Online competition is fierce because there are numerous companies and websites providing the same information and services. Therefore, numerous white hat and black hat techniques are employed by site owners and SEO marketers to get ahead of their competitors. One of the common black hat methods which have gained popularity in the recent past is negative SEO. As implied, the objective of negative SEO is converse to that of standard Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, negative SEO is aimed at causing a steep decline in search engine rankings, instead of causing an increase.
Unlike normal SEO, negative SEO is applied on a competitor’s website to cause the fall of their rankings. In a standard attack, you will see an increase in the number of website backlinks. Backlinks are valuable tools in SEO because they are used to determine the value of a website. These can be referred to as links that come from other websites to yours. If there are numerous links to your website from credible sites, you will rank higher on the search results for your keywords. However, Google is aware that people will attempt to take advantage by obtaining undeserved backlinks from other sites.
Negative SEO takes advantage of the search algorithms and Google’s regulations against illegal backlink practices. An attacker will drive numerous, unnatural links to your website. Often, these links are from unsavoury sources, so Google will flag your website after noticing the unusual activity. While you will be unaware of the problem, Google will assume that you are attempting to bypass their rules and penalize your website. Often, the keywords which are used to spam websites during an SEO attack are distasteful. They will interfere with the business goals and even make future recovery of the domain impossible.
Taking a Closer Look at Negative SEO
In the past, search engine results for specific queries were primarily generated using algorithms that identified keywords used in website content. Therefore, SEO marketers were able to utilize black hat techniques to cheat the system. In simple terms, websites with poor content could be high in rankings as long as the right keywords were placed in content strategically. Google has changed the algorithms used to search the web for results. Currently, the search engine uses a semantic algorithm to understand the queries in context. This makes it difficult to use illicit methods to get ahead.
Negative SEO provides a solution to bypass competition using backlinks, now that other loopholes have been closed. Unfortunately, the technique is not difficult to accomplish, and there are different freelancers willing to perform the task. In fact, even trustworthy white hat businesses have taken up the practice to improve their ranking over competitors. You should note that there are different types of negative SEO processes which can target your website without interfering internally. Therefore, you cannot protect your site by using strong admin passwords.
Link farms are the most popular platforms used in negative SEO attacks. In general, the farm consists of interconnected websites with content which might or might not be related to the specific site under attack. The attacker will choose anchor text and link the web address of the site they wish to destroy. The anchor text can be a phrase which will destroy the reputation of the company and deface the professional image. In other cases, this text can be related to the specific niche of the company. Google will assume that you have purchased illicit links to boost your ranking. Scrapping is a less effective negative technique used to force penalties on competitors. In general, the attacker will duplicate web content on other sites, forcing your version to appear stolen.
Loss of Revenue and Sources
If your website is exposed to a negative SEO attack, you are likely to lose your web traffic. This can be attributed to the fact that your main keywords will be spammed or changed, causing a lower ranking on the search results. Also, if Google suspects your involvement, you could be penalized and even blacklisted. The financial implications of this type of attack by malicious persons can be high, and you could lose an important source of revenue.
Regrettably, most sources of negative SEO are not identified because they use third-party online mercenaries for the work. However, more often than not, the problems are initiated by close competitors who stop at nothing to get ahead without working for it.
Avoiding the Repercussions of a Negative SEO Attack
Some companies are fortunate because the attacks do not cause devastating damage to their reputation of website. However, a serious attack necessitates complete shutdown of the online operations to avoid further decline. Currently, there are no special techniques and tools to prevent a negative SEO attack. The only solution is to identify an attempt early and control the potential damage. Simply speaking, you should monitor the profile and growth of your backlinks constantly to identify unusual activity. Unless you have made the news, you should be suspicious of unusual spikes in the backlinks.
Check the specific domains of the backlinks that appeared when the spike occurred. Next, you should search for the penalty risks attached to the suspicious domains. Risk factors include multiple links from one website, links from untrustworthy websites and unusual use of anchor keywords. You can disavow the pertinent illicit domain which severs the connection between your website and domains. However, you should consult an expert before taking drastic actions.