Negative SEO is a horrible strategy for another site to use on you. It can devalue your site rankings and traffic, as well as cause months of headaches fixing the problem with Google.
However, building an effective SEO strategy requires a well-rounded approach that not only improves your rankings but protects them as well. That is why we want to help you fight negative SEO.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is a black hat strategy to lower another website’s rankings through dubious means. When Google discovers the culprit, they could boot their site off the search engine.
The most common type of negative SEO that gets discussed is link based negative SEO, but there are many other techniques that unscrupulous people can use to try to reduce your rankings.
Even worse, some negative SEO strategies we discuss below like Distributed Denial of Service attacks are illegal cyber attacks on a website that could include prison time.
Also, copy scraping, copy content or profiles could be considered a trademark or copyright violation that could land you in civil court. It could be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.
Does negative SEO work?
Google’s primary product is search results. Which means they work hard to improving their algorithm to help shield websites from these types of problems.
Google claims that true negative SEO is rare. You can read transcriptions from John Mueller and Matt Cutts statements on negative SEO in this article.
Most of the quotes come from this Webmaster Central Hangouts with Google employee John Mueller and former Google search evangelist Matt Cutts. You can watch the video below or read the transcripts here.
Who should worry about negative SEO?
Sites that typically worry about negative SEO tactics are those in hyper competitive fields like gambling, insurance, payday loans, bail bonds, and pharmaceuticals to name just a few.
Though at SEO Mechanic, we have run into negative SEO for our local clients who have a strong, and historical, local presence in search results.
We assume, when it does happen, its coming from a new competitor into the market.
Below we discuss a number of negative SEO tactics.
For most of you reading this post you probably don’t have to worry about negative SEO. But its good to know that negative SEO does exist.
#1. Bad Linking
Matt Cutts stated that it is challenging to falsify enough bad links to sink a website, it is remotely possible.
That is why Google launched the Disavow Tool to ask website owners about poor links to their website.
Furthermore, additionally, it is possible to purchase cheap website links to a website. Google Penguin updates specifically prohibit buying unnatural links to your site.
Often the links come from a number of secondary TLD’s like .ru, .cz, .cn, .pl, .ro, bg., .biz, com.ar, com.br, and .info. Usually bought links do not come from .com and .net links.
#2. Remove good links
Occasionally, spammers contact website admins ask a quality website to change or remove a link. While this is not always a scam, it often happens to sites in competitive fields where the competition wants to lower your ranking by removing your high-quality links.
To protect yourself, make sure you email partners and others online with an email that has your domain name. While they might be able to duplicate your logo and other email formats, they cannot copy your email domain name without hacking your email account.
#3. Duplicate content
One method spammers use to hurt your search traffic is duplicating your content (content scraping) on other websites. Besides being a violation of intellectual property rights laws, Google often penalizes sites who use the same content on multiple sites.
Google prides itself on delivering unique content to users. If every site has the same information, then it devalues the quality they provide.
#4. Social Media Accounts
Social media does not directly affect the Google algorithm, but it has a lot of indirect correlations.
For example, Google lists social media profiles in the search engines’ rankings. Therefore, if a spammer starts up a fake social media account with your name or company and grows the following, they could take up valuable search real estate to compete with you.
It also discredits what you tell your audience because they are not sure whether the account is yours or a fake.
#5. Website speed
The Google algorithm places a premium on website speed. Many competitors know this and use it to their advantage.
For example, a competitor can undermine your site by sending thousands of bogus requests that crash your website server.
The name for this hack is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). The name DDoS comes from the fact that the hackers use multiple hosts to overwhelm the server. DDoS attacks increased 91% in 2017 because of the ease hackers found using IoT devices to take down websites.
The spread of IoT means they have more places than ever to launch their attack.
How to protect yourself from negative SEO
#1. Never purchase backlinks
While Negative SEO happens, more often than not lousy search rankings come from website owners who do NOT know best practices.
An example is when a website owner purchases backlinks. Avoid this temptation for fast results. It gives you a quick bump but often devalues your long-term search traffic.
#2. Set up Google Webmaster Email Alerts
If you want to know when someone tries to attack your site with malware, or you have a manual penalty from Google Webmaster, you should get an email alert. The alert helps you know in real time whether something is wrong with your search efforts.
The faster you can respond to something online, the less chance the damage can hurt your search rankings.
#3. Track your backlinks
These sites also help you monitor what links helped your website as well. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a good SEO strategy is well-rounded.
#4. Secure website
If you use a popular Content Management System like WordPress, you can add security plugins or extensions to your site with ease.
If you do NOT have a security suite, then you need to connect with a website then contact your website developer for help.
If you still have some questions, contact us for a free consultation. We can guide you to the best options for your company.
#5. Use Plagiarism-checking Software
You can use a free site like Plagium, but if you had a lot of duplicate content issues lately, then you might want to consider CopyScape. They just changed their pricing model, so the more pages and content you have on your site the more it costs.
However, it is worth it to have peace of mind knowing spammers are not ripping off your content for their traffic.
Negative SEO is not a pleasant thing, but it is a part of every websites strategy. Therefore, you must spend some time protecting yourself against these attacks. Using the measures we discussed above, can help you do this more effectively.
If you have further questions about how to fight negative SEO, contact us today for a free consultation.