Negative SEO attacks happen when black hat SEO is used on a competitor’s website to get them penalized by Google. The attack results in lowering the target’s rankings or getting them dropped from Google’s search results altogether. More often than not, negative SEO attacks use off-page methods like link farms, scraping, or forceful crawling. Off-page negative SEO attacks target the site without internally interfering with it.
Spammy Link Farms
A link farm is a website containing a large number of links to other sites without any organizational scheme or category organization. Most of these links tend to use the same anchor text. These anchors can be completely unrelated to the website and easy to spot if they are a bit spammy like “porn” or “xxx.” Other anchors can include a niche keyword that makes it appear the website owner is manipulating it.
Regularly monitoring your backlinks is one way to stay ahead of a negative SEO attack.
Content scraping is a black hat SEO technique where you scrape and copy content across multiple websites to ruin your competitors’ rankings. Once Google finds duplicate content, it should recognize the original site where the piece was published, but sometimes Google can be misled. Usually, in these attacks, scrapers automatically search and scrape new content and publish it immediately. If Google comes across the “stolen” version first, it may choose to rank that version over the original.
To protect yourself from scrapers, you can try to google a couple of lines of your content to see if anything but your page appears in search results. Web tools like Copyscape are another way you can find scraped copies of your content. Once you find the thieves, try contacting the webmaster and asking them if they will remove the duplicated content. Of course, if that does not work, then you have the option of filing a report with Google.
Forceful Slow Crawl
One way someone can destroy your site is by slowing it down. By making the site inaccessible, Google thinks something is wrong with it and can move your site down in the rankings. Causing a massive server load on the targeted website will cause it to crash eventually. If Googlebot has trouble accessing your site after a few times, then your site is most likely to get deranked.
A way to stay ahead of this is to monitor page loads regularly. If the site is slower than usual, you can contact the hosting company and get more insight as to where the load initiated. If it is coming from a specific IP or group of IPs, you can use robots.txt and .htaccess to block the culprits.
Other types of negative SEO attacks can be accomplished by hacking the site itself and altering files. Though a bit more challenging to implement, here are some threats to be aware of.
Hackers can sneakily alter your site’s content, and it is not always easy to catch. Existing links replace spammy links, which makes it difficult to distinguish the two unless you thoroughly comb through your content line by line. Hackers can also hide the link using CSS, which then makes this invisible to the user on the frontend. Regularly auditing of the site is a crucial tactic in staying in the know of what content is getting changed on your website.
De-indexing of your website can wreak havoc on your rankings. If a hacker gets access to your robots.txt file, a quick edit to a disallow rule can cause your site to disappear from Google altogether. Regularly checking your rankings is one way to be one of the first to know if the site gets deindexed. Immediately investigate if you discover a sudden drop in rankings.
Is your site hacked? No rhyme or reason behind it, but just someone wanting to take down your site for no reason at all? When this happens, Google will take precautions and may derank your website and possibly add a “this site may be hacked” warning to your search engine results. If this happens, the chances of anyone clicking to your web page from the organic rankings are slim and can cause your rankings to plummet.
If a hack did occur on your site, you should need to take immediate steps to recover. Your personal and financial information could be compromised, as well. Once you have recovered, take the proper steps in upgrading your site’s security.
Having dealt with numerous negative SEO attacks on our clients, Sympler has the experience and knowledge to rectify the situation. If you’ve been the victim of a negative SEO attack, contact us today to learn how we can help.