Even though rumored to be an SEO myth, negative SEO remains one of the most discussed and debated topics over the internet. As search engine optimization (SEO) is supposed to help you get ahold of your competitors and rank higher in search engine results, SEO concepts are helpful to website owners.
However, the inverse use of the same can affect the rankings, and when these tricks are tried with malicious intentions, the de-ranking process happens faster than ever and often leaves the owners with lots of problems and messes to cover.
What Is Negative SEO?
The practices of negative SEO is the same as any website owner will do to increase their ranks. But these SEO tricks are executed on websites of competitors to attract Google penalties and often- make their best-ranked pages to disappear from their original place.
Although Google has implemented the best measures to stop this attack and minimize the damages, it still poses a high chance of occurrence if someone has enough SEO resources by his/her side. But several other incidents that can lead you to the misconception of this attack happening with your website.
But the thing to keep in mind is, always look for the motive. If your website has scored good rank in results, your pages are appearing at the top spot, or the website is having higher authority over others- these are not the reasons for competitors to eye on your ranks and incur your downfall.
Google Webmaster tools or any other trusted SEO tools can help to mend the effects of these attacks on your website. And they can provide you extended support for kickstarting your website again to claim its position. Google is strictly prohibiting the practices of this trick and trying its best to avoid the chances of occurrence.
Can It Happen Frequently?
No, never. The stringent and intelligent ranking algorithms put in place by Google mostly secures the websites from these potential attacks. However, unless the person conducting this activity stops, the continuous measures to recover from potential losses must be taken to negate the possible effects. These attacks are primarily implemented using off-page SEO measures, e.g., link building, duplicate content, and more.
However, in extreme cases, on-page SEO tricks like indexing, content modification, and more can be executed. Moreover, hacking your website can also be done. But to identify whether the adverse effects were truly the result of this or not, it is required to perform a complete analysis and then conclude the right reason.
How to Detect It?
There are no proven ways of detecting if this has occurred to your website or not. But certain changes in some of the critical measures, i.e., your rank in search results, increased link building activities, presence of malicious and unnecessary links and domains, and more can point to the possibilities of its occurrence. However, if you truly understand what is negative SEO and all other SEO measures well, you can find out if your website is under attack.
To conclude that your website is truly the victim, you can first rule out the conditions that are results of some helpful SEO tricks gone wrong. The expert should explore these two scenarios as much as possible to find out whether it is your SEO attempts or someone else is trying to take you down.
1. Hacked Website
If your website is hacked, you will know it in no time. (Only if you are enthusiastic enough to keep on checking your website every other hour.) However, the hacked website is somewhat the least preferred trick as haters gonna hate, but they don’t hate you that far. (Or do they?)
Rather than concluding from your disappearance in search engine rankings and a few suspicious unknown links added to your back, check what might be the right reason. It can be the effect of possible penalties that you have attracted because of your SEO blunders. So check your SEO efforts thoroughly before you start taking any countermeasures.
There are many ways of recovering from Google penalties, but the process takes time. If your SEO mistakes are severe, the time taken for recovery might be several months!
2. Links You Have Never Seen Before
If you see some links that you have never seen before or are not added by you, this can be an alert of spamming. But if those links are irrelevant to your niche and do not contain the anchor text you have added through other trusted links, they will probably be directly ignored by Google.
Either way, if you feel they still can be a problem for you, you can just disavow these links from your webmaster tools to notify Google. This way, you can save your website from the possibility of getting penalties from Google.
But if both these scenarios are not the reason, you might have a problem. It is vital to know the types that might be the reason to prevent these effects.
Types of Negative SEO Attacks
It is impossible to identify possible attacks directly. If these are the cause, you can use countermeasures to try and save your website from the potential consequences.
Duplicacy is the most common and easier way to perform this mischievous task. A negative SEO attack happens through off-page measures, and the duplicate content can be turned into a weapon against your good ranks. As you already know, Google does not approve any of the duplicate content, but they instead choose one from the many links available that it thinks is original. Your original content might lose the chance of getting ranked in the search results.
Especially, if the duplicate content gets indexed earlier than your content, the chances of losing your place increase highly. This is the most natural way to bring you down from the ranks and one of the nastiest ways that the attacker can use without requiring a hold of any important information.
How to Prevent This Attack?
There are many tools available online to find out the copy content and secure your content before the attack is successful. Preferably, once you find the copied content, you can send a request to Google to remove the duplicate content or can file a report against the person who has done this to Google.
2. Link Farms
The algorithm updates of Google has made it almost impossible to use link farms for ranking higher in results. However, because of the strict policies of Google, this can be used against you to drag your website down in ranks. But first of all, what is link farms? Link farms are simply a group of links that belong to the same domain. The links used in building a link farm are expired domains that already have their back in ranks and hence can be used to increase it.
But the modern algorithms of Google can easily detect them and ignore them right away. But the case of WPBacon became the most famous example of what link farms can do. WPBacon is a WordPress podcast website that started receiving continuous links from spam domains, and within ten days, it lost all its rankings in Google. Once the site owner found this out, the website did recover from the countermeasures taken against this negative SEO attack.
Webmaster tools were successful in disavowing these links, and WPBacon started ranking where it previously belonged. But the damages caused and the tension created were worth more than just this recovery.
How to Detect and Prevent?
There is no particular or hardcore way to prevent these attacks or reverse them. But you can certainly watch out for your incoming links and find out if there is an abnormal and sudden rise in the links and linking domains. By alerting this suspicious change to Google, and by disavowing these links, you can minimize the effects it can cause.
Negative SEO and PingBack: Can It be the Possible Remedy?
Apart from the general questions like, is this SEO illegal or not, many SEO beginners have an idea in their mind if pingback can help the website recover fast. But first of all, what is pingback?
Pingback is a comment that gets created when a post is linked to another. Pingback is a WordPress-only comment that is created when two blog posts are linked. For example, if writer A has written an article describing the features of an app like uber and adds a link to another post of writer B. Writer B will be notified, and the comment will get generated that links back to writer A’s post.
As pingback is directly related to the incoming links, this turns out to be beneficial for SEO. As more incoming links from reputable websites are generated, the SEO boost of your website is observed. And it is the general way of recovering from the harm done with your ranks using quality content and good backlinks.
3. Repetitive Crawling
What’s the best way to put a website down? Of course, by increasing the server load. And this can be done by making Google bots crawl your entire website repetitively. This attack has its routes in the technical limitations that can lead your website to stop working, and the increased server load can put you down for a while.
And if Google is unable to access your website several times in a row, you get thrown out from the search results. Because Google always wants to deliver a great experience, and ‘site not working’ does not add up to its reputation.
How to Detect and Prevent?
If you find an unknown reason why your website is suddenly slow, or most functions of it start lagging, immediately search for the cause. Alternatively, you can directly confront your host or use webmaster tools – to find out the reason behind the lag. Also, if you are sure this is an attack, using your robots.txt and .htaccess, you can block the suspicious crawlers.
4. Website Content Modification
It is an on-page trick, that can cause severe harm to your website’s reputation. If your website owns higher domain authority and is popular, attackers might find it the best way to beat your website down. By modifying the website content, they add links that redirect to malicious websites, and it can alert Google about the possible penalty attracting condition.
How to Detect and Prevent?
Using any of the site auditing tools, you can regularly audit your website to check for any such malicious links. If such links exist on your website and were out of your knowledge, you can take the required actions right away. You can also order professional SEO audit services to make sure you have a safe website.
5. Disallow: /
What’s the worst case of a negative on-page SEO attack? If the attackers have access to your robots.txt file, they can deindex your website. It means a complete wipeout of your website from Google search results and makes a complete waste of your SEO strategy. A simple Disallow: / in your robots.txt can altogether remove your existence from the web.
How to Detect and Prevent?
To know whether your website or any page from the website is deindexed, you should keep checking the ranks of it. If the sudden drop in search results is observed in many pages simultaneously, this can indicate that something fishy is happening. Also, checking your robots.txt for any possible changes can help you know if there are any such occurrences.
Is Negative SEO Illegal?
In the eyes of the legislation, there is nothing wrong performed. They only implement simple SEO tricks that are not useful for their competitor’s websites. So, there never are many illegal actions happening around it. But the occurrences of this phenomenon is so much less that only a few thousand have experienced the adverse effects and it gets a clean cheat.
What About Negative SEO and the Damage to Reputation?
The measures for negative SEO reputation management must be followed to cure the damages. These mostly contain the removal of any problems that these attacks have caused. The SEO experts who understand what negative SEO is, also can point the direction to negative SEO reputation management. By emerging from the potential damages, the websites can gain their original ranks again easily.
The answers to these questions are simple and straightforward. But it is also true that no webmaster has time for such malicious practices. If a webmaster is excellent at performing SEO, then why wouldn’t he/she focus on improving their website’s SEO rather than badly influencing someone else’s?
But the occurrences are not deniable. Using the best of Google’s ranking algorithms against you, an expert can cause damage to your website.
Hence, it becomes crucial to keep an eye on such occurrences. By taking appropriate and required measures at the right time, you can easily eliminate the chances of the attacks. Moreover, expert on-page SEO optimization can do negative SEO reputation management efficiently, even if such unwanted situations ever come.
Deep is an aspiring entrepreneur and blogger having led 75+ startups on the right path with their information-admiring content. He crafts content on topics including on-demand services, app like uber clone, finances, technology trends and many more.
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