As a credible business that has built its brand on trust, the thought of using negative SEO against your competitors in order to succeed likely seems highly unethical. And you’re right! But there are those who are willing to use SEO to damage the online performance of their competitors.
So, what do you do if you are the victim of a negative SEO attack?
As technology advances, the tactics that blackhat SEO operatives use to take down other businesses become more complex. But it is possible to repair any damage that has been done, and reverse any depreciation in your rankings and online authority.
In this article, we’re sharing the top ways to bring your website back to its original standings and protect yourself against any further negative SEO tactics:
1. MONITOR YOUR BACKLINKS REGULARLY
One of the most commonly used negative SEO ploys is to direct low-quality links (aka “spam links”) to a website. This results in the attacked site being penalized by Google for having trash sites connected to it.
Alternatively, it is not unheard of for negative SEO users to find any high-authority, credible links you have established as part of your SEO marketing strategy and remove them from the host site. This is yet another way to pull the positive traction your site has made and damage your online prevalence.
The best way to counter these kinds of attacks is to continuously monitor your backlinks using a tool like SEM Rush or Google Search Console. If you notice any unfamiliar backlinks that appear suspicious, it’s time to investigate where they direct to/from. It’s also important to review your high-authority links to ensure they are functional and performing as they were meant to.
The more closely you keep an eye on your links, the less likely it is that a perpetrator will be able to deploy negative SEO backlinks on your site or mess with your current authority without you noticing.
Plus, the sooner you recognize that misconduct has taken place, the more quickly you are able to address it and minimize damage.
2. BEWARE OF CONTENT DUPLICATION
For those who have been implementing SEO marketing strategies for quite some time, you’re likely aware that Google does not favor duplicate content.
Because if identical content appears on more than one page on the internet, it is difficult for Google to determine which page is the true, original publisher of that content. Thus making it difficult to decide which site should receive the trust and authority of positive SEO rankings for that specific piece of content.
Unfortunately, some questionable characters on the internet like to use duplicate content as part of their negative SEO attacks. By taking the content you have already published on your website and re-publishing it elsewhere, it is possible that Google will recognize the clone site or pages before it recognizes your site (the original source of the content). This is highly inconvenient for business owners, as you are then left to report the clone content using a copyright infringement report.
Thankfully, however, there is a way for you to check whether or not duplicate content of your site has been published out there on the web. You can use copyscape to check if clones of your content exist online. If you find duplicates that aren’t correctly attributed back to your business, report them to Google immediately.
3. CHECK YOUR CRAWL SETTINGS
Did you know that there is a way to prevent Google from being able to crawl your website? We know, scary right?
This is one of the most slanderous and harmful forms of negative SEO. If Google is unable to crawl your site, it essentially means that your site is invisible. And without being able to find and check your website for positive SEO strategies, your site becomes null and void in the eyes of Google.
One of the most tell-tale indicators of this kind of negative SEO attack is a sudden drop in organic traffic on your site. If your website has been deindexed, internet users will have a more difficult time locating it and thus, your traffic will taper off.
If you are the verified owner of a particular website (the person who owns the email that the website ownership is linked to), you can also check to see if a request has been made to remove your website URLs from Google’s index.
If it has, double check who has access to your Google Search Console. Remove any user accounts that should no longer be there, and have verified accounts change their passwords to improve security.
Google search console where you can remove unauthorized users
4. FIGHT BACK AGAINST FAKE REVIEWS
When potential customers are researching your business before making a buying decision, online reviews play a significant role. Seeing what past customers have said about your service, products and staff members can impact whether or not someone decides to do business with you.
This is why fake online reviews can be so injurious to your brand and reputation.
Not to mention the fact that Google sees everything, and online reviews are no different. If your business receives unfavorable reviews across the internet, Google will eventually notice and penalize your business accordingly.
So what can you do about it?
First, always check on your Google My Business page regularly. If not every day, at least every couple of days.
Google does allow businesses to flag negative reviews and have them reviewed. Google has established a set of rules and indicators that signify when a review is considered spam. If the negative review of your business meets these criteria, Google will remove it.
However, the more quickly you act and the more evidence you are able to provide that supports your claim that the review is unwarranted, the quicker the review will be expunged and the safer your online authority will be.
5. REMOVE SHADY REDIRECTS
This is a bold negative SEO tactic, but one that blackhat hackers like to use. It involves changing the links that already exist on your website to have them lead to a website that the hacker benefits from.
For example, if a hacker wants to capitalize on the traffic that your website already receives, they may change the links on your website to direct to their website where internet users can shop for similar products.
Essentially, this is stealing your traffic.
The solution? Monitor your links and always check to see what redirects have been added to your site lately. Screaming Frog shares an informative article on how to do that here.
Remember, there are tons of processes happening behind the scenes of your website every day. If you don’t have the time to check the back end of your website on a regular basis, it’s worthwhile to hire an SEO consultant on a contractual basis or even a reputable IT company to assist you in keeping your website as healthy and protected as possible.
By following these five precautionary tips on how to combat negative SEO, your business will be far less susceptible to Google ranking drops and other penalizations. The silver lining here is that almost any negative SEO tactic can be recovered from with a little time and a comprehensive strategy.
If you notice your site has been attacked, don’t panic. Move quickly and execute as many of these SEO tips as possible.
Ultimately, the internet will never be 100 percent secure. But the more armed and prepared you are, the less effective negative SEO culprits will be.