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If you’ve been following the FEAD MEdia blog, you’ve probably seen us talk about “negative SEO” and how to deal with its ramifications. The SEO practices we previously discussed were simply errors that all SEO strategists should seek to avoid, such as:

A lot of that is old news, and most SEO experts are on top of their game when it comes to practicing Google-friendly, white hat SEO. But what if your site is suffering from SEO penalties from an outside source? The official term for this is negative SEO, and it’s the next big thing in business sabotage.

In this article, we’ll cover the kinds of black hat SEO tactics your site may face. Then we’ll detail how you can both prevent and counteract negative SEO. Here’s what you need to know about negative SEO attacks.

How Competitors Attack Your Site With Negative SEO

If you want a first hand account of a how devastating a negative SEO attack can be, go read Ryan Sullivan’s story. His site, wpsitecare.com, was subjected to a massive wave of bad backlinks in November, 2014. These “unsavory” links confused his website’s keywords, plummeted its ranking, and got the site harshly penalized by Google.

In short, Ryan was targeted by a competitor who knew how to damage his site’s SEO by manipulating Google. Negative SEO is just what SEO experts always tell you to avoid, like backlinks leading to irrelevant or irreputable sites. Unfortunately, you’re not in control of who links to your site, making you vulnerable to this kind of sabotage.

In the past, Google claimed that these kinds of attacks were incapable of harming your SEO ranking. However, since the Penguin update was released in 2012 to combat unnatural link building practices, negative SEO attacks have become much more viable. Due to the Penguin algorithm’s sensitivity to bad links, a concentrated attack can derail your site for months.

Aside from just link spamming your site, competitors can also damage your SEO through:

  • Hacking directly into your site
  • Copy/pasting your content elsewhere
  • Slandering you on social media accounts

Before we activate defense mode, we should know how to determine what’s not an SEO attack. While frightening, black hat SEO attacks aren’t terribly common. If you notice what appears to be malicious link spamming, do some digging before you assume the worst.

Perhaps a family member or friend has been trying to “help” your business by linking to it on their blog… except that their blog shares zero keywords with your site and looks sketchy to Google. Or perhaps your previous SEO team was up to no good and used black hat strategies behind your back. Jumping to conclusions can lead to time and money wasted on fighting phantoms.

Defending Your Site Against Negative SEO Attacks

You’ve heard it before: the best defense is a good offense. While not necessarily a universal, this saying should be your mantra. The number one way to protect yourself from negative SEO is to prevent it from happening in the first place, and here’s how:

1. Get Webmaster Email Alerts From Google

Enabling email alerts on Google Webmaster allows you to receive warnings when Google notices suspicious activity linked to your account, such as:

  • Non-indexed pages
  • Malware attacks
  • Google penalties
  • Site speed slowdowns

Without these kinds of updates, you won’t know you have a problem until it’s too late.

2. Regularly Inspect Your Backlinks

Monitoring your links not only allows you to track and plot your site’s organic growth, but can also reveal link spam attacks. Watch for large spikes in backlinks that seem inexplicable (if you just got featured on a big-time website then you’re probably not under attack). When you detect a possible spam attack, use the disavow tool to tell Google to ignore those links.

3. Use Security Programs To Protect Your Site

Installing software like Google Authenticator or Sucuri will block hackers from easily accessing your site. We strongly recommend using two-step verification to keep your site secure, as you’ll be personally alerted when someone tries to gain unauthorized entry.

4. Monitor Your Online Presence

If you spot duplicate content or fake reviews, you can easily flag them for removal to get them taken down. However, it can be a bit difficult to curate your business’s mentions across the entire internet. Luckily, you can use tools like mention and copyscape to quickly detect malicious social media activity and plagiarized content.

5. Always Be On Guard

You can’t predict when or if you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of a negative SEO attack. If you’re caught off guard, your business can be set back months, or worse. Always be prepared for the worst case scenario, even if it never comes.

If you’re worried about negative SEO attacks or want to ensure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot with poor SEO practices, get in touch. We’ll run a backlink audit to identify potentially malicious links and help you craft a security plan to protect your business.


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