Just as there are ways to improve your website’s ranking and visibility through search engine optimization (SEO), there are also ways to hurt your ranking through negative SEO. Negative SEO is the malicious practice of using black hat techniques to sabotage a competitor’s website ranking. This can be done through tactics such as building spammy links to the website, publishing low-quality content, or even hacking the website itself. While it may seem like a harmless prank, negative SEO can have serious consequences for the victim’s website, including a drop in ranking, decreased traffic, and even de-indexing from Google.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common negative SEO techniques and how you can protect your website from them.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is much similar to black hat SEO. It refers to any techniques or tactics used with the intention of harming a website’s ranking or visibility in search results. This can include things like building spam links to your site, hacking your site to inject malicious code, publishing false information about your business online, or even filing bogus DMCA takedown requests against your site.
While the motivations behind negative SEO vary, the end goal is always the same: to harm your website’s reputation and detract from its ability to generate organic traffic.
Though it’s relatively rare, negative SEO can be incredibly damaging to a website – oftentimes resulting in a significant drop in traffic and ranking. As such, it’s important for website owners to be aware of the signs of a negative SEO attack (such as a sudden drop in traffic or a sudden increase in 404 errors) and to know how to protect their sites from such attacks.
How to Identify Negative SEO Activity
Fig. 1. Negative SEO can harm your website
There are a few key indicators that can help you determine whether or not your website is being targeted by negative SEO tactics. These include:
A sharp decrease in organic traffic
If you notice a sudden drop in the amount of traffic your website is receiving from search engines, it could be a sign that your site has been penalized for using black hat techniques.
An increase in 404 errors
Another common symptom of negative SEO activity is an increase in 404 errors, which occur when a user tries to access a page that doesn’t exist on your website. This usually happens when someone attempts to create hundreds or even thousands of fake pages on your site in an attempt to harm your ranking.
A drop in rankings for specific keywords
If you’ve noticed that your website has suddenly dropped in ranking for certain keywords, it’s possible that someone has been using negative SEO services against you. This is especially true if there are no other obvious explanations for the drop (such as changes in the algorithm).
Spammy or unnatural links pointing to your website
If you see an influx of spam or low-quality links pointing to your website, it’s a red flag that someone is trying to harm your ranking with negative SEO. You can check for this using Google Search Console or a similar tool.
Mentions of hacked content
If you come across any mentions of hacked content on your website, it’s important to take immediate action. Not only will this hurt your ranking, but it could also damage your reputation if sensitive information is leaked.
A decrease in brand mentions
If you’re seeing fewer people talking about your brand online, it could be because someone is trying to push negative information about your company down the search results. This can be done by flooding the internet with fake reviews or articles containing false information about your brand.
Suspicious activity in Google Search Console
If you use Google Search Console, pay attention to any messages that pop up under the “Security Issues” section. These messages will alert you to any suspicious activity on your websites, such as malware infections or unnatural links.
Signs of hacking
A more extreme form of negative SEO is hacking into the victim’s website and making changes to the code or content. This can be very difficult to recover from and can cause severe damage to your site’s ranking and visibility. To protect your site from this type of attack, you should implement strong security measures, such as two-factor authentication and regular backups.
Negative SEO attacks can be devastating for small businesses and website owners who rely on organic traffic for their livelihoods. A successful negative SEO campaign can result in a massive drop in web traffic, leading to lost revenue and customers. In severe cases, it may even be necessary to completely rebuild the website from scratch.
Fortunately, preventing negative SEO attacks is possible. We’ll share tips and techniques you can incorporate into your own SEO strategies to help keep your website safe.
9 Tips & Techniques to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO
1. Perform Regular Audits of Your Website’s Backlink Profile
Fig. 2. Perform a regular website audit
One of the most common ways that negative SEO attacks are carried out is by building low-quality or spammy backlinks to your website. This is done in an attempt to make Google think that your site is being endorsed by shady websites, which will lead to a decrease in your SERP ranking.
To combat this, you should perform regular audits of your website’s backlink profile using any appropriate tool. You can use it to see if there has been an influx of new (and possibly suspicious) backlinks pointing to your site. If you do notice an unusual increase in backlinks, you can investigate further by looking at the anchor text and domain name of each linking site. If anything looks suspicious, you can file a disavow request with Google.
2. Use Google Search Console to Monitor Your Website’s Performance
Google Search Console is a tool provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor their site’s performance in SERP rankings. It also provides insights into how Google crawls and indexes your website’s content.
You can also use ProRankTracker to set up alerts for when your site’s SERP ranking changes suddenly. This can be an early warning sign of a negative SEO attack, as it may indicate that someone is trying to artificially manipulate your site’s ranking.
3. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Another way that negative SEO attacks are carried out is by exploiting vulnerabilities in outdated software on your website. This could be anything from an outdated WordPress plugin to an old version of PHP running on your server. By keeping all your software up-to-date, you can help close any potential security holes that could be exploited by someone looking to carry out a negative SEO attack on your site.
4. Use Secure Connections (SSL/TLS)
Whenever possible, you should use secure connections (SSL/TLS) when transferring data between your website and any third-party services. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are protocols that provide authentication and data encryption between networks. This helps protect any sensitive data that might be transferred between your website and external services, such as credit card information or login credentials.
5. Use Strong Passwords
Hackers often exploit weak passwords and outdated software to gain access to websites. As such, it’s important to use strong passwords for all aspects of your website (including your CMS, FTP account, hosting control panel, etc.) and to keep your software (including WordPress and your plugins) up-to-date at all times. Additionally, consider using two-factor authentication wherever possible as an extra layer of security for your website.
6. Regularly Backup Your Website
Backing up your website on a regular basis is one of the best ways to protect it from negative SEO attacks (as well as other issues such as hardware failure). That way, if your site is ever hacked or hit with a negative SEO attack, you’ll be able to restore it quickly and easily without losing too much data. There are myriad WordPress plugins that automate the backup process for you; however, some hosts also offer automatic backups as part of their hosting packages.
7. Regularly Monitor Your Online Reputation
Another way to protect your website from negative SEO is by monitoring your online reputation. This means keeping an eye on what people are saying about your business online. You can do this using Google Alerts or Google Analytics. If anyone tries to post false reviews, spam negative reviews, or spread negativity about your business online, you’ll be able to catch it and take action quickly.
8. Keep an Eye on Your Competitors
If you’re worried about being targeted by negative SEO, one way to stay ahead of the game is to keep an eye on your competitors. If you see them losing ranking for certain keywords, it could be a sign that they’re being targeted by negative SEO. In that case, you can take steps to protect your own website before you’re affected.
9. Monitor Your Site’s Traffic & Rankings
Fig. 3. Monitor your site’s ranking with ProRankTracker
If you notice a sudden drop in traffic or rankings, it could be indicative of a negative SEO attack. As such, it’s important to keep close tabs on your site’s traffic and rankings so that you can quickly identify any issues. There are numerous tools that you can use for this purpose, including ProRankTracker.
ProRankTracker has the most accurate algorithm of any rank-tracking tool on the market, meaning that you can trust the results you get from us. Not only is our algorithm the most accurate, but it allows you to customize deep tracking, such as searching from an exact geo location or a specific device or language.
Our algorithm takes into account many different factors in order to give you an accurate result. First and foremost, we track your keywords deep into the top 100 results. This means that you can trust our results to give you a realistic idea of where your website ranks for a given keyword.
ProRankTracker also takes into consideration your location which is necessary for local SEO optimization. We understand that different locations will have different results, so we make sure to take this into account when giving you your ranking results. You can rest assured knowing that our results are tailored specifically for you and your location.
So, if you want the best possible results when tracking your website’s ranking, then look no further than ProRankTracker. Start your free trial today!
Protect Your Website
Negative SEO can be very harmful to your website’s ranking and visibility. However, there are ways to protect your site from these attacks. By monitoring your backlink profile, publishing only high-quality content, and implementing strong security measures, you can help keep your site safe from negative SEO tactics.