What is the purpose of your website if not to rank highly in engine searches? Reports reveal that over 90% of all traffic comes from Google and other engines, so it’s practically impossible to build a successful site without a comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Most of the time, underperformance suggests that your optimization strategy is not working as planned, but there is also a fraction of cases where webmasters have to deal with negative SEO. Although not too frequent, negative SEO is a well-known concept that can deteriorate your search engine ranking or even jeopardize the functioning of your site as a whole.
In such circumstances, you should stay alert and keep track of suspicious activities that could destroy months of hard work. Our goal is to help you with that, so keep reading to learn the basics of negative SEO and the most effective ways to protect your website from it.
Negative SEO: Definition and Common Practices
Before we show you the ways to protect the website against harmful optimization practices, it is important to explain the concept and see what it means in practice.
By definition, negative SEO is any malicious attack taken against your website in an attempt to harm your rankings. Sometimes you’ll hear people using the phrase “black hat SEO,” which is another way to describe aggressive and unethical ways to mess with the search engine algorithm.
As you can see, negative SEO is the opposite of traditional optimization strategies. Jake Gardner, an essay writer who specializes in SEO, says negative optimization comes in many different forms, but the most common use-cases are these:
- Creating tons of spammy links to your website.
- Content scraping, the practice of stealing your content and redistributing it across other websites.
- Using obscene and indecent keywords in links that are redirected to your website.
- Hacking a site to make it dysfunctional and ruin its performance.
- Creating lots of fake social accounts to spread negative comments about a given business and its website.
- Stealing the most valuable backlinks from your website to interfere with search engine ranking.
- Writing online reviews on your behalf just to make them look spammy and paid for.
All of these practices can seriously hurt your site, but the next chapter will show you how to fend off negative SEO attempts.
11 Ways to Cope with Negative SEO
There are so many ways to protect against negative SEO attacks, but we made a list of 11 tactics that proved to work well in most cases. Without further ado, let’s check them out here:
1. Look for sudden traffic spikes and drops
If you’ve been analyzing common SEO principles lately, you’ve probably figured out that websites can hardly experience massive traffic spikes or drops all of a sudden. This is exactly why you should keep an eye on it because it’s the most frequent indicator of black hat SEO.
Thanks to Google Analytics, you can monitor website performance easily and pinpoint suspicious activities almost instantly. It will be enough to identify spam and negative referrals made with the purpose of harming your search engine ranking.
2. Conduct regular link audits
The second tip on our list goes hand in hand with the previous one. A diligent webmaster should regularly conduct link audits regardless of negative SEO, but the tactic becomes even more important if you have to deal with malicious attacks.
The goal is to analyze the popularity of each page separately and react as soon as you notice a sudden non-organic change. Even if your site gets hacked, a prompt reaction will help you to set things right quickly.
3. Monitor keyword CTR
A negative SEO strategist may target your keywords by giving them thousands of clicks just to abandon the page as soon as it loads. Such a tactic boosts your bounce rate, while search engines interpret it as the sign of poor user experience.
Your job is to monitor the click-through rate of your keywords in order to detect search terms and phrases with an unusually high number of hits. That way, you can reply to malicious attempts and protect the reputation of your website.
4. Enable alerts in Google Search Console
You’ve probably figured out that the tactics we mentioned above demand a lot of hard work in the long run. This may be overwhelming for a typical webmaster, which is why you should enable alerts in Google Search Console.
The platform can automate the process and watch for suspicious activities on your behalf. At the same time, you will be notified via email in case something strange starts happening. You won’t have to waste time anymore, but your site will remain protected nonetheless.
5. Keep an eye on page load speed
It doesn’t take an optimization guru to realize that modern users prefer fast websites with pages that load in a second or two. Search engines understand that as well, so they reward fast websites and lower the ranking of slower ones.
Negative SEO specialists can burden your server, thus causing serious website performance issues. In case you notice this kind of malicious activity, make sure to consult with the hosting provider to pinpoint the source of the problem.
6. Check your SERP ranking regularly
A studious webmaster will pay attention to SERP ranking regularly because it reveals whether his/her SEO strategy really works. However, this is yet another way to identify negative SEO as you might be facing a significant drop in search engine ranking.
For example, you might be running the top essay writing service with lots of competitors willing to steal your ranking position. In such circumstances, you should prepare for possible malicious intent and be ready to respond instantly.
7. Keep track of negative online reviews
Every business is doing its best to improve professional authority, but an avalanche of negative reviews can seriously undermine your attempts to build a trustworthy brand. Competitors might even use fake reviews as a negative SEO tactic because users rarely ever visit websites with poor testimonials.
Therefore, you should constantly monitor online directories such as Yelp to look for brand-related comments. If you notice a lot of negative reviews, do your best to flag them as fraudulent.
8. Keep track of social mentions
Similar to online reviews, you should also pay attention to negative social mentions. There are all sorts of social reputation management platforms to test here, so try to find the one that suits you the most and use it to follow all brand-related comments on social networks.
9. Beware of duplicate content
Content marketing has become one of the most efficient business strategies, but there is a way to turn it into the SEO killer. How come?
Well, malicious SEO strategists could copy your content – new posts in particular – and paste it to a bunch of low-authority domains. Google will often index such content before crawling your website, so you might end up losing authority because of duplicate content.
A simple tool such as Copyscape can help you to overcome the obstacle. Use it to analyze your content and find websites that scraped it. After that, you can ask for content removal from these sites directly or from Google’s Copyright Removal pages.
10. Upgrade website security
Some of the most common negative SEO techniques target websites with poor security mechanisms. If you are not sure whether your site is fully protected, you have to upgrade security and build a system that will make your content safe and sound.
This means you ought to conduct updates on time, install antivirus software, and activate cybersecurity plugins if available. Besides that, it is important to select the right content management platform with a whole set of reliable safety features.
11. Avoid black hat SEO
The last tip on our list is fairly simple – do not use black hat SEO in your work. Avoid keyword stuffing and do not purchase backlinks. Play the game fairly and it will pay off long-term.
Up to You!
Negative SEO is far from being a common thing in the online realm, but all it takes is one attempt to destroy your content creation efforts. It’s much better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to keep an eye on website performance and identify threats before it’s too late.
In this article, we discussed the basics of negative SEO and showed you the most effective ways to protect your website from it. We hope you learned enough to successfully cope with black hat strategies, but feel free to write a comment if you need additional explanations!