Negative SEO: Is It a Real Threat?
Negative SEO – you hear about it a lot, but does it happen so often? You may ask, how easy is it to ruin a competitor’s rankings? Should you worry? How do you know if someone is trying to knock you out of SERPs with negative SEO?
A new type of SEO has emerged. Negative SEO is any malicious practice to lower your competitor’s rankings in search results. This is generally considered black hat SEO because of its nature. They are more off-page activities like building unnatural links to the website or scraping.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is a set of activities that is aimed at decreasing a competitor’s site rankings, especially in search engine results like Google. These activities often include building spammy, unnatural links to the site. It may also contain content scraping and even hacking the website.
You must note that the threat of negative SEO is remote but daunting. But how do you protect your website?
As you know, the entire SEO industry has been experiencing significant transformations over the past few years. As a result, many online marketers are dramatically changing their strategies. Ranking high in Google for the most competitive keywords is now challenging.
Because black hat SEO is more complex and harder to execute, and less and less likely to deliver results, another type of SEO that has come up is called negative SEO. They generally involve hacking the site and modifying its content. Note that negative SEO will not result in a sudden drop in ranking.
How easy is it for your competitor to ruin your rankings? So what are the ways to protect your website? Here we discuss what negative SEO is and what harm it can do.
You should understand that the threat of negative SEO is remote but daunting. However, it is difficult for a competitor to ruin your rankings.
Negative SEO generally refers to using black hat and other techniques to sabotage a competitor’s rankings in search engines. It is important to note that negative SEO attacks may take several different forms.
Your website can be hacked.
They can build hundreds of spammy links to your website.
They can copy your content and distribute it all over the internet.
They can point to your website using different keywords.
Creating fake social profiles to ruin your online reputation.
Remove the best backlinks which your website has.
Does Negative SEO Still Happen?
Today most websites are entirely safe from negative SEO attacks. Google has developed good algorithms that can catch spammy backlink blasts.
Hence, these attacks are unlikely to influence your rankings, even if they happen occasionally.
If your rankings drop suddenly, make sure to go through a checklist. It will help you ensure the exact reason for the drop and not blame a negative SEO attack.
Generally, it could be a single spammy link that could shatter the complete website’s rankings. No matter how many quality links you might have held previously. That is why negative search engine optimization typically involves links from a group of websites or link farms.
A link farm is simply a hub of interconnected websites. Starting out as a Grey Hat technique. Nowadays, they are exclusively Black Hat. These sites used to link to each other only to increase the link popularity of each site’s pages.
Do you know that you can purchase links from these websites to increase your website’s page rank? One typical example of a link farm is a PBN or private blog network.
Another negative SEO technique which can falsify duplicate content. It mainly involves scraping your site’s content and copying it to other websites. You must do it multiple times, sometimes even as part of the link farms.
It is essential to know that Google’s Panda was updated and designed to detect and fight content duplication. So when Google finds content that is duplicated across different sites, they will pick only one version to rank. Surprisingly, Google is clever enough to identify the source of the content. But the scraped copy should only get indexed after the original.
Types of Negative SEO Attacks
There are different forms of negative SEO. In this section we will cover the most common tactics associated with negative SEO.
However, a few significant types of SEO attacks can potentially reduce the site’s visibility in search engines.
Here we discuss the different types:
1 Hacking a Website
It may be the most efficient yet costly tactic. As you know, by hacking a website, an attacker can undermine a website’s SEO performance. If the hack results in a loss of search engine visibility, you can consider it a damaging SEO attack.
2 Creating Toxic Backlinks with Spammy Anchor Texts Pointing to the Website
Automated software, link farms, and PBNs (public blog networks) are commonly used to generate these bad links. Note that the links may vary – from a few hundred to thousands.
3 Scraping a Website’s Content and Creating Duplicates of the Website
When you have a similar problem, this is the best practice. It is based on creating duplicates of websites or parts of their content. It also involves hotlinking and spreading the fakes across the web.
4 Posting Fake Negative Reviews About the Site
This tactic may work to ruin a website’s reputation. Therefore, it could lead to traffic drops.
5 Removing a Website’s Backlinks after Sending out Fake Removal Requests to Webmasters
It is a common practice that attackers might target your backlink profile in an effort to harm the SERP positions. At the same time, they may pretend to be you or an agency that acts on your behalf. In such a scenario, get in touch with your webmaster and persuade them to remove the links pointing to your site.
Some negative SEO practices could be even worse. For example, sending fake DMCA removal requests, but these cases are rare.
These tactics above are the most common for negative SEO. If you want to dig deeper, you need to understand that the very concept of negative SEO is debatable.
How to Prevent Negative SEO?
It is commonly seen that spammers will try to remove your best backlinks. Another method is to copy content from your website and post it all over the web.
Large businesses would have thousands of incoming links. A negative SEO attack might add a few hundred affecting the site’s ranking. As a result, the site may experience a brief drop in rankings.
Here are a few methods to prevent it:
1 Set up Google Webmaster Tools For Email Alerts
Google can send you email alerts when:
Your pages are not indexed.
Your website is being attacked by malware.
You have server connectivity issues.
You get a manual penalty from Google.
If you still need to, connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools. It will help you get email notifications and choose to receive alerts for all types of issues.
2 Keep Track of Your Backlinks Profile
It is the most crucial action you should take to prevent spammers from succeeding. They will often perform negative SEO against your website by building low-quality links. Knowing when someone is creating links or redirects to your website is vitally important.
You can use tools like Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs, from time to time, to manually check if someone is building links to your website. There are others in the market as well. You can choose the one that suits you. They should be able to send you email alerts when your website gains or loses essential backlinks.
Instead of manually checking your backlinks every morning, these tools can send everything you need to know to your inbox. You only need to create your account.
3 Protect Your Best Backlinks
In most cases, spammers will try to remove your best backlinks. They generally contact the website owner of the link. Then using your name, they request the webmaster remove your backlink.
To prevent this from happening, you can do two things:
Firstly, when you communicate with webmasters, try using an email address from your domain. Do not use Gmail or Yahoo. This way, make sure it is you and not someone else.
Keep track of your best backlinks. For this, you can use the tools. Go to your list of backlinks and sort them by social activity or Page Rank. Then add tags to the backlinks you value the most. It will help you verify if any of them get removed. Keep monitoring till the status changes.
4 Secure Your Website from Malware and Hackers
You very well know that security is essential. The last thing you want is spam on your website without you knowing about it. There are several things you can do to secure your website.
Is Negative SEO a Real Threat?
Yes, it is a threat. Negative SEO is real, and several websites must deal with this problem. Remember that preventing it is much easier than fixing it.
Negative SEO attacks have indeed reduced recently, but you need to take precautionary steps to avoid affecting your website.
Negative SEO was once a massive threat to websites and webmasters. But when Google expanded into natural language processing, negative SEO became less of a threat than it once was. The reason being Google typically ignores irrelevant and low-quality links.
But keep that from taking control of your website. While successful negative SEO attacks have become very rare, they can still have a massive negative impact on your website’s traffic.
You are not alone if you feel you have been the victim of a negative SEO attack. People have experienced multiple hits. You can find several such attacks.
Google’s Disavow Tool helps webmasters deal with this problem. But note that the tool should be used with caution and only as a last resort. It would roughly take 2-4 weeks for the tool to work. Keeping your website down for so many days could have adverse consequences. Therefore, you should take steps how you can prevent these attacks and keep your business safe.
You should be aware of all the practices associated with negative SEO. Generating spammy / toxic backlinks, duplicating content, and posting fake reviews – might have an actual connection to SEO.
All in all, negative SEO could indeed be harmful. The scope of its aftermath will depend on various preconditions. The best way to protect against it is to take all the necessary precautions. These precautions will help any attack to bounce right off your website. Therefore, constantly check your website using different tools to be aware of the potential problems that may appear occasionally.