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Negative SEO is a growing problem for companies and website owners. It may be tough to safeguard your website from attack, but with the correct security measures, you can minimize the harmful consequences of sabotage attempts. In this Blog post, we'll discuss what negative SEO is, how it works, and how you may prevent your website from hacking.
What is negative SEO and how can it hurt your website's ranking and business
Negative SEO is the term used to describe the unethical tactics that a competitor can use to hurt your website's search engine ranking. This can include techniques such as negative link building, negative reviews, and social media spamming. If you're not familiar with these techniques, don't worry - we'll go over them in more detail later in this post.
Negative SEO can hurt your website in a few ways:
- Decrease your website's search engine rankings. This can lead to fewer visitors and less business.
- Damage your website's reputation. This can make people less likely to visit your website and may even cause customers to leave.
- Lead to malware infections on your website.
Types of Negative SEO Attacks
Usually, SEO is divided into 3 types: off-page, on-page, and technical. Similarly, each of these types of SEO has an equivalent in negative SEO. Here is a summary of each of them.
Negative off-page SEO
It creates external signs to your website that affect its ranking and visibility.
- Negative link building. It creates spammy, low-quality links, usually on link farms. This strategy sends negative signs to search engines, such as Google, which will harm your website's ranking in SERPs and domain authority.
- Data and web scraping. It extracts data from your website and copies it to other websites. It’s intended for search engines to consider that your website has unoriginal, duplicate content. This also affects your rankings.
- DDoS attacks. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks come in all shapes and sizes, but the most common ones use bots to flood a website with traffic from multiple sources, disrupts the owner's website's normal traffic and is overwhelmed with spam from numerous online locations. This can make it very difficult for legitimate users and search engines to access the site, and can even take the site offline completely. The recovery may last for days, weeks or even months, regardless of whether these attacks occur as short bursts or frequent strikes. Here is a brief explanation of what DDoS attacks are by Ryan Summer, Chief Network Architect at IBM.
- Fake reviews. Fake reviews are negative reviews that aren't honest and truthful about your company, and your services/products. It has a detrimental influence on your reputation, which has an immediate impact on your business. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from fake reviews and keep your website's reviews accurate and trustworthy. Here are a few tips:
- Monitor your online reputation closely and keep track of all reviews, both negative and positive.
- Use a tool like Google Alerts to get notified whenever someone mentions your company or product online.
- Respond to negative reviews promptly and politely, addressing the customer's concerns.
- If you believe a review is fake or inaccurate, report it to the website where it was posted.
- Keep your website's content fresh and up-to-date, so customers have something new to read and share.
By following these tips, you can protect your website from negative SEO and ensure that your reputation remains intact.
And, just in case, here are some tips from Neil Patel on how to deal with real negative reviews:
Negative on-page SEO
If a hacker breaks into your website backend, the content of your pages and their corresponding HTML code can be damaged, including the correct tagging of the different elements (the most significant ones: headers, images, paragraphs, and links).
It can also insert harmful outbound links, or change the structure of internal links.
Negative technical SEO
It involves any tactic that affects the proper crawling, rendering and indexing of your website by search engines. This is done with website hacking, which is an illegal access to your website server. This might occur in a variety of ways, but the worst-case scenario is when someone breaches your system and steals, alters, or destroys critical information for their own gain. To keep your website safe from hackers, you should enhance your cybersecurity. If your site isn't secure enough, it may be an appealing target for cybercriminals. According to a recent study by Accenture, worldwide cyberattacks have increased 31% in the last year.
The most common hacking website attacks are:
- Change robots.txt file for Google, Bing or Yahoo! to ignore your site.
- Affect website loading speed.
- Redirect pages from your website to other websites.
If you don't know what a redirect is, here is a clear and concise explanation from Webflow:
The impact of negative SEO on your business
SEO is crucial for businesses since it is one of the most efficient techniques to increase website traffic. When a company's website ranks higher in search engines, this indicates that more people will be able to find it. This, in turn, can lead to increased sales and profits.
Negative SEO will decrease the amount and quality of your website's traffic. With it, your website's ability to generate more clients and business volume.
Identifying, tackling and preventing negative SEO through security measures is essential for your business to grow online.
The signs that you've been targeted by a negative SEO attack
It's often difficult to identify if your website is being victim of a negative SEO attack. However, this type of malicious attacks usually leave some traces that we can spot.
How Do You Recognize and Prove a Negative SEO Attack?
If you suspect that your website has been the victim of negative SEO, there are a few ways to confirm this. One of the most telltale signs that your site has been attacked is a sudden drop in rankings. You may also see an increase in bot traffic, or be notified by Google about possible fake reviews or malicious activity on your website. Another sign is an abnormally high number of backlinks from low-quality domains. And finally, a rapid drop in keyword rankings can be another indication that you’ve been hit by negative SEO.
If you do suspect that you are the victim of negative SEO, it’s important to take action right away. If you are unsure how to do this, contact our negative SEO defense experts to stop attacks on your website. The sooner you react, the less your business will be affected.
How to protect your website from being sabotaged by competitors
SEO is complex and a long-term strategy. That's why some of your competitors may want to take shortcuts and hurt your online reputation and business. That is why it is important for you to know how to identify and be prepared for negative SEO attacks.
Find and report fake negative reviews about your website
First of all, you must be sure that the negative review is fake. You may come across bad reviews from real customers who had a poor experience. These shouldn’t be overlooked. Respond to the review, whether it’s in Google or any other platform. You may also consider calling the dissatisfied customer to make sure they feel heard and to see if anything can be done to improve the situation.
Here are some tips to know if a negative review is fake:
- Have there been a lot of negative reviews in a short period of time? If yes, take a closer look at the reviews, the reviewer’s name and avatar.
- Check if the reviewer is in your CRM, or point of sale.
- Look for similar reviews from other businesses on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get a better idea of who the reviewer is and what he or she does.
- Look up your business's name in Google Maps to see if you're listed near any influential people or companies (on your website or others) that the reviewer may be interested in; check out how often the reviewer leaves reviews on your website and others.
When you're sure that the comment is false you can notify Google and remove the comment in the options within the comment itself, in your Google Business Profile. You have to be absolutely sure that the negative review is fake, otherwise Google may penalize you.
Review the Referring IPs
A large number of referring domains on the same subnet IP can be a sign of a negative SEO attack. This usually indicates that the sites are located in the same place.
If many websites are hosted in the same location, they're probably ran by the same person. And if they're owned by the same individual, it's most likely a PBN (Private Blog Network).
Identify link spam attack
Look for suspicious spikes in your backlink history to spot link spam attacks. Examine these unusual rises. They are usually a sign of shady linking.
You may also consider using your favorite SEO tool, such as Ahrefs or Semrush, to get new backlinks alerts.
Request fake link removal
Getting a low-quality backlink removed by politely requesting the webmaster is virtually impossible. But, it's something you have to do before asking Google to ignore the link, so you should at least give it a try.
In most situations, you won't be able to discover the contact information. At the end of the day, you'll almost certainly need to utilize Google's 'Disavow Links' tool to get rid of your link spam issue, in Google Search Console.You may record specific URLs or submit a request to Google to disregard all of the links from a certain domain.
The "How to Disavow Links Using Ahrefs and Google Webmaster Tools" video by Ahrefs covers the procedure for identifying and removing bad backlinks, as well as how to create and submit a disavow file using the Disavow Links Tool:
Check Anchor report
These types of negative SEO attacks attempt to manipulate your anchor text ratio. An abnormally high concentration of keyword-rich anchors might be a sign of a deceptive link-based negative SEO campaign.
Resources to help you stay ahead of any potential attacks
As we' ve explained throughout this post, the best strategy is to monitor the status, health and security of your website. You can use tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz.
On the other hand, always keep your CMS with the latest security updates. This may be easier in CMS like HubSpot, Webflow or other “closed-source” platforms, but if you use open-source platforms like WordPress, you must ensure it's permanently updated, including the plugins you are using.
FAQs related to negative SEO
What are spammy links?
Spammy links are low quality links that are created with the sole intention of harming another site. These unnatural links can be bad links from fake or shady websites, or they can be links that are full of keywords and anchor text that have nothing to do with the website's content. If you have even the slightest suspicion that someone is trying to harm your website with spammy links, it's important to take action right away.
What are dofollow links?
These links pass on the SEO benefits, or "link juice", of the link to the website being linked to. Dofollow links are contrasted with nofollow links, which do not pass on any SEO benefits.
What is a backlink profile?
A backlink profile is a compilation of all the links that point to a website. It's essentially a reflection of a website's online popularity and influence. A high-quality backlink profile is one indication of a website's overall health and authority.
Unfortunately, negative SEO can severely damage a website's backlink profile. This is when someone employs Black Hat tactics to build low-quality or spammy links to a site to hurt its ranking and visibility.
What is a Black Hat SEO attack?
A Black Hat SEO attack is when someone uses unethical methods to improve their website's search engine ranking. This can include things like keyword stuffing, link spamming, and creating fake websites or links to boost their ranking.
One common Black Hat SEO attack is called "link bombing." In this attack, the attacker will flood a website's backlink profile with spammy links in an attempt to bury the site's ranking. They can do this by creating fake blogs, social media accounts, or even email addresses and then linking to the target website from all of them.
What is a site audit?
A site audit is a process of evaluating a website for issues that could impact its search engine ranking. Common issues that are evaluated include page titles, meta descriptions, meta tags, header tags, internal linking, images, and anchor text.
What is Google's disavow tool?
Google's disavow tool is a way for webmasters to disavow links to their site. This can be used in cases of negative SEO, where another website is trying to harm your site's ranking by creating spammy links. By disavowing these links, you can tell Google not to count them in your site's link profile.
What is the site's pagerank?
The pagerank of a site is a measure of its importance on the web, determined by Google. It is calculated using a variety of factors, including the number and quality of links to a site.