Negative SEO is considered a nightmare for websites and no business around the world wishes to deal with it. In today’s competitive market place every website knows how hard it is to rank on the top for a particular keyword. A Negative SEO campaign against your website can actually damage your website ranking and the worst part it takes a lot of time to recover from it.
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If you are not aware of how Negative SEO works and what damage it can do to your website and its ranking then make sure you stick to this article till the end. As we are going to offer every small detail about negative SEO starting from what is negative SEO? How can websites identify negative SEO attacks? And most importantly how you can prevent those attacks.
Every year the SEO industry is evolving with a goal to mitigate the malicious activities happening on the web to rank websites on the top in SERP. In the early days, websites used to implement various black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, backlink spam, and more to rank on the top in search engine result pages.
But thankfully due to various changes in Google’s algorithm website has started to focus more toward white hat SEO techniques. Today ranking for a highly competitive keyword is not easy as it was in the early days. And those who are ranking on the top or have gained a position in the first two pages of the search engine result page frequently come across Negative SEO attacks.
There are businesses and people out there who may not like to see your website on top in SERP and that is when negative SEO can help them to harm your website. If you think negative SEO attacks are hypothetical then you should know that our SEO professionals have helped many websites across different countries recover from these attacks.
Negative SEO attacks can come from any of your competitors, hackers, intruders, and more. It all comes down to how quickly you are resolving and responding to those attacks.
In this article, we are going to walk you through some of the important points on what is negative SEO? Is it a real threat to your website? How can you identify and prevent those attacks on your website?
Table of Content:
- What is Negative SEO?
- Can Negative SEO affect my website?
- How can a website determine negative SEO attacks?
- How can I protect my website from negative SEO attacks?
- How to recover from negative SEO attacks?
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is defined as the malicious practice of using black hats and other unethical techniques with the goal of sabotaging the search engine ranking of a different website or competitor’s website. Putting it into simple words, Negative SEO attacks are made purposely with the goal to harm the ranking and reputation of your website and business.
When these types of malicious attacks happen most of the business think about their competitor’s involvement. But It’s not always your competitors that are trying to outrank you using Negative SEO practices. Sometimes these attacks are carried out by individuals with good knowledge about various black hat SEO practices.
However, If you are working with an experienced and reliable SEO agency then you don’t have to worry about these issues because the SEO professionals are already aware of these attacks and they do everything to prevent negative SEO attacks.
Can Negative SEO affect my website?
Undoubtedly Negative SEO attack is something that can occur on any website belonging to any niche. Google is always working on the backend to make these practices difficult to accomplish. Negative SEO attacks can happen but it requires time, resources, and ability to launch these attacks against any website.
Let’s look at different forms of negative SEO depending on that you can decide whether it can affect your website or not. Here are some common forms:
- One of the most common forms is building spammy backlinks to your website
- Distributing content on unauthorized websites
- Creating fake reviews against your website to dominate rating in search engine result page (SERPs)
- Hacking the backend of your website (mainly if your website is built on CMS platforms)
- Creating fake profiles
- Scraping and redistributing your content across different platforms
- Creating links of your website on fake keywords like viagra, poker online, and more
- Removing authority links pointing to your website
- Creating fake social profiles with the aim to downgrade your reputation
Sometimes things go worse when hackers and intruders try to de-index your site or inject various keywords like poker online, viagra, and other terms. Hacking a website is something very uncommon mainly in today’s tech-driven world where security is the primary concern for all kinds of websites.
But building spammy links, removing links from high DA, creating fake social signals and profiles are among the most common negative SEO attacks that can happen on your website. Sometimes these attacks occur because of an outsider and other times it happens because of the website’s own mistakes.
That’s why it is said that preventing Negative SEO attacks is much better than fixing them. By taking the necessary steps, websites can prevent Negative SEO attacks. In the coming paragraphs, we are going to highlight how you can prevent these attacks.
But before moving ahead we would highlight one more point that every website should know.
Most of the newly started websites with low DA just focus on getting backlinks no matter whether they are good and bad. So if the links pointing to your website are mostly bad then a small spammy link addition to your backlink list can affect your website’s reputation and rank in SERP. You might think of it as negative SEO attacks but the penalty you got from search engines might be because of your own doing.
What types of websites are more vulnerable to these attacks?
Negative SEO attacks usually occur when another website or an individual has a strong desire to drag you down from the current position. Mainly when you have a more advanced and result-driven SEO strategy that helps you to outperform other websites and gets it ranked on the top in SERP. So to prevent your website from these attacks it’s important to figure out what type of website is at more risk.
Earlier negative SEO was something that website and digital marketing people used to talk about what it can do and how it can affect the website. But now it has kind of become more public. If you go to google trends and search for the term negative SEO, you will find the graph to be growing every month. That means it is something that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Not only that but even if you go to one of the most popular freelancing sites Fiverr and search for the term negative SEO you will find people who can do negative SEO for you. Or even if you go to a black hat forum you can find people who can do negative SEO aging your competitor.
So from all the above statements, we can say that today any website belonging to any niche can come across these attacks. However, if you are working with an experienced and reliable SEO agency then they will keep a look at these activities on your website.
Today any website with less referring domain (less than 300) is more vulnerable to these attacks. In the early stage, the website doesn’t care about the quality of the link adding too many spammy links exposes you to these attacks. So even with less negative SEO efforts, your website can be exposed to these attacks.
How websites get spammy links?
Spammy links are something that is either built intentionally or due to a lack of knowledge about link building techniques. Most of the time Local businesses or newly started websites who look to rank their website in search engines focus on building spammy backlinks no matter whether they are good or bad or relate to their niche. These are websites that are more open to negative SEO attacks. And due to the various backlink checker tools, it becomes easy for other websites to identify and understand your link-building strategy.
There are also times when businesses and websites pay for link building service to different SEO companies. To show the quick results these companies start using spammy techniques which later result in google penalties or negative SEO attacks. That’s why it is recommended to hire an experienced and reliable SEO company that can help you and your website in the long run.
How can websites determine negative SEO attacks?
By now you may have a clear idea about what is negative Seo and what type of website is more vulnerable to negative SEO attacks. As mentioned earlier instead of identifying how you can fix a negative SEO attack it’s better to know how you can prevent it. But before that, you need to understand different forms of negative SEO techniques practices that can harm your website.
Our SEO professionals have encountered these attacks while working on the live project for our clients. And we were surprised to see how there was a sudden increment in the number of low-quality backlinks which were nowhere related to our client’s website niche. Our highly experienced SEO team keeps a track of those links so that the website ranking and authority don’t get affected. But to prevent those attacks first you need to understand how these negative SEO attacks happen
1. Fake and low-quality Backlinks
One of the most common ways to identify whether your website came across a negative SEO attack or not is by checking your backlink list. There are various tools like google search console, Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush, and more that can give you detailed reports about the total number of backlinks.
Having a bunch of fake and spammy backlinks pointing towards your website can do more harm to your website authority, reputation, and most importantly its ranking. Mostly low-quality backlinks with low domain authority that nowhere relate to your niche can make your website more suspicious. If you are continuously receiving these types of low-quality backlinks with low domain authority then it might be coming from link farms and can affect your current ranking.
Having those links in your backlink list will make google crawler assume that you’re using black hat practices to rank your website, even if you are not. If your website already has those spammy or low-quality links present on your website then we recommend you to delete them instantly.
2. Irrelevant or unnatural anchor text
If you are doing SEO for your website or have knowledge about SEO then you might be aware that most of the natural anchor text pointing toward your website uses words like your brand name or the product or services you are offering or sometimes “Click Here”. But what if the anchor text is built on the exact keyword you are trying to rank your website or a web page in google then it might be suspicious and come under black hat practices. If you come across these types of anchor links that you didn’t expect to have then it might be a sign of a Negative SEO attack.
On the other hand, if the anchor text is built on words that are totally irrelevant to your website and your niche then it will confuse google bot about the purpose of the website and the content. If you find those anchor text built-in words like viagra, online poker and more then make sure you get the link removed. Because these types of activities fall under black hat techniques and it can affect your ranking.
That’s why it’s recommended to keep a close eye on how other websites are pointing to your website using anchor text. If the link looks unnatural or irrelevant to you then you contact them and ask them to remove it.
3. Spammy links in the comment
Most of the people familiar with SEO think that long gone are those days when Google used to consider the links in the comment as the backlinks. Somehow the statement is true but still, google crawls the links placed in your comment section. So, if your blog page suddenly starts getting lots of links in the comment section that doesn’t even relate to your niche or doesn’t relate to the context of your blog then we recommend removing it from the comment section.
Because these types of activities indicate that someone was trying to insert the links with the intention to do harm to your website and to your ranking. If you get an option to know who is the competition, you can either contact them or market it as spam so that they never paste those links back in your older or new blogs. If you wonder why we are asking you to delete those comments then you should google crawls every single word and link on your website. If your web page is stuffed with spammy links then it may give a bad impression about your web page. There are chances of getting your web pages listed under those spammy websites.
4. Fake Negative Reviews
If you suddenly start getting more and more negative reviews about your brand and website then you need to take a close look at it. Because Google crawls these reviews and ratings before assigning or updating the rank of the website. Most of the time during rank downfall the website focuses on checking the backlinks but sometimes this review also becomes a major factor in run downfall. If your website starts receiving more negative reviews Google will not prefer to recommend your website to users.
These reviews and ratings will not impact your site authority or your backlinks but you should always monitor reviews your website is getting from users. Almost every review website allows you to report the reviews if it’s not from the right user or you believe it to be fake. You can also reach out to them saying that the reviews are not authentic and fake. Again these fake reviews can indicate a negative SEO attack against your website and business.
How can I protect my website from negative SEO attacks?
Now you know how you can identify whether your website is under negative SEO attack or not. With the increase in the number of negative SEO attacks Google released a new tool called “Disavow Tool” specifically to help webmasters deal with these types of attacks. But setting up the Disavow tool in the google search console to its full potential can take a minimum of 2-4 weeks.
But with the increase in the number of negative SEO attacks no website can afford to wait for such a long time. Because once the website gets penalized by google then recovering everything back can be a difficult process and you will need the help of SEO professionals to deal with it. So, instead of tackling those attacks try to prevent it to keep your website up and running without harming the ranking and position.
Below we are going to list some of the important points on how you can prevent those attacks:
1. Monitoring your backlink profile regularly
One of the best ways to prevent your website’s negative SEO attack is by keeping your backlink profile healthy with the majority of links from quality and high authority websites. Most of the time scammers try to build a bunch of low-quality links from unauthorized websites with the goal to harm your website performance and ranking in the search engine.
That’s why it’s important for websites to know when someone from outside tries to build spammy or toxic links. If you are someone who keeps a track of your website backlinks regularly then you might have a good idea about the healthy backlink profile of your website. If someone from outside tries to include low-quality or spammy links then you will be able to recognize it very easily.
Earlier we have mentioned you can make use of tools like Ahrefs, google console, SEmrush, and more to keep a track of your backlink profile. If you wish to receive email alerts when you lose or gain a new backlink then you can also use tools like monitorbacklink.com and more. You can also set up and make use of the Disavow tool by google to avoid getting spammy or irrelevant links to your website.
You can also keep a track of your website authority score. If your website is getting too many fake backlinks then the score will automatically start dropping. From that, you can easily recognize that there are some malicious activities happening on your website.
If your website is getting toxic backlinks then you can focus more on updating your disavow file which will automatically restrict your website from getting certain types of links.
2. Keep your Existing backlink (the good one’s) protected
With the advancement in the SEO techniques website have started to focus more on getting backlinks from high authority websites. Google also gives preference to those websites that are generating good quality links from other authority websites. During a negative SEO attack, there are chances that your website may lose quality backlinks.
Yes, you read it right, something these attacks remove the quality backlink from authority websites. When it comes to preventing websites from negative SEO most of the websites limit themselves to just keeping a track of toxic low-quality backlinks. But sometimes negative SEO attacks affect your existing backlinks.
Using your company name they reach out to website owners and ask them to remove the backlink. So, the question is how one can prevent it from happening?
So here is the thing you can do to prevent your website from these malicious activities. Make sure when you communicate with other website owners or webmasters you are using your company’s official id like firstname.lastname@example.org. Avoid using common Gmail and yahoo email id which can be used by outsiders to communicate with them. This way if someone tries to contact the webmaster and ask them to remove the backlink they get it confirmed from your official id before taking action.
Another thing you can do is keeping a track of quality backlinks. If you have an abundance of quality backlinks from high authority websites then you can segment them depending on their domain authority. Using the same above mentioned tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and more you can create the list.
3. Identifying duplicate or scraped content.
Another way spammers can harm your website ranking in search result pages is by using one of the common techniques i.e. duplicating content. If the same identical content is present on the web on a different platform then it can affect your website ranking. There are most chances that due to cannibalization issues your website may get penalized.
Sometimes attackers also duplicate the whole website including the content with a goal to sabotage your search engine performance. So the question is how a website can keep a track of these kinds of malicious activities, i.e. duplicating the content and using it on different platforms.
Well, there are various platforms or websites that can help you to identify whether the same content is used on other platforms or not. Copyscape and Siteliner are some of the popular tools that are used to keep a track of content duplication related issues. You just have to paste the link of your website or the content to know whether someone else is using your content without your permission or not.
If you come across any website that is using the same content then you can contact the provider and tell them to either take down the web page or delete the content as it belongs to your website.
You Can also make use of google forms to report the website or use the FTC complaint assistant to report the web page.
4. Identify and Report Fake Negative Reviews
Getting fake reviews about your product and business can affect your website reputation as well as search engine performance. If you are a large retail giant or managing a large company then these fake negative reviews can do less harm to your reputation.
But small businesses are the ones that can get affected by these reviews. Don’t worry about the authority and the backlink profile of your company will not get impacted. But there are chances that these negative reviews can impact your reputation and SERP performance.
Encouraging other people to post negative reviews can be difficult. But spreading negativity about your product and website can damage your traffic and most importantly conversion rate. But compared to the above mentioned negative SEO attacks, succeeding in these types of malicious activities is difficult. Spammers must do a lot of work and try really hard to spread fake negative reviews about the brand and product.
There is less to no such guarantee that these techniques work but still, we recommend you to monitor your online reviews. Because if the scammer successfully spreads bad or negative reviews about your band then recovering them can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
If you find any fake reviews on the internet then contact the website administrator and tell them about the fake negative reviews. You can also ask them to get a more secure option so that these types of activities don’t happen in the future. If there is an option to report those comments then you also do that to remove those fake negative reviews.
5. Secure website from hackers
Getting a website hacked is one form of negative SEO attack that doesn’t happen frequently. But if your website comes across these types of negative SEO attacks then it can do a lot more damage that you can’t even imagine (if done with the purpose of destroying your website ranking and reputation). Today with the increase in the number of vulnerabilities and attacks, every platform is trying to keep security as their first priority.
But still, there are websites around the world that are getting hacked due to a lack of security. Whenever a hacker attacks your website you will have full access to your website backend while they install different spammy single on your website. Identifying these spam signals is difficult for site owners and later one affects website ranking and backlink profile.
As most of the websites on the internet are powered by wordpress these websites are more vulnerable to these attacks. So this what you can do to secure your website:
- Make sure your website has an SSL certificate installed.
- Avoid adding too many party plugins. Due to some minor code effects, integrating these plugins into your wordpress website can make it more vulnerable to these attacks.
- You can also install plugins like Sucuri, Wordfence, itheme security, and more. They can help you with different brute force attacks by limiting logins. You can use those plugins for 2-factor authentication so that whenever someone tries to log in to your wordpress dashboard you can get a code on your email or smartphone.
- Make sure the password you are using is strong and contains multiple special characters.
- Keep an updated backup of your website.
Apart from the above-mentioned tips, you can also set up a notification in the google search console, so whether your website comes across these breaches you’re getting notified about it. Running a site audit regularly and fixing every small technical issue is also considered as the best practice to prevent these attacks.
Keep a track of Social media mentions
When we say negative SEO attacks then it’s not limited to building toxic backlinks and negative reviews but there are also chances that attackers may try to create fake social mentions. Most of the time websites ignore it, but we recommend you to monitor these social mentions so that whenever an attacker tries to create a fake account about your website and company you are aware of it. And take all the necessary steps to remove those profiles before it starts hurting your reputation among your customers.
You can also make use of tools like socialmentions.com, mention.net, and more to identify spammers that are using your business name without your permission. Whenever someone mentions your name on any social media platform or on any website you will be notified about it.
How to recover from negative SEO attacks?
By now you might be aware of various techniques using which you can prevent Negative SEO attacks. But what if your website already came across negative SEO attacks. Well if you think someone has already started a negative campaign against your website then its take time to start contacting those attacks so that you can sure your website ranking and reputation in search engines:
Identify and remove harmful or toxic links
If your website has already come across these negative SEO attacks then it’s something you need to worry about. The first and foremost thing we would recommend is to identify the toxic and harmful links present in your backlink list. If Google already penalized your website or you saw a sudden fall in your website ranking then it shows that your website already has hundreds or sometimes thousands of toxic links pointing to your website which you have to remove.
There are various audit tools that you can use to identify those likes or you do it manually from your webmaster tool or using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and more. Once you successfully identify the links that are healthy and toxic for your website. Next, comes the important part i.e. getting rid of those links.
Remove the toxic and harmful links
Once you are ready with the list of low-quality toxic backlinks that are harming your website, you can plan to remove it by contacting the webmaster of the website. Google also recommends that if you don’t wish to have a particular link in your backlink list then you can approach the webmaster and ask them to remove the link.
No matter whether they are placed mistakenly or with the intention to harm your website performance and ranking in search engines. The first thing your need to do is send a polite mail asking them to remove the link as early as possible. If you are unable to find the contact of the particular website then you can use tools like whois.com and more to get contact details or the email address of the website.
You can make use of a spreadsheet to keep a track of the activities so that you are aware of whether they removed the link or not. Your spreadsheet can contain the link, the website name, and the day you contacted them and if they have replied to your email then make a short summary of their response and include it in your spreadsheet.
If you get a reply like pay us then only we will remove the link or any kind of refusal from the webmaster then don’t worry still you have an option in your hand to remove the link using the Disavow tool. Read below to know more about how you can make use of the disavow tool to remove the toxic and harmful link.
Create and Upload Disavow List
Negative SEO is something that is in talks for the past few years seeing that google launched the Disavow tool in 2012 to help webmasters tackle these situations. Getting links from other websites and getting its raked one at the top is the basic fundamental of off-site SEO. but the sad part is that no website can control toxic and harmful links that are pointing to their website.
So if someone else is creating a toxic backlink and your website getting penalized in google then it doesn’t sound fair right? Seeing that google created the Disavow tool with a goal to help webmasters save their website from these activities. If the other websites are not willing to remove those toxic backlinks that you have asked to take down then you can plan to create and upload the Disavow file containing those links.
Most of the time the above-listed techniques work but if it’s not working for you then you can make use of the disavow file. Using this tool you can disavow links that are affecting your website ranking but if not used properly Disavow tool can be harmful to your website as well.
What type of links should I include in the Disavow list?
So before you make the list of toxic and harmful links that are affecting your website go through each link to determine whether they are actually toxic to your website or not. For example, if your website contains too many backlinks from gambling then you can make a list of those backlinks and disavow them, no matter whether they are in thousands or hundreds.
But sometimes your backlink list may contain links from other niche blogs which may not hurt your website ranking, even though it may look strange to you. So, focus more on including links that are more suspicious or toxic for your website. Having your website links placed on terms like viagra, online poker, and more may look malicious to you, mainly when it’s on a gambling website.
On the other hand, if the link to your website is anchored on words like “click here” “read more” “read this’ ‘ and more on different blogging websites then it may not look suspicious. Select the links carefully and once you are done with the list next you can plan to upload it in the webmaster tool i.e. in your Google Search console.
Submit reconsideration Request (if penalized)
There are times when you are done with all the above processes when you find your website already penalized by search engines. Because all the above processes are not instant which means even if you ask another website to remove the link there are fewer chances that they will do that immediately and if the link was created purposely then forget it. Next, if you have already uploaded the disavow tool then you need to know that Google takes time to process links in your file.
Most of the time websites discover these attacks only when they receive different actions like getting penalized by search engines, sudden rank fall, and more. If you think your website has been penalized due to negative SEO attacks or because of some spammer malicious activities then you can submit the reconsideration requests and give google detailed information about these attacks so that you can regain your previous ranking.
But if you are someone who monitors backlink lists regularly then you might discover these attacks prior to getting penalized by search engines.
Is negative SEO illegal?
Negative SEO is a practice of using black hats and other unethical techniques to sabotage another website’s ranking. Negative SEO is not a criminal offense but it’s something not promoted by any search engine or website.
Negative SEO attacks are always frustrating and fixing them takes a lot of time and effort which can be utilized in some other activities if your website didn’t come across these attacks. Above we have listed all the steps and tips that you can use to prevent these attacks. In today’s competitive marketplace security and search engine ranking plays a crucial role in online success.
So, to prevent these attacks make sure you keep track of your backlink profile, set alerts in the search console, keep track of duplicate content and make sure your website is fully secured from malware and other threats.
If you are running a large business and don’t want yourself to get involved in these activities and focus more on growing your business revenue and ROI then it’s always recommended to hire an experienced SEO agency who can keep your website up and running with a better ranking in all situations.