Negative SEO Attacks and Protecting Your Website

Posted on: 01/07/2020 by Hannah Natalello

What is negative SEO?

When discussing SEO strategy, it’s not uncommon to come across the terms ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’. These terms are assigned to search engine optimisation techniques depending on how ethical and accepted they are with ‘white hat’ representing best practice and ‘black hat’ referring to unethical,undesirable practices.

Techniques that are considered black hat change over time as search engine algorithms grow ever more sophisticated, so a technique that was considered ethical and acceptable 10 years ago may now be harmful to your rankings. In effect, it’s possible to apply black hat SEO to your website inadvertently, or that techniques that were applied in the past will no longer be fit for purpose.

Unfortunately for website owners, it is entirely possible for an operative to apply black hat SEO to their competitors’ sites and therefore harm their overall search engine visibility and rankings, or even land them with a search engine penalty. There are a number of ways this is done including:

  • Negative link building which directs an excessive number of spammy links to your site
  • Hacking your website and trying to hide spammy links and web copy within your legitimate content
  • Creating duplicates of your content and publishing them online so your content loses value and starts working against you
  • Creating fake profiles to give your website and brand negative coverage online
  • Removing your most impactful backlinks
  • Filling your blog with spammy comments

As you can imagine, negative SEO attacks are a very real threat and can have long lasting effects on your business’s revenue, reputation and rankings. Once a penalty has been assigned, it can take a month or more to undo the damage using tools such as Google’s Disavow feature so it makes much more sense to increase your protections against negative SEO in the first place.

How to avoid black hat SEO attacks

One of the easiest and fastest black hat SEO techniques to implement is negative link building. There is a booming market for freelance SEOs undertaking this kind of work to help take down their client’s competitors, but it is still entirely possible to spot it in time and take action. A regular review of your website’s backlink profile will uncover the sources of inbound links to your site, and put strategies in place to counter them.

Regular content audits which specifically look for your content elsewhere online will show whether you have fallen victim to content scraping. Having your content scraped, duplicated and published elsewhere by competitors vastly reduces its value and there is a high chance that your site will suffer a penalty and a reduction in your hard-earned search engine rankings.

Another action you can take to protect your site from negative SEO is to ensure you follow web security guidelines and best practice. Using a password manager and keeping login information updated regularly is a standard recommendation which can help reduce the chances of your site being hacked, as can scheduling regular backups of your data and scanning for viruses and other malware frequently.

The way your site is hosted can also add an increased level of protection from negative SEO attacks. Choosing robust hosting options for your website helps you to secure any access points, making it much harder for hackers to get into your CMS. If a hacker does manage to gain access then they can cause havoc such as editing your robots.txt code to render your site invisible, or modifying your content and injecting it with spam.

Whichever CMS you are using, it should be kept up to date as updates often include changes to site security, correction of bugs, and improved efficiency. Looking after your site with good hosting, regular CMS updates and audits may feel like just another expense. Having said this, the costs of recovering from a negative SEO attack can be incredibly expensive, and this is very much a case of prevention being better than the cure.

A key and often overlooked aspect of building resilience to negative SEO attacks is the strength of your brand’s reputation. Continuously working to improve your reputation and nurturing a loyal pool of users helps search engine algorithms to understand that negative SEO techniques linked to your site are not the norm and this helps protect your brand from negative external influences.

What to do following a negative SEO attack

Whilst it is always better to prevent negative SEO attacks than simply react to them if and when they do happen, it’s important to know what to do in the event that one occurs unexpectedly. Things you can do in the immediate aftermath is reviewing the login details of every individual with access to the site and ensuring that no new users have been created without your authorisation. You should also check your CMS to see if you may have missed an important update which might affect your security.

Enlisting the help of an agency which specialises in SEO will identify other areas that may be vulnerable to further attack and will enable you to start negating the effects of malicious actions. Plinkfizz provides a fully integrated service, handling everything from hosting to content, PR, SEO and website design and more with a team of dedicated specialists. For more information on how you can protect your brand from negative SEO attacks, improve your rankings, and give your site a boost then contact us.

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