Getting tons of traffic through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has always been what every site owner aims for. The problem is, there are those who might be willing to bend the rules by implementing bad SEO practices and targeting your site in the process. This may put your SEO rank in harm’s way and you need every possible tool at your disposal to stop it in its tracks. In this article, we will tell you all about negative SEO and how to protect your site from it.
What Is Negative SEO?
It’s also called Black Hat SEO – highly unethical and frowned-upon SEO techniques that can do lots of damage to your page rank.
Imagine putting in lots of effort into placing your site on the number one page of Google. Then, someone who doesn’t like your website, a competitor, for example, decides to lower your position on the search engine instead of increasing theirs.
It’s a quick way to get ahead of the competition without having to do the hard work of link-building. They may also do it for other reasons too – for revenge, to get some sort of enjoyment out of it, etc. They may also do it on their own sites simply due to lack of knowledge (doing obsolete SEO tricks such as backlink stuffing, thinking it’ll raise their ranking).
Negative SEO can be done in many ways – copying your content and spread it all on hundreds of other websites, getting illegal access on other sites and erasing all of the alternative texts, linking unrelated content to your site repeatedly, and other things of that nature.
People employ the above practices in hopes of scoring a penalty on their target, giving a negative impact on its rank and ultimately erasing the site from the Google search index.
Types of Negative SEO
Aside from what we mentioned earlier, there are a few other types of negative SEO that you should be aware of.
Private Blog Network
Link-building can be hard, but it’s not the case if you have a group of blogs that you can use to link to each other.
Those who use this technique would look for expired domains that are of good quality. The previous owners may have worked hard to get legitimate backlinks from high authority websites.
With the blogs created using those expired domains, you can easily get high ranking without having to do link-building the normal way such as create content that people want to link to, gain trust and build relationships with other bloggers, etc.
Well, in the case above, it’ll benefit your competitors without hurting your SEO – but PBNs can also be used to cause damage to you.
Instead of finding high-quality domains, they can look for low-quality ones and use them to create content that links to your site.
Fake Social Media Profile Impacting Brands.
The presence of social media can impact your SEO ranking. That’s also what your competitors are counting for. They can easily create a fake social media account under your brand to hurt your image by spamming and adding malicious links.
Or, they can also use them to share hoax stories or misleading content, causing your customers to lose trust with your brand, thinking it’s actually you behind the act.
Negative Review Spamming
Similar to fake social media profiles, this too is done for the purpose of hurting a brand’s image. Positive reviews are the core of your brand’s reputation – it’s what attracts potential customers to engage with your brand.
So, you can imagine the damage caused by multiple fake personas giving tons of negative reviews (or even fake positive reviews on their own sites).
Google can detect when a website or a brand is in a bad spot when it comes to trust, and when people are unsatisfied with your brand, Google may take it as a justification to lower your SEO ranking.
Building Bad Links to Your Website
Back then, the practice of getting as many backlinks as you can may have proven to be a good way to increase your SEO ranking. Now, it’s no longer that simple.
There are things about link-building that can actually put your rank at a disadvantage and that’s what your competitors could be using to chip away at your site’s SEO. Those are:
- Creating unrelated external links. Google has a way of detecting whether an external link is manipulative or not. If your competitor creates a blog niche (or even one that’s untrustworthy such as gambling or adult sites), they can write an article and insert a link to your site.
- Using the same exact keyword as anchor text. Now, this is something that not only competitors can do, but you may also have used this in hope for reaching a higher rank, not knowing it’ll do the opposite.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to reach the number one position on Google each time searchers type in “baby elephant plush”. Then, perhaps you are trying to get other blog owners to link to your website using the anchor text “baby elephant plush” too.
The thing is, if people naturally link to your site, it’s not likely they will use the same exact phrase every time. Google will count this as a manipulative way of link-building, and your site’s SEO ranking may be declining because of it.
What’s troubling is these types of SEO attacks keep happening from time to time and the number of attacks are ever growing by the day.
That’s why it’s crucial for you to know how to protect yourself from negative SEO, which is what we will discuss in the section below.
How to Protect Yourself from Negative SEO?
After knowing how dangerous negative SEO can be, let’s go over the details of how your site can be safeguarded from it.
Mainly, there are two effective methods of guarding your site against negative SEO – tracking your backlinks and using a disavow tool.
Keep reading if you want to know exactly how to do it.
Track Your Backlinks
It was explained earlier that your competitors may put a target on your site by throwing in spamming backlinks your way.
That’s why in order to stop them, you need to know every backlink pointed to your site. Then, you can figure out which one causing harm to your site’s SEO rank. It’s not quite easy though especially when your site already has thousands of backlinks.
Luckily, there are tons of backlink tracking tools that you can rely on that come at no cost. Even though they have their own limitations, their accuracy isn’t something to complain about. If you’re unsatisfied with backlinking tools` free features, there are premium tools that will be worth your money.
Also, it’s worth noting that the best way to find unnatural linking is to personally check the sites yourself. Unnatural links refer to backlinks that are meant to manipulate the search engine system by artificially changing your page’s ranking.
Look out for any foreign language sites (translate the whole site and see if the content is related to a part of your site it links to), adult sites, and other potentially untrustworthy sites.
So, what are the best backlink tracking tools you can use? Take a look at the list below.
Ahrefs provide many services that can help you research keywords and get ahead of the competition in SEO.
Other than keyword research, Ahrefs comes with many other tools too such as content research, rank tracking, web monitoring, keyword generator, etc.
Even better, it has one of the best backtracking tools in the world, providing you with a thorough collection of relevant information such as the domain rating for the backlink, anchor texts and how much traffic is directed to your site through each backlink.
You can use Ahrefs backlink tracking tool for free, but it’s limited to 100 backlinks only. If you want to see the rest, you have to purchase one of its paid packages – Lite ($99/month) or Standard ($179/month). The market-leading SEO tool also comes with a 7-day trial program at the cost of $7.
Although, there is simply no reason to go premium if you have fewer than 100 backlinks – especially if you don’t plan on using all the additional features that come with the paid packages.
2. Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO is another useful tool you can consider to track your backlinks, it prides itself as having the largest index database in the world.
It takes a more focused approach on arranging all the backlink information in a beginner-friendly interface. Similar to Ahrefs, there are many things you can do with Majestic such as taking a peek at your competitors’ backlinks, tracking metrics such as citation and trust flow, broken link building, and much more.
To use its backlink tracking feature, it will set you back $49/month for the Lite version, $99/month for the Pro version, and $399/month for the Full API version.
If you’re strapped for cash, why not use Google Search Console? It’s a free tool that you can use to monitor everything worth knowing about your site’s ranking and performance.
Everything is pretty straightforward – navigation is easy and many pages come with a green explanation pop-up on the bottom right corner, making things understandable to even the most inexperienced people.
The downside is that every piece of information is separated. For example, you can see a list of top linking sites and top linking text (the anchor text used to link to your site or page) but you have to take a guess which site uses which anchor.
Plus, you need to go through a verification process before you can even begin accessing the tool. So, you can’t use this tool to analyze the sites that aren’t your property.
Here comes another free backlink tracking tool you can consider. LinkMiner is a feature-rich tool that gives you the ability to enter any domain to monitor their backlinks – even those you don’t own.
What’s interesting, LinkMiner has lots of options to show or hide certain pieces of information. If you want to see backlinks that come only from blogs, forums, or Q&A sites, you can do so by filtering out every other type with a few clicks.
You can even get a preview of a site you click on the right panel, allowing you for much easier bad linking detection.
There are lots of related information you can see, such as the citation flow, the trust flow, Alexa rank, the number of Facebook shares, anchor texts, and link strength.
For a free tool, there is simply no other option that comes close to LinkMiner when it comes to the freedom and flexibility it offers.
Using Google Disavow
If you are a victim of negative SEO, you might find unnatural linking during backlink monitoring.
What can you do to stop them from affecting your page ranking? The answer is disavowing them.
Disavowing refers to the act of nullifying a certain backlink so that Google will no longer consider it as a deciding factor in assessing your site or page’s ranking.
To do this, you will have to use the Google Disavow Tool. It’s part of Google’s Webmaster Tool package, just like the backlink checker we have mentioned earlier.
In order to disavow one or more backlinks, follow these steps below.
- While monitoring backlink activity, find and collect any untrustworthy backlink that you believe is responsible for your negative SEO ranking such as gambling, adult sites, and others. Make sure to manually check them yourself to see if the content has anything to do with your site – if not, then it should belong to your list.
- Create a disavow text file containing the list of backlinks you gathered. You can use a disavow file generator and paste all the links there. The file should be in a .txt format – save it in your local directory.
- Navigate to the Google Disavow Tool. Select your property (the URL of the page or the site that is affected by negative backlinks). Then, click Disavow Links.
- Click Disavow Links once more, and a window will pop up telling you to upload a text file. Click Choose File and select the disavow text file you created earlier. Then, click Submit.
- Done! Google has disavowed all the domains and the links you included in the text file.
Important: If you want to disavow any more links in the future, the next text file you upload will replace the previous one. So, make sure to insert all the links in the text file, including every link you have previously uploaded.
We have explained to you the definition of negative SEO, how it’s done, its impact on the targeted sites, and how to protect yourself from all the negative SEO effects.
Thanks to many available backlink monitoring tools out there and the Google Disavowing Tool, you now have control over the links that point to your site.