Negative SEO: What is It? How to Protect Your Website from It?

Are you struggling to drive traffic to your website even after building relevant backlinks and writing great content? Are you noticing a sudden, inexplicable drop in your website traffic? Someone might be using negative SEO against your website. If you wait too long to tackle the problem, Google may penalize you.

What is Negative SEO and How Does it Work?

Negative SEO or Black Hat SEO refers to the practice of using Black Hat SEO techniques against a competitor to tarnish their reputation and sabotage their ranking in search engine results.

Here’s how negative SEO works

  • A Black Hat SEO consultant in Toronto or elsewhere identifies a website they want to target
  • The expert either purchases black hat links and points them at the target website or hire a team to use black hat techniques such as writing fake reviews about the brand, scraping content and posting it on multiple websites, and pogo-sticking
  • A negative SEO specialist might even use adult anchor texts to hurt the target website’s ranking
  • Once Google identifies black hat links, it penalizes the website

Google’s Current Stance on Negative SEO

Google claims it has various checks in place to identify and stop negative SEO campaigns. The search engine giant does not take responsibility for the dramatic drops in website ranking and Google traffic or any other problems that arise due to a negative SEO attack.

It recommends negative SEO victims contact the administrator of the website in question to resolve the issue, instead of approaching Google.

Tell tale Signs That Your Website is Under Attack

  • Your keyword rankings are going down for no apparent reason
  • Your website starts receiving a number of backlinks from a private blog network or PBN
  • A sudden drop in your website traffic for no apparent reason
  • You are not doing anything special but your website is getting a lot of (abnormal) traffic from search engines

Some Negative SEO Tactics

Here are some forms a negative SEO attack can take

Link Farms

One or two spammy links usually don’t hurt a website’s ranking, which is why many black hat SEO specialists build link farms. A link farm consists of various links sourced from interconnected sites.

Most links in a link farm may use the same anchor text. The anchors may be completely unrelated to the targeted website. In many cases, the anchors include a niche keyword. From the search crawler’s perspective, it looks like the website owner is trying to manipulate the site’s link profile.

To keep spammers at bay, monitor link profile growth regularly. If you have reasons to believe that spammers are running a campaign against your website, submit a disavow file listing the attacking domains through Google Search Console. This will instruct Google to ignore spammy links.

This is not a one-time task and you must monitor and disavow spammy links as they appear.

Content Scraping

Google hates duplicate content. One of the most common negative SEO tactics is to scrape the content on the targeted website and distribute it all over the web. Google usually gets it right when it comes to differentiating between copied content and original content.

But not always. If Google indexes the scraped version first it might penalize the original source of the content, instead of the spammer.

To find out if your content has been scraped, copy a paragraph from your page and paste it into the search bar (with quotation marks). You can use a tool for multiple pages.

If your content is being scraped, reach out to the webmaster of the website using your content asking them to remove it. If the webmaster does not respond, report the scraper using Google’s copyright infringement report.

Posting Fake Negative Reviews Online

Reviews can make or break a business. Most people read online reviews before making purchase decisions. A competitor might try to damage your reputation by posting fake online reviews about your brand. Bad reviews can negatively affect your local SEO and sales.

How to spot a fake review

  • Many fake reviews contain one or two words
  • Fake reviews usually occur within a few days or days of each other
  • Fake reviews are usually written in poor English and have grammatical and spelling mistakes
  • Look for overuse of certain words such as I and me
  • Dig deeper into the reviewer’s profile. If they have written several reviews praising products by a particular company, you are probably dealing with a fake reviewer

Keep an eye on your Google My Business listing. Flag fake reviews on review websites to help Google identify spammers and prevent them from running malicious campaigns against brands.

Website Hacking

A competitor might try to hack your website to implement negative SEO techniques. The hacker may target pages that haven’t been accessed for a long time or make subtle changes to your site that damage your rankings.

Some tactics a hacker might use to damage a website’s reputation are

  • Replacing original links with poor quality links
  • Editing robots.txt file to make it difficult for Google to crawl the website
  • Adding low quality or duplicate content to the website
  • Removing links and images on the site

Perform website audits regularly. Use tools that review technical issues and suggest steps you can take to address them.

DiziExperts is a team of seasoned SEO consultants in Toronto. We are committed to helping brands build a strong online presence. To know more, contact us at +1 905 448 2900.

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