5 minute read
How to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO
Updated on December 21, 2021 by Rochelle Williams
There are always two ways to win at anything. The first involves ethical practices where you strive hard, strategize and emerge on top. The second is by using black hat and unethical practices geared towards sabotaging your competitors. This is the very essence of negative SEO.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to rank high on Google search rankings, so as a way to circumvent traditional practices like keyword research, certain online marketers with one foot on the dark side have established negative SEO practices. These practices are not so much about optimizing one's own website to rank higher but more about obliterating a competitor's SEO reputation.
So even if you’ve done everything right, SEO-wise, you can still become a victim of negative SEO. Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard your brand’s reputation against this phenomenon. But to do that, you first need to understand what negative SEO entails.
What is negative SEO and how is it practiced?
In a nutshell, the practice of sabotaging a competitor's ranking for search engines is negative SEO. Attackers can do this through various tactics, such as:
- Coding hundreds or even thousands of duplicate and dubious links that resemble different landing pages of your website.
- Buying a similar domain name to yours to siphon your traffic.
- Hacking into your website and altering information.
- Plagiarizing your content and distributing it over the internet.
- Directing links to your website using spammy keywords and phrases like casino or porn content.
- Publishing fake or negative reviews about your brand.
- Creating faux social media handles and spamming leads through it.
- Eliminating the top backlinks your website generated with fake take down notices.
The list goes on and can overwhelm you.
How real is the threat of negative SEO?
The threat of negative SEO is as real as it gets! Plenty of websites deal with this problem on a daily basis. Just search the phrase “negative SEO” on Google and see for yourself. But often a change to the algorithm will seem like negative SEO when it's not. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.
You'll find lots of articles detailing the processes behind negative SEO, along with negative SEO providers willing to sell you their service. You'll also find plenty of black hat forums replete with experts bragging about their conquests.
We know this looks intimidating, but if you're diligent, you can prevent many negative SEO attacks.
How to protect your website against negative SEO
Given that 88% of online customers are far less likely to return to your website after a bad experience, protecting its reputation and rank is of extreme importance. Here are the five most important ways to quash negative SEO attacks on your website.
1. Set up alerts to stay informed
The first step is to set up alerts to monitor activity on your website. Setting up Google Alerts or Talkwalker alerts is a quick, easy and free way to do this. Once you’ve got these alerts on you will be alerted when someone publishes content about your brand - good or bad. These alerts can help you take corrective action and safeguard yourself from spammers trying to sabotage your website.
2. Audit your website’s backlinks
This is by far the most critical step to prevent your website from a negative SEO attack. Why? The most common practice to devalue your website is by creating low-quality backlinks or redirects. These duplicate links created by spammers can severely dent the credibility of your website and SEO rankings.
Therefore, it's imperative to figure out when someone attempts to create dubious links and redirects to your website. Certain SaaS tools can help you monitor backlinks to your site. Rather than doing it manually every day, you can set them up to automatically check for new backlinks.
Regularly auditing your backlinks is a critical part of online reputation management. Not only should you invest in the right tools to keep track of your backlinks, but also inform Google to disavow a link you didn’t build to your website.
3. Check and remove duplicate content
Another common tactic scammers use to lower your SEO ranking is content duplication or scraping. They do this by lifting your website's content and posting it, verbatim, everywhere they can. When most of your content is plagiarized and the spammer indexes it before you, your website devalues and drops its SEO ranking.
Avoid this at all costs by investing in an online SaaS tool that checks for content duplication. Typically, these apps ask you to copy and paste your website link, or the body of the blog you suspect has been duplicated. Once you do this, they show where all your content has been published without your permission.
4. Keep track of your website’s speed
Your website’s load speed is a key ranking factor for search engines. Spammers can forcefully crawl it to make it sluggish. Forceful crawling introduces a heavy server load, causing your site to slow down substantially and crash in some cases.
Therefore, if you think that your site speed is all of a sudden slower than usual, it's prudent to contact your hosting company. If the problem is not from their end, you can check Google Webmaster's dashboard to trace the load source and take corrective action. You can also use tools like Pingdom for a complete breakdown of your site's speed:
5. Monitor your online reviews and social media mentions
Leads and customers leaving negative reviews on your website can be nothing short of a nightmare. However, it’s still a relief to know that these reviews are genuine. At least that way, you can improve the user experience on your website for better brand engagement.
The real problem begins when you are swarmed with a barrage of negative reviews coming from spammers or competitors. To add to this, certain entities can also create fake social media handles under your company’s name, and post questionable content, effectively lowering your SEO ranking.
To address this problem, you must first figure out if there are fake websites, reviews, social media accounts, and mentions in your company's name. You can use tools like Google My Business to find out. You can also flag comments and pages you suspect are fraudulent.
The bottom line
Securing your website from negative SEO is at the heart of its success. Thankfully, methods and tools that help you audit backlinks, set up alerts, monitor speed and uptime are readily available today to rescue your site from a negative SEO attack.
So use our list as a starter toolkit to identify if your website is becoming a victim of a hostile SEO attack and how you can come out of it.