While the likelihood of negative SEO attacks on your website is rare, it’s important to understand what negative SEO is (and isn’t).
Essentially, negative search engine optimization (SEO) is a collective term for tactics intended to lower a competitor’s search engine rankings. It’s also referred to as “black hat SEO.”
While negative SEO isn’t the most likely cause of a sudden drop in rankings, let’s explore these eight types to be better prepared should any happen to your website.
The first five types are off-page negative SEO, which is the most common. Better understand on-page versus off-page SEO.
Link farms are essentially groups of interconnected sites that help build a lot of backlinks. One or two spam-like backlinks probably won’t hurt your search engine ranking. However, link farming can lead to more than that (like hundreds or thousands).
They’ll commonly have the same anchor text. These anchors can be totally unrelated to your website or have a keyword that makes your website look like you’re trying to manipulate Google (which will have consequences).
You can prevent this from happening, but you can stay vigilant and catch it quickly if it does.
A competitor can “scrape” your content by copying it and posting it across other sites. Google devalues duplicate content across multiple websites and often only chooses one version to show in search results.
Google is capable of determining the original piece, but it’s also possible for Google to discover the scraped version first and rank that website (not yours). This is why competitors who are scraping your website will start with new content and repost it immediately.
You can report scrapers with Google’s copyright infringement report.
Fake negative reviews
Posting fake negative reviews tied to a business or website is more of an indirect negative SEO tactic. The intent is to cause a drop in traffic to that website. When Google notices a sustained drop, it could lower your search ranking.
While you can’t prevent any sort of review, you can heighten your reputation management efforts so that you can catch and report any fake negative reviews.
Yelp, for example, has an entire policy regarding what’s appropriate and what’s not in reviews, as well as instructions for how to report a review.
Competitors also can forcefully crawl your website to cause a heavy serve load. The point of this is to block Google from being able to crawl your website.
If Google can’t access your website for at least a few consecutive attempts, it can lower your search ranking.
Keep an eye on the overall speed and performance of your website. If you notice a sudden slowdown, contact your webmaster to find out where the server load is coming from.
Fake removal requests
All that effort you’ve spent building up your backlinks could definitely be at risk if a competitor starts sending out fake removal requests to webmasters.
They could pretend to be you or an agency acting on your behalf as they contact webmasters to ask for the removal of links pointing to your website. This could also involve sending fake DMCA removal requests.
On-page negative SEO is more difficult to achieve and usually involves hacking into your website. Here are three types of on-page negative SEO.
Changing your content
Of course, a content change does sound like something you would easily spot. Not so fast.
Spam-like content can be added and hidden on your site by using the “display:none” command in HTML. This content often includes links, and you would have to look through your code to find it.
In addition, pages can be modified to redirect to the hacker’s website or other spam-like website. Doing so could de-rank your website if Google notices the redirects before you do, especially if those redirects point to what Google considers “malicious websites.”
It’s important to regularly audit your website so that you can pick up on any such attempts.
A key component of websites for SEO is your robots.txt file. Inserting a disallow rule into that file will tell Google to ignore your website altogether.
Be sure to conduct regular search-ranking checks so that you can quickly notice if your website gets de-indexed. If anything seems off, you can then check your robots.txt file.
While not an official negative SEO tactic, any sort of attack on your website can de-rank you in Google Search. Why? Google does not want to send internet users to unsafe websites. If they think your site has been hacked, you’ll either drop in ranking or see a “This site may be hacked” tag within your search result (or both).
The best thing you can do is to double check your website’s security. Is your site safe?
The key when it comes to negative SEO is that you are vigilant about your website’s SEO ranking. Regular monitoring as well as overall strong website security is the best way to protect yourself from any sustained attacks.