Beginner’s Guide to Negative SEO: How to Monitor and Defend Your Website Against Negative SEO Services
Starting any business, you face hundreds of competitors who don’t want to lose their income. Among numerous marketing strategies, SEO plays one of the major roles in the brand’s promotion. And here’s the thing: while you work hard on your online presence, someone can work on spoiling your achievements. As more companies started using this practice, the term “negative SEO” became well-known among SEO experts.
Today, we will figure out what exactly we call “negative SEO”, how it affects your business, and what RankActive instruments help monitor unethical activities.
What Is Negative SEO and How Does It Damage Your Website?
First of all, let’s figure out what “the black hat” means for SEO. If someone wears a black hat, it means he or she uses methods which contradict classic search engine guidelines, such as using hidden text or keyword stuffing. Sooner or later, these methods are revealed by the search engine, and the website can be penalized.
Negative SEO is a set of black-hat tactics used against a website by its competitor. It often happens that if one brick in your marketing campaign is ruined, the whole wall would soon fall. This is the main goal of your rival. You will not necessarily be punished by Google, but there’s a big chance to lose rankings and uplift competitors to the top of search results.
Luckily, this situation has a brighter side as with time it gets harder to use any of the negative SEO methods. Google improves its algorithms, and it’s not that easy to cheat them. But while attacks on websites are still possible, we should be on the lookout.
6 On-Site and Off-Site Tactics of Negative SEO
The on-site and off-site SEO are techniques aimed to improve website ranking and visibility by optimizing the website’s content (on-site SEO) or promoting a platform beyond its design (off-site SEO).
Negative SEO is also two-sided and can have an “internal” and “external” approach. Let’s begin with the first one.
On-Site Negative SEO
1. Content Modifications
Now you think this issue is the easiest one to notice. Lots of business owners check their web platforms every day or don’t ever close their web page in the browser. But don’t be so sure you would notice subtle changes. Usually, SEO hackers hide spammy links somewhere in the code.
Or maybe there is a link pointing to your website. SEO hackers won’t lose a chance to use this link and redirect users to their platform. Even with great products on the website, companies would lose a huge piece of their income. Moreover, victim websites could also suffer from Google penalties because hackers may redirect them to “malicious” web platforms. In fact, Google’s rules are strict about “unnatural” outbound links. Any of them can be considered as a manipulative activity to increase rankings.
What you can do
In this case, regular website audits are the only way to notice changes. Modern solutions check any content on your website and allow identifying even changes in the code. The more often you do such checks, the better it is for your product. You can check the vulnerability level of your website with RankActive. Use Website Checkup section in Site Auditor to see an overview of your online platform.
Usually, there is a list of links leading to external sources. If their number increases, contact your development team immediately to solve this issue. You should keep in mind that any content modifications are possible only when the website is hacked. Let’s talk about website hacking in more detail.
2. Website Hacking
When your web page is hacked, it’s not only about SEO efforts – the whole platform is in danger. Sometimes, website content is completely replaced by some other platform. Strictly speaking, your website stops existing. Google would probably notice if the page is hacked, so it may de-rank it, and you’d lose dozens of potential visitors.
What you can do
Hacking a website is not an easy task if a development team took every precaution for protection. Before it’s not too late, consult with the experts on this subject and make sure your product is under a sturdy protection armor. The first thing to start with is access to the website. All admin users should avoid simple passwords and usernames and even change passwords from time to time. It’s also strongly recommended to work with reliable hosting providers. It will cost you more, but you won’t be an easy target for hackers.
RankActive checks the website’s SSL certificate. This is another important security measure protecting sensitive data and is crucial for e-commerce platforms with online payment systems.
3. Website Deindexation
Deindexation means that Google would basically ignore your website – it won’t show it in search results. It’s not just a trivia malfunction because it influences all SEO actions of your team. Even though the disaster is huge, it doesn’t take much from attackers to make it work: they can just change robots.txt with a disallow rule.
What you can do
Website monitoring would show you if the number of indexed pages has changed. For example, you can use RankActive and its Site Auditor. In the Scanned Pages section, you will see an overview with the number of pages scanned by the tool. If there are any changes in the number, you will notice them immediately.
Off-Site Negative SEO
1. Data Duplication
What search engines like the most is original content. It’s a common practice among entrepreneurs to make their website’s content creative and informative for the target audience. Google notices such efforts and puts these platforms high in search results. But hackers can spoil everything by throwing your precious data all over the web. They “scrape” content (i.e. copy it from the website) and paste it into other web sources. This way, data is not original anymore, and your platform loses rankings.
What you can do
Google provides enough information about content duplication. You can be proactive in this situation and stay consistent with internal linking, use top-level domains and 301 redirects, etc. After identifying duplications, you can contact the Google team by sending the copyright infringement report.
2. Link Farms
Building links is a common practice for a positive SEO. It means there are several links on your website leading to other web sources. But someone can use link farms to place spammy links pointing to your website. You will see similar anchors here and there throughout the platform. These links (which sometimes can contain important niche keywords placed in the anchor text) damage your ranking. As a result, you appear far from the leading positions in search and can be penalized by Google.
What you can do
And again, it’s all about monitoring. You should check links on your website, and if their number grows, it’s a reason to turn to your development team. With Google Webmaster Tools, you will get a full report on links leading to and from your web source.
Crawling, in general, is a necessary action. It allows a search engine to find relevant information on your website and show them in search results. But there is also forceful crawling when attackers intentionally create lots of traffic on your platform, which can lead to a server crash. Also, this amount of traffic doesn’t allow Google bots to crawl the website, and it leads to losing your position in search.
What you can do
Open your RankActive profile and then go to the Analytics section. It’s connected with your Google Analytics profile, and you will see accident traffic splashes if they happen. Your development team can then help you with detecting a source of high traffic and block it.
3 Security Measures to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO
Most of our previous advice was about monitoring. Luckily, modern tools allow business owners and managers to always get the latest information about traffic, website content, rankings, links, etc. But watching is not enough. What else should be done?
- Use an SSL certificate. At the end of 2018, this is a mandatory practice because Google Chrome now alerts users if a website is not protected with an SSL certificate. It secures the data transfer between a web server and a user. If a website has an HTTPS in its link, it’s a signal for users that their sensitive data is under protection. As a result, you get more trust from both Google and your potential customers.
- Use an up-to-date CMS. Lots of websites are now built with a CMS like WordPress or Magento. There, developers work hard to fix errors and vulnerabilities and protect websites from all sorts of attacks. To update a custom CMS, you should always keep in touch with a dev team that will help you with updates.
- Make database backups. If there are any unnecessary changes on your website, you can also get back to the previous version of the system – that’s what regular backups can give you. If you have developers by your side, they will take care of your database.
- Prevent a search engine from indexing the admin pages. If your website works on a standard CMS solution, your admin panel has a specific address, and it’s harder for attackers to get there. With a custom CMS, you should ask developers to make changes in the robots.txt file so that admin pages are not indexed by Google.
The number of regular hacker attacks is rising each year, and it can damage any element of your website. Today, we’ve described the harm from the negative SEO. It sometimes takes a little effort to make huge damage, so we strongly recommend to be always prepared.
Nearly a half of protection measures concern regular monitoring. Test your RankActive 14-days trial to see how much information you can get with only one tool and feel free to contact our support team with any questions appearing on the way.