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negative seo attack

What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO attack is a phrase wielded about since the Penguin update. But what is a negative SEO attack?

Negative SEO means a malicious attack on your website to cause your rankings in search engines harm. Negative SEO, also known as Google Bowling, is the practice of spamming competitive websites with back links to devalue them in the search engines. In essence someone has launched an attack on your website to make your website look bad.

How do people conduct negative SEO attacks? Well, quite simply, they hit you with lots of low quality links to your website, maybe using black hat links across grouped domains.

Why would someone do this though? Well, as Google (and other search engine ) rankings are precious, your competition could well try to sabotage your SEO efforts in order to jump up the rankings and beat you! Makes sense right?

The main message here is that Negative SEO attacks can cripple your website in a matter of days!

What Are The Signs of a Negative SEO attack?

Negative SEO attacks appear in many different guises. Simple low quality links from low quality sites, to even hacking a site to inflict malicious damage and even something called “review bombing” which is pointing a large number of great reviews at a business to make it look like they paid for them! YES, something that appears good can be bad, too many good reviews could have been paid for and Google looks for obvious signs of abuse, negative SEO takes advantage of this too!

As many external links are out of control of the site owner, competitors could very easily improve their search rankings by using tactics to negatively impact their competitors. Scary thoughts must be going through your head right now! How on earth do you protect yourself from a negative SEO attack?

To protect yourself from a negative SEO attack we need to look out for signs, but what are the signs of a negative SEO attack? An obvious sign is a significant drop in rankings. Not just a small drop, websites move up and down Google rankings all the time, but something significant should set off alarm bells! If you see a large drop in traffic perhaps your competitors (or just some idiot who takes fun out of attacking websites for a hobby) are up to mischief? If a negative SEO attack is happening to your website then you’ll typically see unexplained, low-quality links from a variety of domains. This spike in low quality links will happen in a matter of days or weeks and not over years, that’s just normal linking behavior (even if it isn’t good for your site). In essence, if you see a huge, unexplained growth in low-quality links, then you may have a problem

Negative SEO Tactics

  • If thousands of low quality links are pointing to your site and you didn’t create them, you need to take some action as Google will likely notice and penalise you. Submit a reconsideration request to Google containing details on links you have no control over.
  • Content stealing is an attempt to copy a site’s content to make it look like the original site is actually duplicating it. To prevent this negative SEO tactic maintain a regularly updated sitemap. You can also use the rel=canonical tag on pages to establish authority. First you need to check if your site is being scraped for content though. A great tool is CopyScape so take a look, but a simple search in Google for “detect duplicate content” will give you plenty of options.
  • Review spamming – Sounds strange but a tactic that could appear positive can actually be negative.  Too many positive reviews can look like spam to Google, you could have paid for them right? Or they could just be fake through whatever means. To prevent this from happening be sure to monitor reviews and use the “report a problem” link at the bottom of your business listing to notify Google of the issue.
  • Speed attacks – malicious crawlers can be set up to crawl your site at excessive levels and thus slow down the performance. Bad bots  are content scrapers, comment spammers, email harvesters…etc. Luckily CMS’s like WordPress have plugins to block these type of spiders but you can also manually block spiders with the robots.txt file.
  • Removal requests: Tricky competitors might notice you have a valuable link from another site boosting your rankings, instead of trying to gt a link themselves unscrupulous people may send the webmaster of the linking site a fraudulent email pretending to be you requesting they remove the link as it is for example “copyright infringement”.  Most good webmasters will check the source of such request, but others might not. So make sure you keep on top of your most valued links by using a tool to track them such as SEO SpyGlass.

How to Monitor your Website for Signs of Negative SEO

You can do things to protect your website but please note the risk of your website coming under a negative SEO attack is pretty slim. For a start you would have to be a top quality website for competitors or hackers to bother even attempting to affect your rankings., but bare these things in mind:

  • A site with strong domain authority is less susceptible to negative SEO tactics.
  • Most people won’t gamble with possible consequences of conducting negative SEO such as creating bad links to your site, as it might even backfire and actually promote your site for you!
  • Google has systems in place to review sites that might be affected. You can submit a reconsideration request to Google containing details on links you have no control over. Even if you do see a spike in malicious links, the impact is often temporary. Google usually spots it quickly and removes or devalues this type of linking activity.
  • You can make sure you have good monitoring systems in place to check links to your site that could be causing harm.

There are multiple tools you can use to see what is happening to your website rankings and check on your SEO progress at the same time:

Unfortunately though there is no set list of negative SEO tactics. A negative SEO campaign will identify the weaknesses of your site and exploit them, but if you monitor your site regularly and use googles tools to report any foul play any impact should be quickly diminished.

Matt Cutts on Negative SEO

To finish off, you might be interested in what Matt Cutts has to say about negative SEO.

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