The main goal of search engine optimization is to help your campaigns gain visibility on the SERPs, enabling your clients to reach their target customers. However, some marketers use SEO tactics to negatively influence your rankings. Among the tactics used in negative SEO, link-based techniques are some of the easiest to implement – and could be the hardest to clean up. I want to go through the different factors you need to consider when evaluating your campaigns for possible negative attacks, and discuss how you can protect your website from such attacks.
Uncovering Possible Attacks
Link-based negative SEO can be difficult to track, especially since there’s no easy way to prove that your clients’ competitors engaged in low-quality link buying to attack your campaigns. Watch out for the following attack signals:
- Unnatural Spike in Your Backlink Profile
Tracking tools like Ahrefs help you monitor the health of your backlinks, and it can also help you monitor unnatural activity. Note your regular backlink activity progression over the recent months, and note any unnatural rise in backlinks. This activity spike is indicative of unnatural linking activity, and can prompt you to do more in-depth link analysis to determine if you are being attacked through negative SEO.
- Slower Site Loading Time
Another way you can be attacked by negative SEO is by having “dishonorable spiders” – crawlers meant to crawl your entire site to collect data, which marketers will store in their database and use to create counter-campaigns. Every time it crawls your site, it eats up bandwidth. If your site loading time starts slowing down, check where your bandwidth is going. See if any suspicious programs track your site increasingly, and block these using your robots.txt file.
- Unrelated Keywords Tracked by Google Analytics
Google Analytics tracks your traffic source history, and it contains a feature that lets you determine what organic keywords brought visitors to your site. Check that the keywords associated with your site are keywords you are targeting, terms related to your clients’ industries, or long-tail versions of your main keywords. If you see any terms unrelated to your campaign, it’s time to do a more in-depth website audit and analysis.
Outside of your website, you need to watch out for the following:
- Content Scraping and Publishing
Copying and reposting your quality content are other indications that you might be experiencing a negative SEO attack. Doing this is easy because there are many content scraping programs accessible to competitors. You can receive a penalty for duplicate content if Google detects the same content published in multiple places at the same time, and they’re not lenient about it either – the revisions they made to their Webmaster Guidelines clearly state you have to tell them that something published online is not yours (through the disavow tool) before they reconsider their penalty. Make sure to run searches for duplicate content regularly using tools like Copyscape.
- Increasing Fake Negative Reviews
It’s easy to create fake interviews and publish negative content online because of the many platforms we have online today. While you expect your target audience to tell the difference between genuine reviews and fake ones, some may still believe in these negative reviews. Track everything that’s being said about your site through Google Alerts, and monitor reviews that look fake to you – chances are, they come from a negative SEO attack.
Protecting Your Campaigns
The level of protection you need to do varies depending on your site age, backlink profile strength, and other preventive measures you have in place. New websites are especially vulnerable because you have not yet established a strong backlink profile, and competitors can easily find holes to exploit. In order to avoid being impacted by negative SEO, you have to:
- Monitor your inbound links closely. You’ll need to do a backlink profile analysis regularly throughout the first year of the site (or the first year of your campaign, if the site was just transferred to your account). A monthly audit will help you detect unnatural linking activities.
- Invest in aggressive brand building, online public relations and reputation management solutions. This will be easier if your white label SEO services already have online PR integrated. You should do this from the first couple of months to the first half of the year, depending on how competitive your market is.
- Avoid linking to the “low-hanging fruit” websites – sites that link to you easily. You may be getting inbound links from a domain with other links to unrelated industries, and this can bring your link profile quality down while they leverage the quality of yours to bring theirs up. Being featured in high-quality websites takes tame, but it produces more lasting results.
- Monitor outbound links posted by contributors to your site. This could be a source of low-quality links that may affect your rankings. Make sure to track these links even though you activate an automated nofollow wrap feature for outbound links, especially if your site publishes third-party contributor work regularly.
- Disavow links you suspect are part of a negative SEO attack. Check Google’s revised definition of link schemes and do an in-depth analysis of these links before you submit them for disavowal. Remember that while Google says negative SEO will not affect your rankings, they also rely on you to let them know which links are and aren’t yours.
The good news for our partners is that we ensure your campaigns are protected by our white label SEO services. Talk to your account manager to learn more about our methodology and to discuss a strategy if you think you have been hit by a negative SEO attack.
Remember to sign up and become our partner to get the full benefits of our SEO solutions. I hope today’s discussion was helpful, and keep checking back for more updates!