One of the latest difficulties that SEO experts and webmasters have to face is negative SEO. A negative SEO campaign is when another person performs actions which are intended to hurt a competitor’s ranking in the SERPs. There are several different ways that competitors attack a site and try to inflict malicious damage, some report sites to Google for using “black hat” tactics, others review bomb which means that they send a lot of 5-star reviews very close together so it looks like they were paid reviews. In most instances, negative SEO tactics are totally out of the control of the site owner and competitors try to obtain higher rankings in the SERPs by negatively impacting a competitor’s site.
Common Negative SEO Tactics
A negative SEO campaign is considered to be “successful” when it has a negative impact on the targeted site. Here are some of the common tactics that are used to inflict damage on another’s site:
- Paid Links – A competitor pays for an outrageous number of irrelevant links to point to a site. This will almost always get Google’s attention and incur a dreaded penalty.
- Stealing un-indexed Content – This tactic is accomplished by trying to copy a site’s content before it gets indexed and getting it published first. This is meant to make the original site look like they are the ones duplicating content.
- Faking Reviews – Competitors can very easily add numerous fake reviews to a business listing so that it looks like the business is constantly creating them.
- Site Speed Bumps – Malicious crawlers on a site can spark excessive crawling which causes sites to slow down drastically.
- DMCA removal Requests – This is one of the scariest negative SEO tactics. A competitor will send an email to a webmaster that has a link pointing to your site. He will notify them that the page containing their link is one which is considered to be a “copyright infringement” therefore the link should be removed immediately.
What sites are at risk of a negative SEO campaign?
Every single website owner is not going to be affected by negative SEO campaigns. For the most part, larger corporations and sites that have already established their authority will not have to worry about negative SEO either. For example, it won’t matter at all if a lot of low quality backlinks get pointed toward Facebook, it won’t lose ranking at all. The kinds of sites that are more likely to be at risk are newer sites and those who have not yet been able to establish themselves as an authority in their own niche. This means that most of the sites online today are in some way at a significant risk of falling victim to a negative SEO campaign. It’s very important for webmasters and SEO specialists to know how to respond in the event that they find a competitor is launching an attack on their site.
How do I know if my site has been targeted?
There are a few areas that can point to the existence of a negative SEO campaign. If your site has been ranked in the top five slots for some of your specific keywords and suddenly drops from the first few pages of the SERPs, you might check for negative SEO. Watch for changes to your backlink profile and double check where your links are coming from. If you all of a sudden have several fake reviews or negative reviews you are likely soon to be the target of a negative SEO campaign.
Can Negative SEO Attacks be prevented?
There are a few things that can be done to protect your site from a negative SEO campaign. The first thing you can do is to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts. This means that Google will send you an alert via email when certain things occur like:
- The site is attacked by malware
- Pages on your site are not indexed
- There are problems with server connectivity
- Manual penalties from Google occur
Another thing that you can do to help protect yourself from a negative SEO campaign is to keep a close track on your backlink profiles. In many cases building low quality links to a site is the choice of one who launches a negative SEO campaign. This makes it very important to keep track of the links coming to your site so that you can be aware if someone starts creating links or redirects links to your site. You can check manually or use tools like Open Site Explorer, MonitorBacklinks.com or Ahrefs. These can keep you from having to monitor your site manually constantly.