Have you ever dealt with the negative SEO? Probably not.
In fact, most of the sites will never reach the point where competition sees them as a threat.
Nevertheless, if you are the head of a big website working within a highly profitable niche, this is definitely something you should consider at all times.
What is negative SEO?
People who have dealt with this malpractice know perfectly well how devastating it may be.
In this moment in time, when most other black hat strategies fall flat, negative SEO is still something that is still pretty efficient.
“Negative SEO is a blackhat strategy which goal is to penalize your site and lower your rankings”
Let’s face it, everybody does SEO nowadays.
It has become much more difficult and complex than it was 10 years ago.
For a successful SEO campaign, you need more than just to build links.
You have to completely dedicate yourself to a website paying attention to on-page SEO, website architecture, user engagement metrics, latent semantic indexing keywords, TF-IDF and more.
As an alternative, some people have decided to switch towards negative SEO.
It is one of the rare blackhat practices that still work and can provide much quicker results than white hat methods.
“Negative SEO is common for lucrative industries”
Gambling, porn, pharmaceuticals are all industries where, by ranking number one for particular terms, you are able to make incredible money.
It is only to be expected that entrepreneurs will do everything in their power to reach and stay on position one for as long as possible.
The number of players on the market is also important.
It is much easier to perform negative SEO if everything revolves around several players and you don’t have to implement it on a huge number of sites.
How is negative SEO performed?
According to KissMetrics, these are some of the main methods:
- Hacking your website
- Building hundreds or thousands of spammy links to your website
- Copying your text content and distributing it all over the internet
- Pointing links to your website using keywords like Viagra, porn, sex, etc.
- Creating fake social media profiles and ruining your reputation online
- Removing the good and quality backlinks your website has
As you can see, the biggest issue with negative SEO is that almost anyone can do it.
It is not that hard to start building spammy links or to find and remove website’s best links. You can also easily create fake profiles and ruin person’s career.
Hacking is much more complex but it is also much more severe. It is a criminal activity and highly risky for the person who’s doing it.
I will give you a better idea about each of these methods in a bit so stick with me.
How to determine if my website is hit?
Any negative change can be an indicator that something fishy is going on.
Here are the main few signs that you might be a victim of a negative SEO attack:
- Serious drop in traffic (you can spot it in Google Analytics)
- Huge drop in rankings (I recommend using Ahrefs for analysis)
- Fast increase in the number of new domains pointing to your site
- Getting a manual penalty notification in Google Webmaster Console
- You clients being hostile towards your brand
Sometimes, you may experience drop in traffic or rankings due to some of Google’s algorithmic updates.
People being hostile towards you can be caused by a bad business decision that you’ve made recently.
If you have limited experience with these tools and links in general, the best approach is to
“Hire an experienced professional to perform a detailed SEO audit and help you fix things”
Your main priority is to determine what caused such a drastic change and deal with it accordingly.
Although website owner needs to be proactive, he definitely shouldn’t panic.
Websites constantly lose and gain traffic and rankings and in many cases, this is attributed to algorithmic changes. For example, the most recent Fred update led to 50-90% lost traffic by many e-commerce web sites.
What should I do if am a victim of Negative SEO?
Managing your links
Previously, I mentioned that Ahrefs is the best tool on the market for detecting links.
Ideally, you should use it all the time to monitor backlinks pointing to your website.
Check the image below to see how to setup your notifications Ahrefs properly.
Image taken from AhRefs.com
How can you detect a potential hazard?
There are two main ways:
- Finding backlinks with a strange anchor text (usually porn, sex or gambling related)
- Finding links coming from unrelated websites (often in Chinese language)
If there is some suspicious link pointing to your website, you should definitely disavow it on domain level.
While it is rather easy finding bad anchors, it becomes a bit more problematic with unrelated websites.
If you have an SEO website, link from dog lover blog may seem fishy at the first glance. However, you never know if that person also writes about SEO besides writing about dogs.
Do some research before you disavow any links.
You have to remember that people have different interests and like in real life, it is not unusual to vent and share views on an unrelated topic.
If you’re uncertain, it is best to visit the website in question, check the web page and also check whether a person wrote on similar topics.
Big spikes in number of referring domains is another thing to look out for.
Image taken from Ahrefs.com
Of course, this spike may signify that your content has gone viral due to a very successful marketing campaign.
But, if you are a small or medium website and haven’t promoted the content, what are the odds of that?
Make sure to check everything out and disavow bad links.
Performing link spam removal
Here is how link removal looks like in Ahrefs:
Some of the disavowed spammy domains pointing to Niksto.com (Ahrefs)
You’re probably wondering: “What just happen?”
Naturally, there is a chance that a person removed your link due to this or that reason.
However, if your traffic and rankings experience a steep decline and if there are numerous lost links, you can safely say that someone is performing negative SEO on your site.
The person doing negative SEO created a fake account and contacted webmaster of this website.
He or she asked for link removal on behalf of your company. Logically, website owner agreed in order to help a fellow bloggers, so you lost a link.
There are two main ways to counter this tactic:
- Always use your website’s company address (for example: info @ company.com). It cannot be faked like Yahoo! or Gmail accounts
- If the link was removed, contact the website owner. Ask them to return the link and ignore any future link removal request besides your own
Detecting duplicate content issues
This one is tricky.
Google frowns upon duplicate content. If there is duplicate content anywhere on the Internet, you are able to report it so that the search engine removes the page.
How does it work?
The person doing negative SEO copies your whole page, posts it on another website and then reports you for violating Digital Millenium Copyright Act or DMCA. Here’s where you can submit a DMCA report to Google.
As a result, Google deindexes your pages.
To counter this, first you have to use a tool named Copyscape:
Image taken from Copyscape.com
Just copy-paste your page or paragraph from it and Copyscape will give you all the pages with same content.
Then, there are two things you can do:
- Ask the website editor to remove the article (which probably won’t happen as the website is most likely controlled by the black hat SEO expert).
- File a DMCA complaint giving as much information as possible
Removing duplicate content can be a real hassle.
You will likely have to go back and forth with Google which will eat away a lot of your time. Nevertheless, you will have to be patient.
Check social mentions
Sometimes, it is enough for a person to tarnish your reputation.
The negative SEO expert can make a fake account and start spamming your partners, colleagues and other people with whom you work.
The worst thing about this approach is that it can take a while, it might be hard to detect at first but the long-term effect can be devastating.
There are two main reasons why you should pay close attention to social mentions (even before something bad happens):
- It can lead to spammy mentions which can directly harm your blog
- It can affect your long-term link acquisition by destroying your relationships
Best tool? Social Mention.
All you have to do is type in a keyword and tool will return all the mentions.
One of the most important stats that tool provides is “sentiment”.
It shows you whether the mentions are positive or negative. After that, all you have to do is check the exact addresses and repair any damage that might’ve been caused.
Protection from hacking
Next, we need to mention the possibly of being hacked by your competitors.
Given that this topic is quite extensive, we will just briefly run through it. Here are some of the things you need to do constantly to protect yourself from any future incursions:
- Keep software up to date
- SQL injection
- Minimize error messages
- Pay attention to validations
- Use complex password
- Be careful when allowing users to upload files
- Switch to HTTPS
- Use website security tools
Security isn’t something you should take lightly.
“You shouldn’t wait for a hacker to damage your website in order to take protective measures”
Even though this is a criminal act and cyber police is more efficient than ever, you should never feel as if you are fully protected.
You are the one that needs to do everything in your power to prevent such things.
Based on everything we’ve seen from Google so far, negative SEO is yet another black hat practice that the search engine is struggling to end in foreseeable future.
These methods are less efficient with every year. Nevertheless, they still exist and are still threat to your website.
If you are a small blogger, you probably shouldn’t concern yourself too much with negative SEO.
However, companies working in highly competitive and profitable industries (as well as people who have done negative SEO themselves) have a big bull’s-eye on their back.
Make sure to implement these protective measures. If you’re still hit, make correction using these tips.
Have you ever become a victim of a negative SEO attack? Did you succeed to recover? Let me know by leaving in the comments below.