“SEO Spam”, “Black Hat SEO”, “Dirty SEO”, whatever you want to call it has been around for years and you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking it is becoming less prolific with each search engine algorithm update.
I’m here to tell you, you are wrong.
Read Part 1: What is Black Hat SEO?
These techniques are still going strong. It’s just not fair when you’re following Google’s guidelines like they’re written on stone tablets. You’re following all the White Hat SEO practices, ticking off each box, yet your competitors are still outranking you? Well as black hat SEO becomes harder and harder to execute and achieve long-term results, it has evolved into “Negative SEO”.
We’re here to help you understand what negative SEO is and how you can protect your business from becoming the victim. If you’re serious about your brand reputation, this is something you should not ignore.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO refers to the practice of using black hat and unethical techniques to sabotage a competitor’s rank in the search engine results page (SERP). These attacks can take a number of different forms:
- Hacking your website with malware
- Spammy links pointing to your website
- Redistributing your content all over the internet
- Creating fake social profiles and ruining your reputation online
- Removing the best backlinks your website has
- Pointing links for Viagra, online poker, pornography, and many others to your website
How Real is the Negative SEO threat?
It is very real and for some big business. If you conduct a quick search on Fiverr for “negative SEO”, you will find many people willing to do sell this service.
Or stop by the many black hat forums, and you find them full of stories from people who have had success with this technique.
Google has released the Disavow Links Tool to help webmasters deal with this problem, but the tool should only be used with caution and as a last resort. It generally takes 2-4 weeks for the tool to work. Can you afford to have your website penalized for almost a month?
How do I prevent Negative SEO Attacks from my competitors?
Step 1: Set up Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts
Google can send you email alerts when:
- You get a manual penalty from Google
- You have server connectivity problems
- Your pages are not indexed
- Your website is being attacked by malware
If you haven’t already, connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools. Log in to your account and click “Webmaster Tools Preferences.” Enable email notifications to receive alerts for all types of issues.
Let’s move on to Step 2, a very important step, monitoring your backlinks profile.
Step 2: Track your site’s Backlinks
Backlinks are the easiest way for spammers to succeed in a negative SEO campaign. This makes this step the most important action for you to take. Malicious hacks and spammers build a network of low-quality links or redirects to your website. Knowing when this is happening is vital to the health of your SEO.
You can use tools like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer, to manually check if there is a negative SEO campaign being built against your website. An easier solution is a service like MonitorBacklinks.com. It’s one of the easiest tools and will send you email alerts when your website is gaining or losing important backlinks.
Instead of having to manually check your backlinks every day, Monitor Backlinks sends everything you need to your inbox!
Step 3: Protect your best Backlinks
Spammers will try to remove your best backlinks. They go so far as contacting the website owner of the link, impersonating you and request the webmaster remove your backlink.
Do these two things to prevent this from happening.
- Always communicate with webmasters from an email address with your domain, instead of Gmail or Hotmail. This proves that you work for the website and that it’s not someone pretending to be you. Your email should look like this: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Keep track of your best backlinks using the services above.
Step 4: Secure your website from hackers and malware
Having a secure website is extremely important and not just for e-commerce. Malicious users will attempt to place malware on your site that creates spam links without you even knowing it. There are several things you can do to secure your website.
- Running WordPress? Follow these 17 steps to harden your site.
- Create and enforce strong passwords with numbers and special characters.
- Create backups of your files and database on a daily basis, or more often if your content changes quickly.
- If you allow users to upload files, make sure your hosting company has installed antivirus software to prevent malware.
Step 5: Is there duplicate content out there
Another common technique used by spammers is content duplication. They copy your website content and post it any and everywhere they can. If a lot of your content is duplicated across multiple sites, the possibility of Google penalizing your website and losing rankings increases.
Copyscape.com provides are great service to find duplicate pages on the internet. It will show you if your content has been published without your permission.
Step 6: Social media mentions monitoring
A growing practice involves spammers creating fake social media accounts using variations of your company or website name. Report these profiles as spam quickly before they start getting followers.
Mention.net can be used to search who is using your brand name. As soon as someone mentions your name on any social media or website, you will be informed. This will allow you to take action or not.
Step 7: Monitor your website speed
Are you suddenly noticing an increase in load time for your site? You need to make sure it’s not because of a malicious attack sending thousands of requests per second to your server. If you don’t act fast, this could shut down your server.
A simple way to monitor your server load time and uptime is Pingdom.com.
Step 8: Don’t make enemies online
Just like in day to day life, there is no reason to create online enemies. You never know who you are truly dealing with online or who they know. Undermined or disgruntled people like to prove they are smarter than you, and they do this:
- For fun
- For revenge
- Outrank you in search engines
Step 9: Don’t use black hat SEO techniques
SEO results can cause even the best of us to become impatient with how slowly our website’s ranking is changing. This causes us to toy with the idea of using black hat SEO techniques. Well don’t, these will hurt you more than you gain in the long term.
Fight Negative SEO against your website
So, someone has started a negative SEO campaign against you. Here’s what you can do.
Step 1: Scrub your backlink list for links to be removed
Remember Step 2 above? This is where that list comes in handy. You can see new links as they are created and identify the bad ones, so you can remove them. Manually review each link you have determined to possibly be hurting your rankings, and try to remove them.
Process these links as soon as you are aware of them if they look like spam.
Step 2: Work at removing the bad links
Once you’ve identified the bad backlinks, contact the webmaster of the website and request that your link be removed. If they don’t have a contact page, use Whois.com/whois to find a contact email address. Using the root domain of the website you are trying to contact, look for “registrant email”.
If your link is not removed, and you don’t get an answer, you can proceed with contacting the company that’s hosting the website and ask them to remove the spammy links. Most hosting companies will help you and remove the links. Use WhoIsHostingThis.com to find out the web host.
Step 3: Google’s Disavow Links Tool
As a last resort, you can use the Google Disavow Links Tool once you have received a manual penalty. Once you’ve exhausted the above methods, create a disavow list that you can later submit to Google Webmaster Tools.
Or simply hire My Brother Darryl
Simply put, many businesses find that the most effective way to protect their online reputation is to outsource their security and maintenance to us. Let’s have a chat and see if My Brother Darryl is a good fit for you!
Also published on Medium.