The threat of negative SEO is far, but daunting. How easy is it for competitors to ruin your rankings and how do you protect your site? But before we begin, what is negative SEO and what it definitely isn’t? Let’s be clear.
Negative SEO is a set of activities aimed at lowering a competitor’s ranking in search results. These activities are often off-page (for example, creating unnatural links to your site, scraping and reposting content, etc.). However, in some cases, it may also involve hacking the site or modifying the content.
Negative SEO is not The most likely explanation for the sudden ranking drop. Before you decide that someone is hurting your ranking on purpose, let’s consider the more common reasons why rankings drop. Here’s a comprehensive list.
Negative off-page SEO
This kind of negative SEO targets sites without interfering internally. Here are the most common forms that negative off-page SEO can take:
One or two spammy links rarely affect a site’s ranking. As such, negative SEO attacks usually involve building links from groups of interconnected sites, or link farms. Most of these links usually use the same anchor text. These exact match anchors may have nothing to do with the site under attack. Alternatively, you can include niche keywords to make your site’s link profile look like you’re manipulating it.
Some time ago this happened with WP Bacon, a WordPress podcast site. In a short period of time, the site has amassed thousands of links with the anchor text “Porn Movies”. In 10 days, WP Bacon dropped over 50 positions for the majority of keywords ranked on Google. But this story has a happy ending. The webmaster disavowed the spammy domain and in the end he WP Bacon regained most of its ranking.
How to stay safe: You can’t prevent negative SEO attacks, but you can catch them early and reverse the damage. To do so, you should regularly monitor the growth of your link profile. For example, SEO SpyGlass provides progress graphs for both the number of links in your profile and the number of referring domains. An unusual spike in any of these graphs is reason enough to look into the links you suddenly acquired.
To actually see the links that make up the spike, domain link (Also back link) Sort links in SEO SpyGlass dashboard. Last found date Click the column header twice. Look for links found around the same time the graph spike appeared.
If you don’t know where the links are coming from, it’s useful to check those links penalty riskswitch to . Link Penalty Risk tab, select the suspicious backlink you just discovered, update link penalty riskIn a few minutes the columns should be populated with values on a scale of 0 to 100. This is a very accurate indicator for determining if a link is coming from a link farm. In particular, find out how many domains you link to are from the same IP address or C block.
Finally, once you’ve identified spam links, you can create a disavow file with SEO SpyGlass. To do this, right-click on the backlink/link domain and select deny (Be sure to select entire domain under deny mode). Do the same for every unnatural link you find.Finally, go to Preferences > Disavow Backlinks/Blacklistcheck the disavow file and if everything is ok export it.
Scraping and copying content to other sites is another way competitors can ruin your rankings. When Google finds duplicate content on multiple sites, it generally chooses only one version to rank. In most cases, Google is clever enough to identify the original work, unless it finds a “stolen” version first. I will repost.
How to stay safe: Copyscape is an essential tool if you ever decide to find duplicate instances of your content. If you find a scraped copy of your content, we recommend that you first contact the webmaster and ask them to remove the piece. If that doesn’t work, we encourage you to report the scraper using Google’s Copyright Infringement Report.
There have been instances of desperate site owners forcing competitors’ sites to crawl to overload their servers and crash them. If Googlebot can’t reach your site several times in a row, it can cause your rank to drop, as you’d expect.
How to stay safe: If you notice that your site has become slow or, worse, unavailable, it is wise to contact your hosting company or webmaster. It should tell you what is causing the load. If you have some knowledge of server logs, here are step-by-step instructions for finding malicious crawlers and blocking them with robots.txt and .htaccess.
Negative on-page SEO
Negative on-page SEO attacks are much more difficult to implement. These include hacks and modifications to the site. The main his SEO threats posed by hacker attacks are:
If someone changes your content, you’ll notice, but this tactic can be very subtle and hard to spot. When attackers add spam her content (usually a link) to a site, they often hide it (e.g. under “display:none” in HTML). So you won’t know without looking at the code.
Another possible negative SEO scenario is someone modifying your page and redirecting to theirs. This isn’t a threat to most small businesses, but if your site enjoys high authority and link popularity, someone could increase your site’s PageRank or have visitors try to visit your site. It can be a sneaky way to simply redirect to that site when you do so. If Google finds the redirect before the user does, it can penalize the site as a “redirect to malicious website”.
How to stay safe: Regular site audits using tools like WebSite Auditor are the best way to find subtle attacks like this. To start your first audit, launch Website Auditor and create a project for your site. Whenever you need to rerun the audit, Rebuild project button. As long as you do this regularly, you should be able to spot changes that you might not otherwise notice, such as the number of outgoing links on your site or pages with redirects.
To explore these links or redirects in detail, all resources go through the dashboard External resource section. If you see an unexpected increase in these numbers, check the list on the right to see where those links are located, and at the bottom of the screen the page where they were found.
2. Unindex your site
A small change to robots.txt is one of those changes that can wreak havoc on your entire SEO strategy. You can force Google to completely ignore your website by simply setting a disallow rule.
There are multiple examples of this online, including this story. Client fired her SEO agency for not being satisfied. not allowed: / Add a rule to the client’s robots.txt.
How to stay safe: Regular ranking checks can help you be the first to know if your site has been removed from the index. With Rank Tracker, you can schedule automated checks to run daily or weekly. If your site suddenly drops out of search engine results, Dropped Please note difference digit.
When this happens with a large number of keywords, it usually means a penalty or index removal. If you suspect the latter, check your crawl stats in your Google Search Console account and inspect your robots.txt.
Hacking the site (itself)
Even if the hackers don’t have negative SEO in mind, the attack itself can hurt SEO. Google wants to protect you. So if we suspect a site has been hacked, we may lower the site’s rank, or at least add a line to the search list that says “This site may have been hacked.”
Click on such result?
How to stay safe: Negative SEO aside, hardening your site’s security should be high on your list of priorities for obvious reasons. This topic deserves its own post, but you can find some great tips here and here.
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