When you work on your SEO to improve your visibility in the search engines, your main focus is naturally on doing everything possible to make sure you stick to Google’s guidelines and avoid penalties. So what happens when someone targets your site with damaging SEO tactics?
Unfortunately, the results can be disastrous. Negative SEO is a real and growing problem, so what is it, and how can you defend yourself from it?
Negative SEO Overview
Negative SEO is essentially when someone attacks your site by using tactics that will hurt your rankings in the search engines. The most common way of doing this is to create toxic links to a website.
This has become a common tactic ever since the Google Penguin algorithm update came into force in 2012. This update detected websites that had too many spam links in a bid to try and manipulate the rankings, and it penalized websites for this by affecting their search engine rankings.
Building links to a website is something anyone can do, so the basic negative SEO tactic is to build a huge number of low-quality spam links to your website to hurt your SEO. This could be done by your competitors, or it could be done as a threat where you receive an email threatening a negative SEO attack unless you pay the attacker money.
If your website gets hit by thousands of spam links, there are things you can do to reduce the damage. However, the effects on your site can be long lasting and can take many months to fully rectify.
The threat is a growing one, especially for larger websites in competitive industries. One of the key forms of defense is to act quickly. So how should you detect negative SEO activity?
Detecting Negative SEO
The best way to detect the signs of negative SEO activity is to check your backlinks all the time. You can do this my monitoring your site’s link portfolio, and there are many tools that can help you do this effectively such as Open Site Explorer, or you can just check your backlink profile in Google Webmaster Tools.
If you see a spike in backlinks, especially from spammy sites, this could indicate a problem. If only a few links appear, this may not be too much to worry about because you need lots of links to get an SEO penalty. But it is still important to see how your link profile is changing so you can act quickly.
If you do not check your link profile, the first thing you may know about an attack is when you receive a message from Google with a warning. However, it’s best to detect any problems before this happens.
If this all sounds like something you would rather leave in the hands of experts, considering hiring a top SEO outsourcing firm to monitor your SEO and act quickly in the event that a problem arises. A good SEO company can also help you to build a strong link profile to reduce the effect of any toxic links being directed at your website.
Dealing with an Attack
If you detect the signs of a possible attack, you need to act quickly. The first thing you should do is make a list of the links you do not want and then contact the webmasters to ask them to remove the links. However, this can take a long time if there are hundreds or thousands of such links.
The other key tool in your fight against negative SEO is the Google Disavow Tool. Google originally provided this tool as a way for webmasters to clean up their link profile after having engaged in bad link-building tactics in the past. However, it can just as easily be used to report links that you do not want to be in your profile.
Will Negative SEO Always Be a Threat?
Google will probably bring in changes to reduce the risk of negative SEO tactics in the future. For example, it may come up with a more efficient way to spot the signs of an attack. But for now, the advice is simple. Be vigilant, keep a close eye on your link profile, and act quickly. The sooner you pick up on an attack, the sooner you can address it.
Be Vigilant Against Negative Practices
The golden rule is to be vigilant to what is going on with your links at all times so that you can act on any negative SEO quickly and reduce the potential damage. At the same time, be vigilant against other forms of attack. This could include someone trying to remove your strongest backlinks to hurt your SEO.
Enable email notifications from Google so that you will receive an email as soon as a problem arises. And if you do spot anything suspicious, act quickly to avoid the worst effects.
Edward Barner works as a marketing consultant. He enjoys writing about what has worked for him over the years. His articles appear mainly on business and marketing sites.