Negative SEO and your site: Simple solutions to protect your rankings
If you want to get found in the search engines, you need to work on your search engine optimization (SEO). However, what if someone—like a competitor—was actively trying to hurt your own efforts?
This practice is known as negative SEO. And while the chances of it happening to your site are small, it is still something to take seriously.
Here’s a guide to what it is and how you can protect your business from negative SEO.
What Is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is when someone uses malicious tactics to affect your SEO on purpose. This usually means using black-hat SEO techniques against your site so that it looks like you are trying to cheat the system. As a result, you get punished by the search engines.
Google and other search companies provide guidance about the types of practices that you should avoid when optimizing your website for search. You may avoid doing these, but that doesn’t stop someone else from using them against you.
Types of Negative SEO
There are many types of negative SEO that can be used against your business website. The most common is to point lots of spam links at your site. This makes it look like you have been building spam links to boost your ranking, and Google can spot these and penalize your site.
This is more common following the Penguin algorithm update, which made creating such links a big problem for ranking websites.
Another technique is to hack your website. This is a bit more involved, but it can be devastating if it happens to you. Search engines don’t want hacked sites showing up in their results, so you are unlikely to show up when your target customers search for you if you have been hacked.
Writing fake reviews is another common strategy. This makes it look like you have paid for reviews rather than earned them. Again, this can hurt your ranking.
Creating fake profiles on social media sites is another way to carry out negative SEO. Again, it suggests that you have been doing this deliberately to boost your rankings, and it also hurts your reputation.
Tactics for Preventing Negative SEO
It may seem like there is nothing you can do if someone decides to attack your business website using a negative SEO technique. But there are actually a number of preventative measures you can take.
First of all, make sure you keep a close eye on your bank-link profile. Make it a regular habit to check your links and find out if there are any dodgy looking links there, especially links that you have not created, and especially when they are present in large numbers.
If you see spam links that you don’t want, you can disavow them using Google’s disavow tool. Or you can simply contact the website’s owner and ask them to remove the links.
You can also monitor the web for duplicate content. This is a way for spammers to affect your SEO. They copy your content and distribute it all over the internet, and it looks like you have done it yourself. Use a tool like Copyscape to check for copied content and then contact the site owner or report it to Google.
You should also take general security measures to protect your site from hacking. Alert your staff to the dangers of phishing, use updated antivirus software, and improve your passwords. Aim for longer passwords that are completely random and feature a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters.
You can also use Google Search Console to monitor your site and detect when something is not right. You can receive alerts when something is wrong, allowing you to act quickly.
Also monitor the web for mentions of your business name. This is something you should be doing anyway as part of your reputation management, and it can alert you to fake social accounts being created in your name.
You can also hire an SEO firm, or if you are an SEO company that wants to offer this service, consider a white label SEO solution.
What If You Are Affected?
Always take action quickly if you find out that your business website has been affected by negative SEO. Although it is unlikely, it is still a possibility.
Use Google’s disavow tool, report fake social media profiles to get them taken down, and put even more focus on white-hat SEO to counteract any damage caused by the malicious practices.
Unfortunately, negative SEO is a reality that businesses have to live with. Hopefully, you will never be affected, but don’t get complacent. Always take preventative measures to avoid becoming a victim in the first place, and if you ever notice that something is wrong, act quickly or get an expert to help you.
Peter Fischer is a SEO consultant who also has a background in web-design and social media marketing – He wears many hats and helps small businesses find their feet when it comes to websites.