that entails strategic planning and implementation to generate organic traffic. Investing in it is the best move that every entrepreneur must prioritise. All the links on your website are optimised. Regular site audits are the core practices. That’s why results may take time, but the benefits are in the long term.
However, ranking higher on the SERPs is not yet the end of marketing. The pending risk is right around the corner to watch for — possible series of malicious attacks that can sabotage everything you did. The target is your site’s good-quality links and content.
Are you aware of this? If you aren’t, this post introduces you to things about negative SEO and what you can do about it.
What is Negative SEO?
Building a website takes a lot of responsibilities. One is guarding your site against negative SEO. It pulls your search engine ranking down. Worse, your position is wiped out from the search engine results page (SERPs) if left unresolved.
Briefly speaking, negative SEO is a horrible attack against your website. These are malicious practices that sabotage your ranking position.
The search engine won’t hesitate to pull your rank down if they find suspicious stuff and movement on your site.
There are several ways other people can successfully implement negative SEO attacks and remove your site from Google searches. The initiators of this unethical act are most likely your competitors. They can be companies or individuals who spotted your site in the top position bearing the same keywords as theirs.
Technically, the manipulators of negative SEO will do everything to tarnish your site’s reputation in search engines.
The following are types of negative SEO attacks:
- Link farms
- Content scraping
- De-indexing the site
- Duplicate content
- Forceful crawling
- Fake link removal request
Link farms are unnatural links (or ‘spammy links’) of a group of interconnected sites using the same anchor text but not related to the site under attack. A good example is a case that happened to WP Bacon, which has acquired thousands of low-quality links with the anchor text “porn movie.”
So as not to fall prey to this type of SEO attack, monitor your backlink profile to see any potential link farm created. You may use free or paid tools like SEO SpyGlass.
Content Duplication and Scraping
When it comes to rankings, content publishing is a crucial part of the process. Search engine crawlers are into content relevance for the queries. While they’re good at spotting duplicates, the risk is if they don’t find your original content first.
Content duplication is the simplest form of negative SEO attack. This is having many copies of the exact same page elsewhere.
You may refer to Google Panda, the core part of the ranking algorithm that targets relevant content issues.
Scraping itself is not bad because most companies use it to speed up data entry tasks. The relevant information is integrated into another system using content extractor tools to move on the workflow, such as marketing campaigns and decision-making.
Conversely, this method is abused by scrapers. It is a little bit fancier than duplicating content but worse. It steals information by downloading them from your website. The main target content to be scraped is the one that ranks well. Then, reposted or used in other malicious ways to outrank your page or site.
Protect your site from scrapers with the help of a few great tools like Copyscape. Just enter the URL to check if your work has been duplicated online. You might also use Google’s copyright infringement report.
De-Indexing The Site
This is a dangerous negative SEO attack because it targets the robots.txt file to remove your site from the search engine’s index.
The Robots.txt file is crucial to your ranking. It serves as the gatekeeper or instructor for crawlers. It tells them how or how not to crawl your site.
The easiest way to keep it safe from hackers’ grasp is to conduct regular site audits using a tool like WebSite Auditor.
This SEO attack hits your website server to make Googlebot unable to access your site. But you can prevent it by getting server log analysis and reevaluating the robots.txt file.
To stay safe, notify your webmaster or hosting firm. They should be able to inform you whether the added load is the result of maintenance, organic traffic, or an attack on your site.
Fake Link Removal Request
Generally, removing outdated content or pages and requesting link removal from Google or either site owner is crucial for your website. However, these will become unuseful when abused by unethical SEOs and might result in removing a website’s quality links by submitting — fake link removal requests to webmasters.
On a side note, this is a particular form of negative attack where spammers and attackers may target your backlink profile to harm your rank position by sending ‘fake link removal requests’ to rise in the competition. A link removal request happens when a representative from one website asks that a link be removed from another. It’s pretty straightforward, and this could be made via emails like this,
Subject: Link removal Request
I’m the webmaster for www.xyzxyzxyz.com. Due to Google’s most recent algorithm adjustment, I must urge that you remove any links to www.xyzxyzxyz.com from your website.
Our link is as follows: http://ABC.Removed
I would much appreciate your prompt assistance. If it is not too much trouble, I would appreciate it if you could notify me once it has been removed. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
This kind of spam attack is out of your control, and there’s no way to stop it! To protect your website from this red flag, you can use Ahrefs Alerts for lost backlinks alerts.
Tips to Avoid Negative SEO
As a business owner or webmaster, safeguard your website against negative SEO. You don’t deserve unwarranted penalties. The most advanced step is identifying its types to handle this risk appropriately. Free tools are available to detect at least the most common attacks, such as bad links pointing to unrelated sites, content duplicates, and content scraping to get rid of the Google penalty.
- Disavow Tool. This is a recommended tool for spammy link issues. All you have to do is to report to Google that you want them to be ignored.
- Webmasters Tools. Also known as Google Search Console, which monitors incoming backlinks and verifies your website’s status against any negative SEO attack.
Be Careful of Hackers and Malware
The hackers will add spammy or low-quality links on your website that trick the web users into clicking on and redirect them to their chosen destination. These risks could be about any sensitive data that could lead to identity theft eventually. Your financial information is mostly the primary target. For your guidelines, click here.
Alternatively, check your site in Google Search Console for issues and fix them. Also, you may add the following to your website:
- Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) encrypts the communication that takes place over the computer network.
- SSL Certificate is a security measure that authenticates a website’s identity and activates encryption.
- A strong password helps to kick out unfamiliar attempts to access your website’s information. If possible, use two-factor authentication to protect and strengthen the security.
- Upkeep a current website.
Identify Fake Backlinks
Keep a solid backlink profile if you own referring domains. Ideally, each linking domain to your site can have up to ten backlinks. More than this number is enough for you to think over.
It is possible that fake backlinks or redirects are created to destroy your website’s reputation. Use tools such as Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer regularly. They check for links built to your site. It is also important when communicating with webmasters to use email addresses from your domain instead of your Gmail or Yahoo to protect your backlinks. Manipulators may talk with them asking to remove backlinks. You may enable email notifications.
You may also use MonitorBacklinks.com to monitor backlinks and efficiently disavow bad links.
Watch Out for Fake Reviews
Haters often use fake reviews, but negative SEO attackers also use them to destroy your reputation and your site’s credibility. They will post as much misleading and damaging information. The worst one is a ‘1-star review’ that didn’t bear a single text. When you find them, click the three dots to the right of the review and click “Flag as inappropriate.”
You may also monitor your Google My Business listing and check any new reviews your business receives.
Monitor Website Speed
Be sure to check your site’s speed regularly. It is prone to attacks by spammers or haters. To control it, you may use mention.com to give you an alert on any mention of your site in a terrible way.
Also, Pingdom.com is a great tool for keeping track of your server’s uptime and loading time.
Google site’s rankings have two facets. You’ve got to rank high and, simultaneously, guard your position on the search engine results page. A negative SEO attack is a notorious threat. Your competitor’s rankings are a few steps away from plucking you off. But you can hire an SEO agency that can expertly protect your position or manually check the hefty tasks such as wrong links, new links, spammy links, fake reviews, fake removal requests, and more.
The list of SEO attacks can go on as technology makes things more accessible and easier. Thus, intensify your alertness to look into them. The malicious behaviours against your site are both overt and subtle. Detect and deflect it as quickly as possible. If you are lax, it might be too late to catch the perpetrators.
Maintaining your website is a serious responsibility. Be updated with the new types of negative SEO or black hat SEO in advance and fight them off immediately.