Ask anybody who depends on SEO for traffic and they will confirm how controversial Negative SEO is. SEO as a marketing discipline is a tough nut to crack. After all, more than 72% of customers reach a store after conducting an online search.
This attracts brands and their marketers to SEO like bees to beehives. But, not everybody can ace SEO. Moreover, there is plenty of hard work and genuine content creation involved which makes it a marathon of small tasks to pull off successfully.
When things don’t go as expected, some, although not all resort to malpractice. SEO is no exception in which Negative SEO is one such malpractice.
Here Are Tips ON How To Prevent Your Business Website from Negative SEO
1) Negative SEO, Explained
In simple terms, Negative SEO is the collection of practices and efforts taken to hurt the online search engine rankings of competitors. This is achieved by building spammy links, content scraping, setting up unnatural links or even going to the extent of breaking in/hacking the website altogether. Some might even go to the extent of defaming your business online through fake accounts and pages in social media.
2) Is The Threat Real?
Negative SEO was not much of a villain until the Google Penguin update of 2012 came. Until then no punitive action was taken against websites which were spammy or not complying with Google’s SEO standards. But, with the Penguin update, things changed and Google started penalizing websites to deliver search results better. That led to the outburst of Negative SEO as a form of online attack on competitors.
In fact, the situation is so bad that there are ‘professionals’ who are ready to do negative SEO and bring down competitor websites for as cheap as $5!
What if your business arch-rival decides to pit such a professional and damage your online presence once and for all?
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Well, you need to take proactive measures to stay safe at all times. That is exactly what we are going to describe in this article.
How to combat and prevent Negative SEO?
Now that it is proven that Negative SEO are happening steadfastly, it is now time to talk about steps that any website owner must take to keep their online reputation intact.
Steps To Keep There Online Reputation
#1 Set Up Google Search Console Email Alerts
The simplest way to stay on top of your website performance and also be informed of any Negative SEO attacks on your website is with the help of Google Search Console Preference.
•Google has an in-built alert system that can trigger email alerts:
•When your website is affected by malware
•Has web pages that are not yet indexed by the bot
•Displays server connectivity issues,
•Or has been penalized by Google for some reason
In case you have not setup email alerts, it is easy to setup.
•Go to Google Search Console
•Click on Search Console tool preferences
•Check the ‘Enable email notifications’ button
•Enter the email to which you want to receive the notifications
•Save the changes for the settings to take effect
#2 Lookout For Malicious Backlinks
Now that your Google webmaster tool is setup, it is time to check up from which sources your website is receiving backlinking. While backlinks from high authority websites like journals, press releases blogs, video submission forums, etc. are worthy, look out for the following kind of backlinks which mean trouble:
•Links to gambling or illicit topic pages
•Links to irrelevant web pages in foreign language
•Links to pages created for spamming
•Links to pages that contain virus or malware
Your website might get irrelevant and spammy from websites which look and feel original complete with all elements including an SSL Certificate.
#3 Use Google’s Disavow Tool
What to do when you fall prey to negative SEO?
Don’t lose your cool as Google has already set up a Disavow tool that helps remove the links created as part of negative SEO attacks. As a matter of fact, there is a real-life example of a website which fell prey to negative SEO and bounced back to recovery with the help of this tool.
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WP Bacon is a WordPress podcast website with impressive traffic volumes. It was targeted and hit by Negative SEO which resulted in its search ranking hit by more than 50 spots.
Luckily for WP Bacon, it was able to use Google’s Disavow tool and claim back its way to recovery and its top search engine ranking.
For some reason, if you need to locate Google’s Disavow tool in the future, you can locate it at www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
To disavow any link that you think is spammy or irrelevant to your website, go to the link, enter the link and click on the Disavow Links button.
Once you are done doing this, Google will prompt you to update a file that contains a list of links that you think should still be considered to rank your website. The file should be a “.txt” file which is usually named as a “disavow.txt” which must contain only three types of files:
•Full-length URL of the pages you want to be devalued
•List of full domains/subdomains that need to be blocked completely
•Special comments on link devaluation to be indicated using “#” sign
However, be informed that even if by mistake you include any of the genuine links in the disavow list, your search engine rankings will take a hit. So be careful while identifying the links that are malicious from the ones that are not.
Google is an awesome search engine. In fact, the livelihood of many, but, mastering the Google algorithm for search engine optimization is not a task that comes by easily. In the recent days, Google has been tweaking the algorithm extensively to make it friendlier and safer for the users. That is why you see more of website owners rushing to configure the site with an Extended Validation “EV” Certificate.
Protecting your website with a Geotrust SSL Certificate might help to a certain extent, but to safeguard yourself from Negative SEO you need to be more cautious and proactive.
When you are hit (which we hope you don’t) keep calm and practice what has been described above. You are sure to bounce back to the top of search engine rankings.
That’s our two cents about Negative SEO and how to survive unscathed without much damage. Don’t forget to keep updated with changes in Google algorithm to stay alongside with SEO practices.