SEO is incredibly competitive, so it’s not uncommon for some businesses to resort to less than ethical ways to topple your rating and position themselves better. Suppose you suddenly notice your website loading speed is lower. Your website keeps crashing, and something strange is going on with your traffic. Your online reviews are seriously harming your reputation, and your ranking is significantly lower. In that case, you are most likely a victim of negative SEO attacks. As you can assume, all of the effects mentioned above are terrible for your business and online reputation. Thus, it’s crucial to learn how to protect your website from negative SEO attacks. 

What are negative SEO attacks?

Before you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself, you need to understand what you are protecting yourself from. 

Negative SEO involves using various black-hat SEO tactics to harm other websites and their ranking in search results. Your attacker may use only one method to sabotage your website, or they can combine a few tactics. 

The most common black-hat SEO tactics involve:

  1. Hacking
  2. Building spammy backlinks
  3. Removing quality backlinks
  4. Duplicating content
  5. Creating fake reviews

Hacking a website

Hacking is a job performed by savvy computer experts who want to hijack a company’s website. Once they establish control over a website, they perform spammy activities. 

It is also possible that a competitor hires a third-party hacker to do this as a negative SEO attack. Unfortunately, while this is cybercrime, you will be the one who gets punished by Google and other search engines. 

Building spammy backlinks

If there is one thing that Google can’t stand, it’s spamming. Any attempt of it will be penalized. Activities considered spamming include:

Comment spam

Forum spam

Keyword stuffing

Such actions are often done by bots. 

Removing quality backlinks

Building a backing network is important for your SEO strategy and one of the factors that help you rank better. Acquiring backing from high-quality websites can do wonders for your own authority. However, a competitor can contact the website owner and request the removal of our links. 

Duplicating content

Search engines value uniqueness and quality. So, duplicate content will be penalized. If you notice that someone has stolen your content, you are probably a victim of negative SEO. 

Creating fake reviews

Reviews are crucial for local businesses, so creating fake reviews to harm competition is a prevalent black-hat SEO tactic. It is easy to create fake accounts and pay people to write bad reviews for your company on Yelp, Google, or other review sites. 

How to protect your website from negative SEO attacks

Negative SEO cat ruin months of your hard work. The good news is it doesn’t happen that often. Such practices are frowned upon among SEO professionals and are becoming increasingly difficult to perform. However, there will always be marketers who try to topple the competition instead of doing the hard work to rank better

Although it’s not that common to fall victim to a negative SEO attack, it is a valid danger. Thus, it’s wise to take preventive measures to protect your website from negative SEO attacks. 

Here are some of them:

  1. Watch for traffic spikes and slumps
  2. Search for duplicate content
  3. Audit backlinks
  4. Update website security
  5. Deal with fake reviews

Watch for traffic slumps and spikes

Spikes in website traffic can be the welcome result of your marketing activities, such as:

  • Online sale
  • Social media campaigns
  • Email marketing
  • PPC

However, if you notice an unexpected spike, it is a red flag. One harmful tactic is to spam comment sections on websites, forums, or blogs with low-quality links to the victim’s website.  

Google Analytics is a great way to track website traffic, but you need to know what to pay special attention to. The crucial metrics include traffic from:

  • Referrals
  • SEO
  • Paid advertising
  • Email

If you see anything strange, do the Referrals report to determine where the unexpected visitors are coming from. 

Google Analytics will also help you make sense of sudden slumps. Routinely check your website traffic, and if you see sudden drops, it’s a problem. 

Search for duplicate content

As mentioned, quality and value are what Google and other search engines reward. Your content must be optimized, unique, relevant, and informative. Low-quality content won’t get the attention. 

One black-hat tactic is to scrape content from one website and duplicate it on junk domains. If Google indexes that content on the junk domain before it does it on the original website, the original one loses SEO.

Routinely check for duplicate content, and the moment you see your content published elsewhere, contact the website owner and request immediate removal.  

Audit backlinks

It’s normal for your link profile to grow as your business grows, making it crucial to review it every once in a while. Typically, your link profile will steadily develop. But, if there is a sudden spike in link volume, something foul is at play. 

You can use Google’s disavow option to remove unwanted links. 

Update website security

Negative SEO is not the only danger to worry about when it comes to your online presence. There are constant virus and malware threats. So, beefing up your website security is a must. Here is what to do:

  • Use complex passwords and limit the number of people who can access it
  • Update all the security patches
  • Equip your CMS with encryption
  • Switch your website from HTTP to HTTPS (especially if you have a retail site that stores sensitive customer data)

Deal with fake reviews

Bad reviews are exceptionally harmful to a business. Of course, you will get them organically, and they will be a perfect opportunity to learn from your mistakes, improve your service or product, and learn how to handle the response without damaging your reputation.

However, you are most likely under attack if you have a sudden surge of bad reviews. The good news is that Google and other review sites have an option to flag and report posts that you believe are fake. 

The bottom line

As we have mentioned, negative SEO is not such a common occurrence. If there is something wrong with your website performance, it pays to look for another explanation. But, although they are that frequent, black-hat SEO tactics are a real threat, so it’s crucial to protect your website from negative SEO attacks, just in case. 

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