What’s Negative SEO?
To run a successful website, you need to manage your SEO. It includes optimizing your content and planning an outreach program to connect your brand to various companies.
But, besides trying to improve your SEO ranking, you also need to work on detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks. And seeing that most people are unaware of the SEO attacks until they get attacked themselves, we feel that a comprehensive guide is much needed.
So, let’s see what dealing with negative SEO attacks is all about.
Understanding negative SEO
Negative SEO is when a competitor actively tries to lower your SEO ranking. After all, the whole point of SEO is that you compete with other websites to come on top in Google’s search results. As it is with all competition, it would work great if everyone played fair.
But, many companies don’t shy away from actively sabotaging the competitor’s SEO ranking so that they come on top.
Doing so is not only unethical but is even sometimes illegal. Unfortunately, relying on authorities to protect you from SEO attacks won’t do you any good.
No one ever said that SEO management was easy or fair.
Types of attacks
When it comes to attacking another website’s SEO, there are multiple ways you can do it.
You can submit fake link removal requests to disconnect them from other websites. You can leave fake reviews so that they get the reputation of being a poorly run, poorly managed company.
Or you can outright hack a website and ruin it from within. These are just some of the many ways in which fraudulent individuals choose to lower the SEO rankings of competitors.
Does it work?
If you were to ask Google, they would likely say no. Negative SEO doesn’t work. But, this is like the police telling you that crime doesn’t pay.
On the whole, it is not a sound strategy to attempt. But, to say that websites didn’t lose their SEO ranking due to outsider attacks would be outright wrong.
Negative SEO can work, so you need to do your best to protect your website from it.
Detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks
The following are the various ways people can perform negative SEO attacks.
While we will give you good ways to deal with these attacks, we still advise you to consult with an online safety professional if you have any further questions.
Keeping your website safe should be your primary concern, even if you’ve never experienced a hostile SEO attack. So, don’t shy away from contacting one if need be.
Using spam links is one of the most common negative SEO attacks. Namely, there are two ways a person can use spam links to harm you.
They can take the volume approach, which entails blasting your website with thousands of low-quality links. Or they can take the over-optimized anchor approach. This entails using a ton of links with exact-match anchor text and pointing them toward a ranked page.
By doing so, they can give your page an unnatural anchor text ratio. If either of these tactics succeeds, they will have your site penalized by Google. Luckily, there are ways to deal with them.
If for no other reason, detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks is essential just to avoid Google’s penalization.
Finding spam links
A good rule with spam links is that it is better to prevent them than to try and repair the damage. So, a good strategy is to take some time to monitor for spam links in real-time. The simplest way to do this is to monitor new backlinks that point to your website.
There are plenty of tools that can help you in this regard, where you’ll get regular notifications of backlinks pointing to your website. If you see something suspicious, you should investigate and see if you are a subject of an attack.
While real-time monitoring is effective, it isn’t suitable for high-volume attacks. When you get hit with a thousand links to your site, you can hardly hope to manage them all in real-time. To deal with high-volume spam links, you need to manipulate the anchor text ratio.
Again, you do need to use suitable tools for this. If you see a high percentage of keyword-rich anchors through them, you should be suspicious. This is either a sign of poor link-building or an outright hostile SEO attack.
Dealing with spam links
Unfortunately, there is no set way to remove spam links. The only thing you can do is disavow them. This means that you create a list of links that you feel are harmful and pass it on to Google. You will essentially say that these links are untrustworthy and that Google should ignore them.
Another option is to disavow entire domains. But doing so can close you off from legit backlinks. So, before you do anything drastic, try to consult with an experienced professional.
Link removal requests
Another sneaky way to perform a negative SEO attack is to send fake link removal requests. This is when a fraudulent person pretends they are you and asks sites you’ve linked with to remove the links.
If the site manager believes the message, they will likely do so. While such attacks are relatively rare, their impact can be substantial as you can lose many of your most potent backlinks quickly.
You need to pay close attention to your backlinks if you value your SEO.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent someone from sending the link removal request. You can only use a tool to monitor your website and notify you about any lost backlinks. It is normal to lose a few backlinks now and then.
But, if you see a substantial loss, you should investigate further. If you lose a valuable backlink, you can always try to talk with the website manager and restore it.
While content scraping isn’t an outright attack, it can harm your SEO. It involves copying content from your website outright and pasting it on another. In most cases, people who do this are likely to be lazy or couldn’t be bothered to create content of their own.
But, just because there is no ill intent doesn’t mean that your SEO won’t be affected. As you can imagine, Google’s algorithm doesn’t like copied content as it considers it thin and redundant. Therefore, it tries as hard as possible only to leave the original available in search results.
Fortunately, if you work hard on creating and pruning your content, you should be fine. Even if it gets copied, Google will be pretty effective in finding the copy and making it obsolete. If you do run into some issue, there is something you can do – file a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) complaint.
Google has a specific DMCA dashboard that you can use for complaints. It is relatively straightforward to fill out, so we won’t go into much detail here. We advise that you gather and send as much information as possible. The more info you present, the better the odds that Google will take your request seriously.
You likely check your Google reviews regularly if you run a commercial website. And if you have any experience with managing reviews, you already know that getting a couple of bad ones isn’t the end of the world.
But, reviews can be used as a tool for a negative SEO attack. Namely, a person can create a ton of fake profiles and leave fake reviews, therefore tarnishing your company’s reputation. And it is precisely these types of reviews that you need to fight.
Most people aren’t even aware that reviews can be used to harm SEO ratings.
Unfortunately, fake reviews management and proving that a review is fake and not simply bad is not easy. You need to collect evidence and employ one of the various tactics to protect your reputation.
Having healthy, positive reviews and testimonials is also a good idea, as they can help offset the fake ones. You can also use them to prove that the fake reviews are unsubstantiated and that they are worth deleting.
URL parameters are values that are written in the page’s URL string. For instance, a website can be:
The URL parameter “orientation” has the value “left.” While this may seem trivial, it is crucial for website indexing. A false value in the parameter can cause indexing issues as your URL link won’t point to an existing value.
Or a single, existing page can get indexed multiple times in places where it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, malicious people are well aware of the effect that fake URL parameters can have on website indexing and, therefore, on your SEO. Thus, it is in your best interest to deal with fake URLs as effectively as possible.
Dealing with false URL parameter attacks
The easier way to find false URL parameter attacks is to use Google Search Console. You will find the Coverage report in it, where you can easily view the indexed pages. A significant spike in one of the pages should be a cause for concern.
Fortunately, it is reasonably easy to deal with false URL parameter attacks. Here the safest course of action is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. You can do it through self-referencing canonical tags that tell Google Algorithm what the de-facto version of the page is.
With these, the engine knows to only index the root URL and ignore any extra parameters. For most URL parameter attacks, this is more than enough.
We’ve gone through all negative SEO attacks so far, but none of them is strictly illegal. Now, we come to one form of attack that is – hacking.
Namely, if Google finds that your website has been hacked, it will lower its SEO rank. So, even if you don’t see any changes on your website from the attack, know that it can hurt your SEO.
If you notice that your website isn’t performing as intended, you might be a victim of a cyber attack. Firstly, we advise you to go to the Google Search Console and check for “Security Issues.” If there are no issues detected, there might be something else wrong with your website.
If there are, congratulations are in order. You’ve just found out what kind of an attack you are facing.
Dealing with hacking
Hacking isn’t the type of thing you can deal with yourself. The best course of action is prevention, where you keep your website safety high at all times. This includes:
- Using the necessary web safety protection software.
- Utilizing strong passwords and keeping them safe.
- Updating your website regularly, along with any plugins.
- Creating website backups on a regular basis.
If you do end up being hacked, your safest course of action is to consult with a professional as soon as possible.
It would be best if you never failed to appreciate the value of having a safe website.
Should I work on detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks?
Yes. While it is not mandatory, you should do the basics of detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks. Understanding the potential danger you face can help you avoid it altogether.
Can I hire someone to do it for me?
Yes. Both SEO marketing agencies and web safety professionals can help you keep your website safe. Just know that you usually get what you pay for when it comes to online safety.
Can my website recover from an SEO attack?
It depends on the severity of an attack. A spam link that you’ve quickly found is relatively easy to deal with. A full-fledged cyber attack is another issue entirely.
Still, learning about detecting and deflecting negative SEO attacks can help you protect your website and give you the tools to solve the problem.