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Simple Ways to Determine if you’ve been Hit by Negative SEO

Negative SEO

In today’s competitive search world, there’s always someone working hard to discredit your hard work.

Organic SEO, when executed properly, can save your company money, increase customer engagement, and bring true value to your web property. It also levels the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses who may find running with corporations daunting, at best.

But regardless how enticing the reasons, risks, and rewards of good SEO, an even bigger problem is starting to fester: sites getting hit with negative SEO.


What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO is the sabotaging of websites for the benefit of the saboteur’s own (or client’s) benefit. It entails working long hours each day, making sure nothing but detrimental information, links and automated scripts are knocking websites down search results.

By virtue of clever planning and execution, negative SEO isn’t just a practice; it’s someone’s bread and butter. By sending mass backlinks irrelevant to the victim’s site, hacking and performing other nonsensical counter-marketing deeds, irrelevant sites can leap over relevant ones for certain keywords.

So what does this mean for your site? Means that you’re going to need professional advice, positive search marketing and lots of hard work to ward off these attacks.


Signs You’ve Been Nailed by Negative SEO

Ok, so you’re certain some wayward blackhatter left you open to negative SEO – but you’re unsure how this could be, or where to begin searching. Let’s walk through several ways this could happen:

  • Dramatic uptick in inbound links. It’s natural to have a large link profile if you’re sending press releases, performing link outreach or just have kick ass content. But if you’re getting droves of links from unknown sources, someone is dropping mad spam bombs on your site.
  • Sudden, unexplained loss of search position. Fluctuation in positions is natural; however, if you’re sitting solidly on page 1 but wake up sitting on page 55, there’s an issue that needs addressed.
  • Content plagiarism, takedown requests. Remember that beautiful article written about Thanksgiving at your mom’s house that got thousands of comments and shares? If you suddenly get a Google DMCA takedown request, it’s because someone stole your content, backdated it and is claiming it’s theirs. This is serious and can get your site blacklisted from Google.
  • You’ve been hacked. Simply put, an excellent way to impose penalties on websites is hacking their database through SQL intrusion. From there, black hatters can raid your content, alter backlinks and wreak havoc on your search position. True story here, folks.
  • Fake reviews. Google has added yet another dynamic to its ranking machine: reviews. And yes, fake reviews and irrelevant Ripoff Reports are starting to water down great websites. If enough negative reviews are optimized with your site’s title, it’ll push you down. Really, really far. Monitor what’s being said on Complaints Board, Yelp, ROR, Trust Pilot and other big review sites.

Negative SEO is your jealous competitor’s way of pushing your website down so their nonsensical banter can outrank your great news site. It’s a very real, omnipresent threat that must be mitigated before you lose rank.


Simple ways to combat negative SEO

To combat website attacks, one must first know their site is under attack.

Analyzing website keywords and reviewing traffic logs, messages received in Webmaster tools and physically noticing your site has lost organic ranking for keywords you once ranked for is usually enough. Although professional tools and site strategists can probably dig up more, too.

If you have been keeping up good SEO practices and still noticed a drop in your ranks around the time that negative SEO began, it is likely due to the fact that you were getting a lot of traffic from long tailed keywords that you now lost rankings on. None of Google’s algorithm updates harmed websites that conformed to their rules; therefore, unless you personally sabotaged your site, know that significant traffic spikes often dictate loss in ranking.

Should negative SEO start nuking your search position and domain authority, it’s time to visit Google Webmaster tools. Like, yesterday. Read through whatever notes Google sent you. Check your website to make sure Googlebot is crawling it properly. But try to avoid resubmitting your website into Google as duplicate content may be detected even if your act was innocent.

Also, note that disavowing links does help. So does reporting reviews and DMCA complaints that are irrelevant. But if you’re not monitoring your link profile and other website areas, there’s really little complaining one can do. Because after all, if you’re not proactively monitoring your site’s position and link health, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

One final thought here: hire an SEO company. Drop what you’re doing and treat your website attacks seriously. Negative SEO is only evolving, which means these dastardly deeds will only get cleverer as Google rolls out new updates, and minions of black hat workers get smarter.


Conclusion: Monitoring is key

So far, it seems that every website competing for high profile keywords (law, credit, etc.) are in immediate danger of negative SEO, and it only gets worse as the keyword competition grows.

Normal rank drops due to loss of authority in long tailed keywords can cause massive headaches for webmasters, and the age of “quick SEO” is now a distant memory as high quality content on authoritative sites is now becoming the norm. But even then, content can get plagiarized, backdated and ultimately spun into more websites created to outrank you. It’s sad.

This is 2018. People are getting creative in how they screw their fellow man over, even with high-quality content sprinkled evenly throughout their site. Nobody is safe from negative SEO, but everyone can learn how to combat it.

Has your website been negatively affected in anyway, including your domain or link profile? Seen any massive drops in ranks, or have you actually seen an increase in traffic? Some webmasters have reported drops in traffic and it would be interesting to see what type of keywords people are losing rank on and more, so drop us an email.

Ken Khan is a Sydney-based technologist and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. He has over 15 years experience in the digital landscape and has worked with some of Australia's largest brands.

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