What Is a Negative SEO Attack (and How To Recover From It)?

What comes to mind when you hear the term “negative SEO”? For most people, it’s when someone deliberately tries to hurt your website’s search engine ranking.

But what does that mean? And how can you protect yourself from it?

In this blog post, we’ll answer those questions and give tips on how to recover if you fall victim to a negative SEO attack.

What Is Negative SEO?

But first, let’s discuss what precisely negative SEO is.

Negative SEO is a set of strategies used to undermine competitors’ success in search engine rankings.

Common tactics include using black hat techniques such as link farms and buying low-quality links for direct ranking manipulation.

Negative SEO can also involve more subtle forms of sabotage, such as keyword stuffing, plagiarism, or hacking into a competitor’s website and jeopardizing its integrity. These subversive practices can reverse the rankings gained by legitimate marketing efforts.

Additionally, unethical companies sometimes purchase negative reviews online, which can further harm the reputation and ranking of an unsuspecting business. Such deliberate attempts at ruining a competitor’s reputation must be ethically condemned and discouraged since they do not reflect fair competition rules.

Types of Negative SEO Attacks

Now that you know what negative SEO means let’s look at the most common negative SEO attacks that your website may face.

Website Hacking

Website hacking is one of the more malicious techniques employed in negative SEO attacks. This type of attack involves hackers gaining unauthorized access to your site and making destructive changes to the content, code, or structure.

These changes may include introducing malicious code that can infect visitors’ computers with malware or even redirecting them to a different site entirely.

It’s important to note that frequently, these intrusions occur without a website owner’s knowledge until after considerable damage has been done — making it especially important for webmasters to be vigilant about monitoring their websites for any signs of intrusion.

Toxic Backlinks With Spammy Anchor Texts

Another common type of negative SEO attack is creating toxic backlinks with spammy anchor texts. These links often include keywords that the hacker hopes will negatively affect your website’s rank or reputation in search engines.

When done correctly, these tactics can devalue your website in the eyes of Google and other search engines. It can appear that you are trying to falsely manipulate its algorithms for higher rankings.

Search engines know this practice and have measures in place to detect when a site is engaging in link manipulation or suspicious activity, which can lead to a penalty on your ranking. 

Sending Fake Removal Requests to Webmasters

Another tactic used in negative SEO attacks is sending fake removal requests to webmasters. In this attack, malicious actors will send a phony copyright infringement or DMCA notice alleging that the site hosting the link that leads to yours is hosting illegal content.

If the unsuspecting webmaster falls for the scam and removes the link, it can lead to your search engine rankings taking a significant hit as fewer people are directed to your page through search engines.

For this reason, it is essential to be very cognizant of such attempts and ensure that any request to remove a link from your site comes from legitimate sources before removing it.

Posting Fake Negative Reviews About Your Website

In a competitive online environment, businesses may try to gain an advantage by harming the SEO of their rivals.

Another way to do this is by posting intentionally negative reviews about a competitor’s website. Such reviews can influence potential customers, who may decide not to visit the site even though it may be legitimate and offer quality products or services.

What’s more, submissions of fake reviews can ultimately cause damage to a business’s reputation and lower its search rankings if the significant web crawlers index them. Companies should take caution when dealing with competitors who may resort to such tactics to increase their visibility and reach.

Scraping and Duplicating Your Website’s Content

Content scraping and duplication is a less common type of negative SEO attack but can be particularly damaging when it occurs. Essentially, an attacker will copy the content from your website and use it on their page without permission, which can lead to search engines penalizing both you and the person who has copied your content.

This penalty takes the form of lowered rankings for both parties in search engine results pages (SERPs). Unfortunately, removing the scraped copy from the web can be extremely difficult.

Many companies choose to focus on preventing these attacks from happening in the first place by protecting their sites with anti-scraping tools or captcha security measures.

While these techniques cannot guarantee complete protection against scraping activities, they are still practical steps to take when attempting to protect your online presence from malicious SEO attacks.

How To Identify Them

But how can you tell whether or not your website is under attack from negative SEO?

There are some tell-tale signs to look out for. Let’s take a look at each of them below.

Sudden Drop in Ranking

The first sign is often a sudden drop in ranking. Websites ranking highly on search engine results pages are often targets for negative SEO attacks.

If you notice an unexpected drop in website ranking, it pays to investigate further and look into these potential sabotage causes.

Abnormal Traffic Spikes or Drops

Sudden jumps or drops in website analytics can indicate a negative SEO attack. This attack is usually caused by malicious backlinks intentionally created to redirect web traffic away from the targeted website or toward a competitor’s website.

This type of attack aims to change search engine rankings and potentially disrupt business operations. Such an attack could be difficult to detect without proper monitoring, so it’s worth further research if you notice any suspicious activity on your website’s analytics.

Unnatural Backlink Profile

Another sign of a negative SEO attack is an unnatural backlink profile. This simply means that if you notice an influx of low-quality backlinks to your website, it’s likely that someone has engaged in malicious activity to harm your website’s search engine ranking.

These backlinks are typically low-quality or spammy, and such tactics are often used for nefarious purposes.

While Google and other search engines have improved at recognizing and penalizing such activities, they don’t always catch every link. 

That’s why it’s essential to maintain vigilance over your website’s SEO health and be ready to act in the event of any suspicious activity.

Spam Comments or Social Media Mentions

An increase in spam comments on posts or social media mentions may indicate that someone is attempting to use multiple fake accounts to damage your brand’s reputation.

This type of malicious activity is known as spam farming. It can quickly erode customers’ trust by flooding your posts with off-topic, irrelevant, or downright inappropriate comments. If you notice an uptick in suspicious activity like this, it’s crucial to quickly delete the comments and block the responsible users so they can’t continue their attack.

Combating Negative SEO Attacks

Knowing the types of negative SEO attacks you may experience is only half the battle. You must also know what to do if your website falls victim to these digital crimes.

Fortunately, there are a variety of methods for addressing negative SEO attacks. These include both preventative measures and defensive tactics that you can use to protect your website from further damage. Here are some ways to combat negative SEO attacks.

Monitor Your Backlinks

For websites that manage high-value and vital links, a reliable backlink monitoring system is one of the most critical tools at their disposal. This system can help detect whether a significant change has occurred in the status of an external link, such as when a link becomes broken or when another website links to it with malicious intent.

To set up an effective backlink monitoring system, start by setting up alerts for any changes to your backlinks, either through software or manual review. Keep tabs on new inbound links and be sure to check any existing links, too — they’re just as vulnerable to being attacked or replaced by malicious actors.

It’s also wise to use tools such as Ahrefs or Moz Pro to identify any suspicious activity with your particular niche or website theme. This way, you’ll be able to spot any malicious attempts that are targeting you specifically and respond rapidly before irreparable harm is done.

Disavow Spammy Links

If you do notice that your website has low-quality or spammy backlinks, you can use Google’s Search Console Tool or Bing Webmaster Tools to disavow them.

First, gather spammy links using various SEO tools designed for this purpose. Once done, download the list as a .txt file and add the URLs of the sources into it.

Then visit either Google or Bing’s webmaster tool to upload the .txt file containing URLs with directives on whether each URL should be considered bad or ignored for linking purposes.

After submitting the disavowed links, monitor your site for any further discrepancies and respond accordingly.

Protect Your Site From Hackers

One strategy to protect your site from hackers is to ensure that proper security measures are in place.

Keep your blog or website updated with the latest software version — this will help you patch any newly discovered security holes.

Use strong passwords for all of your accounts, such as blog author accounts. Weak passwords are an easy way for malicious entities to access your system. In addition, make sure that you use two-factor authentication; this means using two different ways (such as an app and a code) to log into any account on your site.

Be sure to regularly back up your system so that if there is ever an attack, you won’t lose all of your data.

Be Proactive About Negative Reviews

Negative reviews and feedback about your business can be discouraging, but they present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to customer service. 

Ignoring negative reviews might make it look like you don’t care about your customers or their experience with your business. However, taking the time to respond shows that you actively listen and strive to improve. It’s also a way of demonstrating that you’re proactive in finding solutions to customer problems.

When responding to negative reviews, it is vital to remain professional while addressing the issue at hand and making the customer feel heard. Doing so can turn a negative situation into a positive interaction because you’re demonstrating that you value customer satisfaction and are willing to go above and beyond for them.

Ultimately, taking the time to respond thoughtfully and sincerely will help build trust with existing customers and provide an incentive for new customers. 

It’s important to remember that positive and negative reviews form part of an ongoing conversation with potential or existing clients — use them as an opportunity to grow relationships rooted in trust and vital customer service instead of just ignoring them!

Keep an Eye on Your Competitors

The last significant step is to regularly monitor your competitors’ activities. 

By keeping an eye out for any suspicious or unsavory tactics they may be using to gain an edge, you can help level the playing field — and possibly even dissuade them from attempting similar rank-destroying strategies in the future.

What’s more, if you suspect they’ve violated Google’s guidelines with their activities and strategies, don’t hesitate to report them to the search engine so that you can take appropriate measures against them.

Keeping an eye on your competition and reporting negative activity is beneficial for preventing lousy behavior and can also help give you a leg up to online success and visibility.

Benefits of a Diversified Backlink Portfolio

One of the most important steps you can take to protect your website from negative SEO attacks is to diversify your backlink portfolio. This means having a mix of different types of links from various sources and not just relying on one particular type or source for all your link-building efforts.

Here are some reasons why you should build a diversified link portfolio for your website.

Boosts Your SERP Rankings

As we mentioned before, one of the most important ranking factors for your website is the number and quality of your backlinks.

By increasing the number of links pointing to your site while also ensuring that those links come from high-quality sources, you’ll boost the SERP rankings. 

This is essential for driving traffic to your website and getting new leads. 

Helps You Avoid Penalties

Another benefit of having a diversified backlink portfolio is that it can help you avoid penalties from Google.

If all of your links come from low-quality sources or if you engage in link buying and trading (which is expressly against Google’s guidelines), you could find yourself on the receiving end of a penalty — and that’s something you want to avoid.

By ensuring that your links come from various sources, you’ll minimize the risk of being penalized by Google. 

Builds Your Reputation 

Finally, having a diversified backlink portfolio can also help build your reputation online. People who see your site have links from well-known and respected websites are more likely to trust and do business with you.

This is especially true if those websites are in the same industry as yours; linking to high-quality sites within your industry will show potential customers that you’re an authority in your field. 

Enhance Your SEO With Ghax Digital Marketing

If you want to take your online presence and search engine ranking to the next level, contact GHAX Digital Marketing today.

At Ghax Digital Marketing, we understand the importance of a robust digital presence and are here to help you build a positive online reputation.

Our team of experienced SEO professionals can optimize your website for maximum visibility and search engine rankings — and, most importantly, protect it from negative SEO attacks.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help enhance your SEO efforts and ensure your website is protected from malicious or unsavory activities.

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Antonio Calabrese GHAX

Hey, I’m Antonio Calabrese, Founder at GHAX. We love working with businesses who are serious about growth.

If that’s you, get in touch and be 1 of 20 this month to claim a free marketing strategy session.

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