It’s quite a task to gain traffic and rankings for your website. But what if your nearest rivals make nefarious attempts to tank down rankings by using several notorious negative SEO tricks? Negative SEO isn’t a newly coined term. It’s been haunting marketers since the very inception of search engines. The article explains 11 types of negative SEO activities that are used to hurt competitors ranking. Read on these SEO types to stay safe.
If you’re in SEO space, negative SEO is a topic that you should be aware of. This article is a quick walkthrough to let you know how Negative SEO attacks your website and how to stay safe against any such attempt. There are numerous ways in which hackers and black hat professionals attack websites.
The sole motive behind any such negative SEO attack is to hurt your website ranking, affect your traffic and dent your online reputation. Fortunately, you can reduce the damage if you are prepared and alert against such attacks.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO comprises a set of black hat SEO activities that your competitors launch against you to tarnish your online reputation and bring down your search rankings. These black hat activities may include creating tons of unnatural / spammy links indicating to your site, content scraping, hacking the site. Following are the list of Negative SEO activities you should take note of.
Types of Negative SEO?
1. Link Farms:
Technically, in link farms, websites are interconnected and linked with each other to increase the link popularity pages of each sites interconnected. PBNs or Private Blog Networks are an example of link farms. They are a network of sites created solely for creating tons of spammy links and typically owned by one individual or a team.
Most of the domains in the blog network are expired. Which means by the time they include in a PBN they have accumulated some backlinks and authority.
To recall, Google’s Penguin update in 2012 was aimed at destroying PBNs. If Google finds backlinks coming from a link farm, it justly concludes that the website is involved in a link scheme. It eventually compels Google to impose a Google penalty against the website. That’s how the competitors use link farms to destroy your website’s credibility.
To recall, Google’s Penguin update in 2012 was aimed at destroying PBNs. If Google finds the backlinks coming from a link farm, it justly concludes that the website is involved in a link scheme. It eventually compels Google to impose a Google penalty against the website. That’s how the competitors use link farms to destroy your website’s credibility.
So, compare your existing links with the links that appears to be coming from a possible attack. Once the analysis is done, you will get the list of the links that’s probably the part of an attack. If you notice massive influx of backlinks that’s beyond a natural link flow your website received in past, get a fact check.
Your competitors use spam software to create high number of links using the same anchors or pile up links from a single specific footprint. It’s not easy to spot unusual backlink patterns. Try to find out if link influx is coming from adult and pharma anchor text phrases or unknown sources. These links may be the result of a negative SEO attack implemented by hackers or black hat SEOs using a spam tool, or possibly someone using a network of sites.
2. Content Scraping
Content scraping is another devastating negative SEO technique where attackers scrap your site's content and copy it to other websites multiple sites. The act eventually violates Google’s Panda guidelines. If Google spots the stolen version of the content it may de-rank your site.
When Google finds the instances of the duplicated content across the multiple websites, Google picks only the original version of the content to rank. To dodge Google, scrapers often automatically copy new content and report it right away. This is to ensure that scrapped content is getting indexed and ranked before the original.
Sometimes, attackers manage to inject content and link to attack your website. This is another kind of fatal negative SEO attack. If you notice changes in your existing site, access your server logs to determine which internet protocols (IPs) were used for the content or link injection. You should also capture IP information on the new URLs to find the attackers.
3. Fake Reviews:
For local businesses where reviews matter a lot, competitors manage to bring fake and negative reviews for your local business. It’s equally disastrous for both your rankings and business.
4. Increased Crawling
Your competitors may stoop even lower to drag you down. They may forcefully crawl your website to surge the server load abruptly. This may cause a website to slow down or in the worst case, may crash it altogether. If the situation continues and your site is down, search engines won’t be able to access your site. This could result in site de-indexing and eventually, ranking drop.
5. Click Fraud
It’s yet to establish that clicks are directly related to search ranking, though, there have been multiple signals indicating high click rate on a certain search result can boost its rankings; while a low CTR will get a site de-ranked. It’s simple. Attackers design a CTR bot to search for their main keywords and branded terms. The bots automatically click on the client's listing and quickly bounce back to the SERP. Excessive bounce rate leads to ranking drop in the SERP.
This is another negative SEO tactic to kill a website's ranking. If your very next competitor has Adwords running for the site, you can abruptly click on their adverts to consume their budget and drastically impact their number of genuine visitors. There are already have established instances that it affects the search rankings at a serious note.
6. Comment Spam
Comment spam links are the most common negative SEO attack by spammers. It could be done both way, either manual or by using a spamming software. You may have noticed unusual influx of strange, irrelevant comments with anchor text on posts or pages. These comments are scheduled and triggered from automated software. To prevent comment spam, access server logs and isolate which IPs were used in the posting attempts. To stop these spam comment links from bothering you, you can turn off comments or add stronger CAPTCHAs and spam traps like Akismet.com.
The problem with Hotlinking is that it’s hard to notice until the maximum destruction has been done. This negative SEO trick directly impacts a website’s performance affect your site’s performance. In Hotlinking, attackers embed your images on their website by linking directly to them. Since it consumes your bandwidth, offenders easily discover your website traffic coming in via your analytics and data usage in your raw logs. The attackers then export the list of domain hosting your images.
8. Manipulated User Signals
It’s ideally a hard nut to crack. You can’t easily distinguish between normal and manipulated user signals. Use your intellect to what’s purposely being done and what’s manipulated. Manipulated user signals can be seen in form of unrealistic spikes of spammy traffic on specific pages. If you find any such occurrence of such traffic, isolate, block and remove IPs the traffic is coming from.
9. Google Bowling
This is quite an effective process where you force Google to believe that your nearest competitor is playing spammy tactics to achieve search positions. You have two ways to do this. The first method is to add badlinks to the site that are secured from bad neighborhoods,link farms and automatically generated spammy pages.
This lead to trigger a spam alert and serious impact on the website ranking. Another way to perform Google bowling is to create hundreds of links with different competitor site URLs but using same content. Now post these links across various platforms and request Google to take the notice of the same.
Tattling is an innovative negative SEO trick where webmasters notify Google that a particular website defies the established Google guidelines. It may also be done by placing a complaint to Google against any sort of copyright infringement on a particular website.
11. False Content
This can be done by creating a website and placing the same content that your competitor site has. But make sure that the new content to the site indexed by the search engine before your competitor. For an instance, if your nearest competitor changes their service page, you change your service page with same content and meta tag and submit the sitemap before his submission. The magic starts here. When crawler comes to index, it finds your page first in the race and other page is sheer duplicate. This will quite difficult for your competitor to face.
Tarun Gupta, CEO of Brainpulse Technologies, is a prolific author and digital marketing specialist. His insightful writings span SEO, content marketing, social media strategy, and email campaigns, offering invaluable expertise to businesses worldwide. Tarun’s contributions continue to shape the digital marketing landscape, guiding success in multiple niches.