Understanding negative SEO

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Understanding negative SEO

The sky is falling! You log into your analytics and see that your overall traffic has dropped by over 50%, almost no one is coming to you from Google, and you can’t figure out why.

So what’s going on?

Did you do something wrong?

Did Google release an update?

Or…

Is this one of those infamous negative SEO attacks that you’ve heard about?

This unfortunately is a common occurrence, and it’s a sad one. We have had many clients come to us in the past who have had some form of negative SEO done to them.

Tweetables:

How to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO [Click To Tweet]
Why Should You Guard Yourself Against Negative SEO? [Click To Tweet]
How to Detect If Your Website Is a Victim of Negative SEO [Click To Tweet]
Tips to Prevent Negative and Understanding SEO [Click To Tweet]

Does negative SEO work?

Unfortunately usually their negative SEO occurred because they hired “SEO Experts” to work on their sites that ended up doing more harm than good. In other cases they bought software that promised rankings and tanked their website. Of course there are the cases where some jealous competitor has hit them with dangerous links, and has brought down their web traffic.

Negative SEO techniques

In fact there are three types of negative SEO techniques, there is:

Spam Links –This is the most common one that we see, and fortunately the easiest to take care of. Usually people will build millions of questionable links to your website to try to make Google mark you as spam.

Reporting – Some people will report your website over and over again with the Google Spam team in hopes that your site will die and go down in the rankings.

Hacking – When somebody hacks into your site, steals traffic, or changes your robot.txt so that Google can’t see your website. This is a hideous attack and one that you want to be wary of.

All three of these negative SEO attacks can be fatal to a website, and you should know how to deal with them. In fact now that negative SEO is becoming more possible, you are more likely to get some kind of attack to your website. Being prepared is always better than having to try to clean up afterwards.

So in this guide we will go over how to avoid these horrible negative SEO attacks, and how to take care of them if they happen to you.

We will also go over how to tell if your website has really been victim to a negative SEO attack, or if it is just a Google update, or if your website is just losing popularity.

How did negative SEO start in the first place?

Back years ago negative SEO was no popular, in fact, it was very hard to do. Spammy backlinks ranked webpages, and building them to your competitor’s site would just help them out. So instead questionable “SEO Gurus” would just build spam links to their own websites so that they could rank.

Well Google realized that their search engines were overrun with horrible websites that were ranking off of spam links. So they changed things and released the panda updates, one of the things that they did was they made it so that these spammy backlinks hurt websites. This meant that all of those spammy websites fell down in the search engines, and the majority of sites that stayed were legitimate ones.

Unfortunately these old SEO gurus realized this, and now they are hired to take down and commit negative SEO to their competitor’s sites. Google has realized what is going on and has a few helpful ways to keep you from being hurt by one of these attacks. If you don’t want your web traffic to drop, or your online website to suddenly shut down, than this guide is for you, read it and follow it, you’ll be glad you did.

What to do About Spammy Backlinks

Alright, so maybe you hired some sleezy SEO guy to do all of your SEO work for you. Or maybe you used some crazy software that promised the world, only to watch your website plummet down the search engines. Or maybe to your chagrin, you woke up and realized that your web traffic tanked, only to find out that some competitor has been building spammy backlinks to your website.

It doesn’t matter which one of the situations you are in, either way one thing is for sure, you need to get rid of those backlinks.

What kinds of backlinks are considered spammy?

Blog comments – Thanks to some wonderful software known as “ScrapeBox” thousands of people have spammed blog comments to death. This is one of the most common horrible backlinks that you can receive. A good sign to tell if blog comments are spammy or not is If the blog is related to your niche, and if the blog where the link is left on has many outbound links. If you have thousands of these links pointed at your website, all from websites with high outbound links and that aren’t niche related, you should probably get rid of them.

Forum links – This is the same kind of thing as the Blog Comments. If you have forum links from forums that are not related to your blog, and thousands of them, you may be triggering a penalty in Google. Check your backlink. Thanks to software such as xrummer these kinds of links are extremely common.

Guestbook links – Many years ago Guestbooks were popular, and guestbook links were a great way to rank a website. Surprisingly many of these guestbooks are still around, and most of them are chalk full of spam. Google discredited these links a long time ago, and they can mean death for a website if you don’t know how to take care of them.

Virus Sites – Websites that have been infected with viruses can destroy your SEO rankings. Certain sites have been flagged by Google for containing viruses. When these sites link to your website Google may sometimes assume that you are affiliated with them. This type of backlink can lower your rankings extremely quickly.

How do I know if these links are pointed at my website?

Usually Google will tell you, if you have received the infamous Google webmasters “unnatural backlinks” message you can bet that you have some backlinks that are hurting your website. If you haven’t received this message chances are that you don’t have much to worry about as far as negative SEO goes, but if you do have one of these messages you need to take action.

What can I do?

The first thing you will want to do is figure out which backlinks are hurting you. Take a look using Ahrefs or MajesticSEO and see if any of the backlinks match description of spam links. If they do try to contact the web owners where the backlinks are from, ask them to remove the links.

Then you will want to use Google’s disavow tool, Google created the disavow tool specifically for this purpose. If you find that you have to use the disavow tool we advise disavowing every link pointing to your website.

Why do we advise that?

Simple, after helping hundreds of clients, we have come to the conclusion that this is the best way to see results. Once you have disavowed all links wait two weeks, then you can reapply to Google to re-evaluate your website.

What if I’m still not seeing results?

Sometimes this happens, you disavow all links, you contact web owners, but you still can’t get your website to rank. The last ditch effort to save the site would be a 301 redirect. Just buy a new domain and put all of your content onto it, then redirect your website. It takes a lot of work, but we have seen success in the past following this strategy.

How to Avoid Negative SEO

After a lot of studies have been done, we have realized that negative SEO does not work well against “authority websites”.

For instance, I have talked to SEO people hwo tried to bump Yelp off of first page results because they didn’t want other people to see the reviews, however, the backlinks ended up making the page rank higher! Why is this? It seems that spammy backlinks don’t hurt sites that have a lot of authority.

How do you gain authority in Google? Simple:

  • More content
  • Older Domain
  • Social Signals
  • Natural Backlinks

These above bullet points make an authority website. A good SEO firm will turn your website into an authority in the eyes of Google. By following proper SEO tactics like the ones above you will make your website immune to spam backlinks, and you won’t have to worry at all.

Conclusion

Negative SEO is a pain, and can instantly destroy rankings and profit. If you really want to avoid or beat negative SEO the best thing you can do is work on immunizing your website right now. Start working towards becoming an authority in your niche and you will soon find that your website is completely immune to the negative SEO that some of your competitors may throw in your direction.

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  1. Great information. It is sad how many “SEO” companies still practice these bad things in the name of making money. 🙁

  2. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to my website and hopefully, it never will. Thank you for this informative post. It’s good to know what can be going on, and how to fix it. All the best!

  3. I actually think this happened to me. I have a site that ranks pretty high in Google and for whatever reason I can no longer post it on FB without FB thinking its spam or unsafe. Not sure why anyone would do this.. Great information and tuns of value..

  4. Informative blog post. I have a blog but I’m yet to receive negative seo. Maybe because it’s still a small blog. But I wouldn’t want to be caught on the bad side anytime so I’ll bookmark this page for future references.

  5. I’ve dealt with people who actually have hacked my site and tried to get my site brought down with their spam linking and competitors reporting my site. I hate how the internet world works. It’s as if people only care about themselves and try to cheat others, it’s a sad thing, yet I don’t know why it happens. A few years back a person hacked my website, put up bad pictures and I lost a lot of traffic because of it. It happened on April Fools and it tore my site apart. I had to do so much work just to get it back to full working order, and then I had to get my traffic back.

    It took a while to get back on track, but I did. It sickens me that people would do this sort of thing to someone else’s sites. It’s as if they’re scare of legit competition. I will try to work on becoming an authority of my niche. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it, but I will gladly give it a solid try. Thank you for sharing!