No matter what industry you operate within, it’s crucial to prioritize search engine optimization. After all, over 25% of Google’s users click the first link on the search results page.

Unfortunately, there’s a dark side of SEO that many people are unaware of. This is known as “negative SEO,” and it comes with many dangers you can’t afford to ignore.

Below, we’ll break down its key attributes, risks, and how to protect yourself. Let’s dive in.

So, What Is Negative SEO?

This is a malicious strategy that uses unethical techniques (known as black hat SEO) to sabotage your search engine performance. You can think of this as someone badmouthing your business to other people, except it occurs digitally and has much worse consequences.

The end goal of negative SEO is to cause your rankings to plummet, exiling your brand to the depths of Google’s second search results page and every page thereafter. Anyone familiar with SEO understands that this is a death sentence when it comes to your online presence.

How Can Negative SEO Affect Me?

In practice, negative SEO can come in many different forms. One of the most common is building a large number of spam links that direct users to your website.

This is also known as “SEO poisoning.” Google will see this behavior and assume you’re attempting to fraudulently improve your search ranking. Other methods include creating fake reviews that damage your brand’s reputation and distributing content on unauthorized platforms.

In severe cases, someone might hack the backend of your website and sabotage its performance. Hackers often achieve this by impairing your site’s technical SEO and inserting malicious links on your pages. This is the digital equivalent of opening the hood of someone’s car and pulling as many wires and cables as you can find.

If the hacker gets their way, they can even have your site de-indexed. This means it will never show up on Google’s search results no matter what keywords users look for.

Who Is Responsible?

More often than not, business owners assume that their competitors are the masterminds at work. This isn’t always true.

A disgruntled customer with broad tech knowledge and an axe to grind could target your business. In some situations, the attack could be completely random by someone who wants to watch the world burn. The good news is that it’s possible to protect yourself from those who wish to harm your brand.

How to Protect Yourself

Protecting yourself is easier than most people anticipate. Although the odds might seem stacked against you, there are tried-and-true methods you can leverage. Listed below are some of the most notable.

Monitor Your Backlink Profile

This is one of the most essential steps to take. By staying aware of links that lead to your side, you can quickly identify harmful ones.

More often than not, hackers and scammers who utilize negative SEO attempt to post a large number of low-quality links at once. On your end, you would notice a sudden increase in backlinks, allowing you to investigate their source.

Another way to keep track of your backlink profile is by frequently assessing your website authority score. This is a metric that search engines use to determine how reliable your website is. If you notice a sharp decline in this number, chances are that the situation needs your attention.

Identify Duplicate Content

Search engines regularly punish websites that publish duplicate content. After all, the only reason to plagiarize content is to pass it off as your own.

In some scenarios, hackers might duplicate your entire website and attempt to get their version of your website punished. This process is known as “SEO hijacking.”

By extension, Google might also punish yours. Identifying duplicate content as soon as possible will allow you to prevent this.

Report Fake Reviews

It’s not abnormal for businesses to encounter the occasional negative review. Reputable companies have nothing to worry about as long as they prioritize the customer experience.

However, a large number of fake reviews could sway the opinions of potential customers. This is especially true if hackers post a large number of these at once, as it could make your company appear to be embroiled in a scandal.

If you notice false reviews, report them as soon as possible. In some situations, you might need to contact the owner of a review platform.

Secure Your Website

Keep all of your software updated so you can avoid dealing with security flaws. You should also ensure that your site has an SSL certificate installed.

Always use strong passwords, and never share these with other people. Your passwords should also be impossible to guess, so don’t use personal information when creating them.

Work with a Professional

Working with a professional is one of the best ways you can protect yourself. They have the tools and resources to monitor your site’s performance and take action if problems arise.

When looking for someone to work with, check their past reputation. There should be no shortage of stellar feedback from previous clients.

Ask about the tactics they use to ensure that they’re legitimate. The last thing you want us to hire a business that uses nefarious strategies of its own to combat negative SEO.

Consider their pricing structure, as well. They should provide an itemized breakdown of what you’ll pay so you don’t encounter financial surprises.

Recovering From an Attack

In the event that you suffer from an attack, you should aim to remove toxic links as soon as possible. You can do this by contacting the site’s webmaster. For example, if you find a harmful spam link on a random blog page that directs to your site, contact the webmaster and explain your situation.

If a search engine penalizes your site, you can submit a reconsideration request. Provide as much evidence as possible that a malicious actor was at work. Although there’s no guarantee that the search engine platform will reverse their decision, there’s a chance they can rule in your favor.

Fight Against Negative SEO

Left unchecked, negative SEO has the potential to derail a business of any size. The above guidelines can help ensure you stay on the right track and avoid issues you may have otherwise encountered.

No matter how daunting dealing with negative SEO might be, we’re here to help. Speak with a representative today at CAE Marketing Consulting. Our team of professionals can assess your situation and put the right safeguards in place.

David Morton

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