Negative SEO: How to Defend Your Site Like A Boss

Negative SEO
Written by Saurabh

Would you like your website’s ranking and reputation got damaged just because someone ran Negative SEO campaign against you?

Negative SEO?

Yes, it is not a myth it’s real. However, it’s rare but a legitimate danger you don’t dare to ignore.

Ignoring it could cost you website ranking, traffic, revenue and much more.

Sounds scary?

Yeah, it is.

But the good news is you can defend your website against negative SEO only if could identify them earlier.

But first, let’s take a look…

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO is nothing but practicing black hat SEO techniques on another site.

Usually, people like to follow Google guidelines while doing SEO and watch their websites ranking without worrying about Google algorithm updates.

On the other hand, there are some impatient SEO companies and people who choose shortcuts and bring down his competitors’ site by building malicious and spammy backlinks.

Luckily, you can prevent your site against negative SEO before it damages your website ranking and reputation.

No matter if you have already a victim, might have a threat of negative SEO or just want to protect your site…

…the actions I’m going to show you next will help you to protect your website from negative SEO.

#1. Perform Regular Link Audits

Performing link audits is good for any company, but it can be more useful when you have encountered negative SEO.

Monitoring your traffic growth is a good way to identify any suspicious activity before it goes out of your control.

Generally, traffic spike increases when you do some extra effort such as link building or paid promotion.

On the contrary, if you haven’t done any link building or paid advertising recently, but still your website’s traffic graph is increasing, take that as a sign something is wrong.

It could be possible your competitors might be running negative SEO campaign against your website.

In fact:

Robert Neu, founder of WP Bacon, a WordPress podcast site has already have faced this issue in 2014 when one of his competitors ran negative SEO campaign against his site and build thousands of links with the anchor text “porn movie.”

It didn’t only cost him lots of traffic and views, but also one of his main keywords dropped from first place to 50 spots.

Luckily, after some time he was able to get his site’s traffic and ranking back after removing spam backlinks.

Though, it took his lots of time to bargaining from webmasters to remove those spammy links.

I guess you wouldn’t like to fall in the above situation because you know what it costs.

Better you monitor your traffic health carefully to catch any suspicious activity and save your website from negative SEO.

You can use link auditing software or do a manual audit to check on your backlinks’ health.

Inform Google ASAP and disavow the links if you are a victim of link farm spamming.

#2. Pay Attention to Your Site Speed

Site speed is more than a ranking factor. In fact, it plays an important role in conversion.

If you see your site is taking a time to load, while everything looks fine. There might be someone is forceful crawling your website.

Forceful crawling reasons a heavy server load, that makes your site slower and sometimes might even crash.

The first thing you do to resolve crawling attack gets in touch with your hosting company as well as webmasters and try to figure out where loads are coming from.

#3. Search for Copied Content

Since content marketing has become marketer’s favourite marketing tactic, everyone is trying to use it for their own good.

Since then marketers are trying to create more creative content, but still a majority of people using scrapped content for content marketing.

Scrapping has become a fashion.

Scrapping is nothing but copying one website content and publish it to another site.

Often people who copy content from your site claim that his own to fill his website’s thin content.

The worst thing is sometimes they even link farm spam content to your website. In that case, content scrapping could be dangerous.

Furthermore, if the copied content on attacker’s site indexed first, then Google will consider your original content as a duplicate and punish your website with a lower ranking.

In order to avoid that situation, a tool like Copyscape comes handy. Using it, you can easily know if anyone has plagiarized your content.

If you see someone has stolen your content ask them politely to remove if they aren’t responding don’t get rude.

Just fill out Google’s Copyright Removal form and Google will take care the rest.

#4. Monitor Google My Business

I know negative reviews hurt, especially, when you’re working hard to build your online reputation and trying to establish your business as a brand.

Few negative reviews are okay – you can take it as a learning experience.

How about when your business flooded with negative reviews?

It’s the time to get serious unless you’ve made some blunder mistake in public recently. If not then it could be possible someone is trying post fake reviews against your site.

If you don’t act fast, you might damage your online reputation badly.

To save your online reputation, you should keep an eye on your Google My Business listing as well as other platforms using social media monitoring software.

#5. Carefully Monitor Your Keywords’ CTR

Pogo Sticking – Google hates that when people come to your site through search engine and leave immediately without spending much time.

It sends a signal to Google that site is low quality and isn’t worthy to be on the top in SERP.

In late 2014, Bartosz Goralewicz had a client’s site that was getting thousands of hits, but no user was staying more than a few seconds.

It affected his site’s rankings — because Google thought they have bad UX.

What actually was happening someone had run a bot that programmed to send false hits for a particular keyword and return immediately after landing his site as a signal bad UX.

This type of attack is hard to catch unless you don’t monitor your keyword’s CTR carefully.

How can you monitor your keyword’s CTR?

Simply, log into Google Search Console, click Search Traffic > Search Analytics, and analyze your all keywords click through rate.

If you don’t find a valid reason of increased CTR, contact Google and request them for disavowing the offending links.

#6. Monitor Your SERP Ranking

I don’t think I need to tell to check your SERP ranking time to time but here is a valid reason you should do – because a sudden drop in ranking could be a cause of negative SEO.

While, complete de-indexing can be possible of hacking.

Although it’s rare, I’ve seen the case where hackers hacked the site and changed the robots.txt file to say Disallow: / after that left the site as it was.

You can imagine how scary it could be to deindexing the whole site from SERP.

By the way, in late 2014, Moz found a perfect way to deal with this situation where they took help of Google’s URL removal tool to remove Followerwonk from the web.

…and within few hours all Followerwonk links had practically removed from Google SERPs.

As you know Penguin’s getting refreshed in real-time, therefore, you can expect changes could happen much faster.

The good thing is you can recover with it, but only if you could find the root causes of sudden drop ranking, otherwise be ready to pay more money and ranking.

In order to check your site’s health, use rank tracking software and analyze your site’s visibility.

If you see any sudden drop in ranking the first thing you can do is check your website’s crawl stats in Google Search Console.

Also, see if your robots.txt is still set up properly.

#7. Update Your Security

Though Negative SEO is not all common, the cyber attack is growing year by year, and it could cost a lot more than you can imagine.

Recently global ransomware cyber attack damage costs are predicted to exceed $5 billion in 2017.

Make sure the software, WordPress plugins and themes you are using are updated and secure enough to protect you from future threats.

If you are running an e-commerce site make sure you’ve shifted your site from HTTP to HTTPS, especially, if you are storing user’s personal information and other sensitive data.

HTTPS is now a ranking signal; it doesn’t only protect your site but also improve your overall SEO.

Although this may be true, cyber attack is not a negative SEO, but it can affect your ranking. Google shows a message “this site may be hacked” line into the search listing when it senses some hacking threats, and of course, that will affect ranking.

Final Thoughts!

Negative SEO is rare, and most of the time Google catch it before it harms your website.

But still you can’t rely on Google, you have to take the initiative to protect your site from shady SEO.

Let me know if you have a victim of negative SEO ever, and yes how did you overcome with that?

Author Bio:

Umesh Singh is digital marketer by profession and blogger by heart. He is also co-founder of Curious Blogger. Where he shares expert blogging, money making, SEO and content marketing tips.

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