In the early days of search engine optimization, when Google was still in its infancy, “black hat” SEO was rampant. Highly questionable techniques–from keyword stuffing to cloaking to link spam–were commonplace, and search engine algorithms were not yet sophisticated enough to crack down on such strategies in a meaningful way.
These days, search engine algorithms are much more advanced, having been tweaked and modified over the past 20 years to provide high-quality search results while penalizing websites that engage in black hat SEO. Because of this, many black hat techniques are no longer effective, while others that were once used to boost rankings are now detrimental to a website’s position in search engine results.
This evolution has given rise to negative SEO, which is the implementation of black hat tactics with the intent of sabotaging a competitor’s search rankings. This is done in multiple ways, both off and on-page. A few examples of off-page negative SEO are link farms and content scrapers, which utilize link spamming and duplicate content to negatively affect a website’s rankings. On-page negative SEO is more challenging to implement and involves someone hacking into a website to modify content or de-index the site altogether.
Negative SEO, although rare and often misdiagnosed, can be detrimental. That’s why it’s important to rely on a digital marketing agency that specializes in negative SEO detection and removal. Altitude Agency has a proven track record of identifying and correcting negative SEO campaigns against our clients and returning their ranking positions to where they were before the attack.
Negative SEO Defense
When it comes to defending against negative SEO attacks, the ever-popular mantra “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind, and with good reason. A coordinated negative SEO campaign can cause devastating losses in rankings and website quality within a matter of days, undoing years of hard work and development to achieve high rankings in search engines.
As is so often the case in life, it’s better to be informed and prepared before something goes wrong, rather than wait until it’s too late. Altitude Agency utilizes a host of negative SEO defense measures to prevent negative SEO attacks before they happen. In addition, we monitor any and all aspects of a website that could be affected by such an attack, ensuring that retribution comes swiftly and in full should you fall victim to one.
One of the most popular negative SEO tactics used today is link spamming by use of link farms. Link farms are groups of web pages, usually low-quality, that exist only to link to other web pages. In a negative SEO attack, link farms utilize hundreds or thousands of spammy links pointing to a website that can drastically reduce that site’s rankings, or even result in a manual penalty from Google.
Altitude Agency utilizes several link auditing tools, such as Ahrefs, that closely monitor backlinks and help identify suspicious links before they become an issue. A large, unexpected spike in backlinks is one of the earliest and surest signs of a negative SEO link scheme. When this happens, it’s important to isolate these links and perform a disavow before they cause damage to your site’s reputation and ranking position.
Monitoring Site Speed
Site speed is one of the most important elements in SEO, as Google puts a high priority on websites with quick load times. There are many factors that can bog down the speed of a website, and although it is rarely the result of negative SEO, that possibility remains. If negative SEO is indeed to blame, it is most likely via forceful crawling, whereupon someone forces your website to be crawled over and over, resulting in heavy server load and a decreased site speed.
Although forceful crawling can often be resolved by contacting your hosting provider to determine the source of the problem, this does not always guarantee a resolution. Sometimes, an expert is required to hunt down the perpetrator(s) manually. Altitude Agency has the proven expertise to find and rectify the source of forceful crawling and restore your site speed to healthy levels.
Checking for Scraped Content
Another negative SEO tactic, albeit not as common, is content scraping. This occurs when someone copies or “scrapes” content from a website and distributes it across the Web. When Google sees multiple instances of the same content across multiple websites, it usually chooses only one source to rank for. If this source happens to be an illegitimate site that has plagiarized original content via scraping, it will rank higher than the true source of the content.
Therefore, it is important to regularly check for duplicate content on the Web using tools like Copyscape. Often times, content that has been duplicated in a negative SEO attempt can be removed by contacting the webmaster of the domain that hosts the duplicated content, however, this does not always resolve the issue. Altitude Agency has filed multiple Digital Millennium Copywrite Act (DMCA) notices to Google on behalf of our clients, resulting in the removal of unauthorized duplicate content and restored rankings for the original source.
Google My Business / Reviews Monitoring
With so many businesses competing across so many industries on the Web, online reputation has become more important than ever. People often look at reviews to determine reputability; one 2018 study found that 91% of consumers aged 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. While maintaining a good reputation can be as simple as providing excellent customer service with honesty and integrity, it only takes one bad review–whether due to a miscommunication or just a salty customer hellbent on making a fuss– to tarnish it severely. Or, even worse, a competitor might flood your Google My Business, Yelp, or other review platforms with multiple negative reviews in an attempt to gain an advantage.
These factors make review monitoring imperative in managing your reputation. At Altitude Agency, we not only closely monitor all review platforms; we also take the necessary actions to assist our clients in refuting unwarranted negative reviews, ensuring that only honest and reliable testimonials are displayed. This includes flagging fake or questionable reviews in your Google My Business profile and submitting them for removal.
Negative SEO can be detrimental and challenging to tackle, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Having experienced negative SEO attacks first-hand, we know the necessary steps to reverse the damage they cause and restore your website’s online reputation and rankings.