Online businesses use SEO to get better visibility in search engines for desired keywords so that they can attract more eyeballs eventually converting into paying customers.
From the last few years, when it comes to online marketing, SEO is mainstream and this is possibly because the investment it requires is small as compared to offline advertisement; and in the longer run, the ROI is better than any other online or offline marketing channel.
As SEO is a traffic and conversion driving channel, many businesses are always competing against each other. Although this is healthy, unfortunately a small percentage of people try to manipulate the Google algorithm by doing negative SEO.
What is Negative SEO?
According to Search Engine Journal, “Negative SEO is the practice of implementing black hat SEO techniques on another site. Usually, an SEO attack is unleashed by a disgruntled competitor and his or her minions with the goal of reducing that site’s rankings.”
This simply means that when you are ranking well for money making keywords, there is a chance that your competitors or other SEO companies might attack you with their black hat techniques with the basic goal to knock down your rankings in search engines and win over you the wrong way.
Kinds of Negative SEO:
To be fair with you, there are countless ideas that I have in my mind that one can use against your business and website rankings, but here are a few methods commonly used.
- A Competitor buying bad links and pointing them to your website
- Hacking websites to inflict damage
- Posting either negative or fake reviews on your business website or listing
- Reporting Google about you involved in any spam activity
- Stealing no-index content and filing a DMCA removal request
Note: The good and the bad part about negative SEO is that it’s a hit and miss game. So it’s not necessary that it will work, but in my experience, most websites with good authority and reputation are hard to hit as compared to the ones with lesser or no reputation at all.
How would I know if I’ve been attacked?
Negative SEO can be expensive. So it makes complete sense for one to believe that someone will only use negative SEO against your business when you are playing good in the game or when and if someone has something personal against you!
If you are new in the game, you don’t really have to worry too much about it, but if you are performing well for your money making keywords, you should always keep the possibility of being a victim of negative SEO in mind.
There are a few checks that you can use to figure out if you have been attached by a Negative SEO strategy.
- Continuously Monitor your Link Profile
If you are doing in-house link building or outsourcing it, you will have a clear idea of how many links you are building and where! If you see any unusual behavior in your link chart, you should be worried.
Obviously, anyone can build links on your website and you have less to no control over it. But keeping a close eye on your link profile will give you an idea about how fast it’s growing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and where exactly these links are coming from.
I use OSE’s “Just Discovered” feature to see what links my website have received.
- Track your Mentions
I use Mention.com to track my name and brand mentions. Every time people on the internet use my brand’s name, it updates me via email.
This idea works when you face negative SEO in the form of bad or fake reviews and mentions on other third party review websites.
I’ve been attached, what now?
If you’ve been attached by negative SEO, here are a few things you should do in order to stay safe.
- Detect the kind of negative SEO you got hit by
As discussed above, there can be multiple types of negative SEO attacks that you can encounter. The first and the most important step to take is to understand the kind of negative SEO you‘ve been hit with. Once understood, follow an approach best suitable for that situation as they will differ based on the attack.
- First things first!
Now you know the kind of negative SEO you are facing, it’s time to take some quick preventive measures in order to get out of the attack and protect your website and business reputation.
Let’s say for a moment you are facing a bad link bombing attack; the best idea is to dig deeper into your link profile and find all the bad links, separate them from the good ones and create a disavow file and submit it to Google. By doing this you are actually telling Google that you don’t need the link juice from these domains and links which effectively means any juice coming from these links will be discounted and it will have no negative or positive impact on the website.
If the penalty is based on fake and negative reviews, it’s a little different and difficult to tackle as it’s very difficult to track fake reviews from genuine ones especially when someone else is doing it for your business.
The best and fastest approach in order to handle this situation is to update a blog post about what you are going through and continuously stay in communication with your audience via your company blog and social media pages. Obviously this is just an easy way out; you still need to find a way to figure out how to find fake reviews and request their removal.
- Start protecting yourself
Now that you have taken the initial precautions, it’s time to protect and safeguard your website. So even if someone tries to attack your website, it doesn’t really hurt you technically or from the reputation standpoint.
Increase your Domain Authority with quality links
As per my experience, a website with a quality link profile is the most difficult to affect by negative SEO. Moz.com got hit a bit after getting literally 1000’s of bad links pointing back to their link profile. Theoretically, the impact has to be big, but in my opinion one of the many reasons why Moz.com wasn’t affected really badly was because of the fact that they have a high domain authority which they built by using quality links directed to their profile.
Monitor and Audit your assents on a regular basis
In the online world, your assets are your website, the links you have built or got naturally, your reputation. The idea is to audit these on a regular basis. Check your website’s health and make sure there is no malware attack or virus found on the website as this has a direct negative impact on search rankings.
Audit your link profile on a monthly basis at least to find out if the link profile is clean and you are getting quality links as naturally as possible. Also, try and look into online review websites, social media platforms and see how people are talking about your brand and what kind of reviews you are receiving.
If you see any kind of odd activity, fix it instantly because if you are facing a negative SEO attack, fixing things up quicker is the best solution.
Build and Attract Quality Links
If you are outsourcing link-building or managing it in-house, you are already spending lot of your time building and acquiring quality links. In case of a Negative SEO attack, it’s more than just a necessary thing. By building and attacking quality links back to your profile you are actually letting Google know that you are not involved in any shady activities, but you are actually facing Negative SEO.
Having said all of this, I’m just going to sum it up by saying stay safe and never practice Negative SEO! always make sure you are not under the attack of one!