How to identify and protect yourself from a negative SEO attack

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You have been penalized. It’s the worst thing that could happen to you and you don’t know how it could have happened. You have done everything right.  Do you know that negative SEO exists? This type of practice works and is more common than you think. Take note, learn how to protect yourself, and identify a negative SEO attack. You never know if the next one could be you.

In web positioning, not everything goes, or at least that’s what Google says. Based on this, SEO strategies and techniques are created following Google’s guidelines.

Be careful, you don’t have to obsess either, not everyone will ever receive some attack or negative SEO techniques on their website, but it could happen. What I want you to understand in this article is what types of negative SEO exist, what they can do to you, and how to identify them.

How to identify and protect yourself from a negative SEO attack What is negative SEO?

This is the use of unethical practices with the aim of Google penalizing or sanctioning a competitor’s website. Normally, techniques penalized by Google are applied, so that it appears that they are intentional on the part of the attacked website and thus the positioning of said website is greatly affected.

Does it sound weird to you? Think what it would be like in the offline world. A good friend told me a long time ago about something that happened in his family business. Imagine that you have a greengrocer, the typical neighborhood one, and a supermarket opens 15 meters away. This one, to try to erase you from the map and lower your sales, parks a van so big every morning that it occupies a good part of your shop window. What happens? Now very few people will see that you exist and so you will hardly be able to get clients.

What is the goal of negative SEO?

The objective is clear. Instead of performing legal web positioning techniques, and positioning naturally, you harm your competitor so that Google penalizes it and subtracts positioning to go over it.

Is negative SEO important?

If negative SEO exists, it is because it works. Any web positioning strategy should take into account that at some point an attack of this type could be suffered.

The more that is at stake, the more likely these types of attacks will be made. Very profitable sectors or niches in which being in 1 or 3 positions means significantly increasing or reducing income. This goes for any type of business.

Google’s algorithms constantly monitor bad practices or broken guidelines, and if they find that your website has carried out any type of penalized or considered black hat practice, you may receive a penalty.

How to identify and protect yourself from a negative SEO attack? What techniques can NOT be considered negative SEO?

It is common that when an SEO audit is carried out or a project is analyzed, you find certain elements that make you doubt… have I been the victim of a negative SEO attack? In the absence of a logical explanation, the first thing you think is yes. Has someone from your competition bothered to do that with your website? Think before you blame negative SEO.

1. Weird backlinks from weird sites:

  When you look at your link profile, do you see backlinks from weird places that have nothing to do with your website? Who put them on you and why? These types of links do not always have to be bad, nor is the fact that they are due to a negative SEO action.

2. Many links from the same domain:

 it is common to see this problem in the link profile of a website, although is it a problem?

When you use tools like Search Console (Search Analytics > Backlinks) or Ahrefs, you see how a single website is sending you thousands and thousands of links.

At the minimum that you do not recognize the web, you can come to think that someone is doing negative SEO to you. Is it so? Not necessarily. It is possible that the webmaster of a blog or website is interested in your content and decides to put your link in a sidebar or a footer and these pages are repeated on every page of the website.

I recommend that you read this post by David Ayala on anchor text so you don’t make mistakes when you use them in your strategy. Despite all this, don’t worry. Google is smart enough to know that link is natural. Now, keep scanning your link profile for this kind of behavior, you never know when it might be intentional.

3. Someone from the project has put links without much success:

this happens in many sectors, especially in the world of digital marketing. People who think that certain tasks can be done by anyone, after reading a couple of articles or doing a mini video course.

It may be, but it may not be. Also think about those ‘professionals’ that you have hired and that within their services and the strategy they have proposed, they have decided to include those links.

How to identify and protect yourself from a negative SEO attack? how to identify and protect yourself from a negative SEO attack?

If you are hoping there is a recipe to prevent a negative SEO attack, sorry, the answer is not what you expected.

No website can avoid it, what can be done are two things: watch first and secondly, wait for these attacks to affect you as little as possible. Indeed, they can always be prevented, but it is complicated.

We are going to see some ways in which negative SEO manifests itself and how to be vigilant, both to prevent them and to react when we have been affected by one of these techniques.

The sharp drop in traffic

The  frequent analysis of your data will allow you to discover pronounced drops in traffic. Although this decrease does not have to be exclusively due to negative SEO, you should consider this option.

Think about the cause. Have you deindexed pages? Has you carried out any SEO action that could have harmed you? Have you had any problems with your server? The reasons can be very varied, but the first step is to detect a drop in traffic.

The tool you can use to find this out, of course, is Google Analytics. Beyond seeing the data that it offers you, which are many, you must know how to interpret the data and conclude what is being done well and what is being done wrong. It is one of the points that we emphasize the most in our certification course for Google Analytics.

A sudden drop in this traffic can certainly be due to a negative SEO attack. If it occurs in specific keywords, you might think that the attack has been directed towards a page, through one of the techniques that we see in this article.

What other options can you use to know if you have lost positioning in your keywords?

If you have access to SEMrush you can analyze your domain, and in Organic Research > Position changes, you can see the fluctuations that your keywords have undergone. Improved, declining, won, or lost. Look especially at losing or declining ones and look for a pattern.

Spam in the link profile

Use tools that tell you how many referring domains and links you have. Don’t just look at the number of links, but also the number of referring domains.

It’s not easy to find a tool that will give you data on most or all of your inbound links. I recommend that you use Search Console and Open Link Profiler, for free and of course Ahrefs.com as a paid tool. Without a doubt, the latter is the most powerful. On the other hand, I recently came across the Mangools backlink analysis tool, or what is the same, KWfinder.

Analyze all those links that point to your website in search of those that do not sound familiar to you and that makes you suspicious. They are links from websites that can be malicious, link farms, websites in other languages ​​, or on topics that can compromise you such as gambling, porn, viagra…

Link problems can manifest in different ways:

Poor quality links – Spam

Lots of low-quality links

Unnatural or over-optimized anchor text profile

Poor quality links and lots of questionable quality links

Fortunately, detecting this problem is relatively easy. With the tools that I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you can do it. The more complete the tool, the easier it will be to reach the conclusions.

-Create alerts: 

in tools like Ahrefs or Semrush, you can create alerts that notify you by email of new links that point to your website. This way you can react quickly in the event of suspicious or malicious links.

-Monitor your link growth :

 something that can set off alarms to Penguin or the Google team in charge of applying manual actions can be excessive link growth. You should find out if this happens before they do to avoid being penalized.

Clarification of Manual Actions

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That Google applies a penalty to you may be due to a negative SEO attack or because you have violated one of Google’s guidelines. Here you can see those guidelines so that at least, for your part, you do not take any risk.

If Google has applied these manual penalties to you, you will be able to discover it simply. If you have linked your website with Search Console, you will be notified of the application of this manual action through the tool itself and by email. You can still access the Search Traffic > Manual Actions option from Search Console.

What should you worry about in your anchor text profile?

-Abnormal percentages of anchor text: within an anchor text profile there should be as natural a variety as possible. It is not normal to have 50% of links with the same anchor text. There are cases in which a brand anchor text (eg: «alarm») is the most numerous since it is natural that they link to that text.

Removal of links

It is one of the negative SEO tactics that seems to me to be the most serious at an ethical level. They are also relatively easy to carry out, you do not need any technical knowledge.

These types of practices occur today and you have to be very careful because you practically cannot prevent them.

Scraping content

Although it is difficult for us to understand, Google does not take part in all cases of duplicate content that exist on the Internet. That is, you may have published content and a page has plagiarized it in its entirety and Google not only does not penalize that page but also positions it above you.

If someone copies your content and attributes the authorship to you via a do-follow link, no problem, it can even be good. But when this does not happen it can give you problems. Google does not have to know who is the legitimate author of that content and who is the infringer.

When you have detected those pages that have copied your content, what can you do?

Perhaps the first step could be to write an email directly to your webmaster requesting removal or attribution of authorship, with the corresponding link. This formula does not always work. They do not answer you, they refuse, or any other scenario.

The procedure is simple, from this page you can formalize the complaint. You must enter your first and last name, the URL where the original content is located, and the URL with the plagiarized content. In a matter of hours or days, Google will decide whether or not to accept the removal of content. If it is favorable for you, the plagiarized content URL will be removed from the search results.

Conclusion 

As you can see, receiving negative SEO attacks is something you should count on, although bad results or a penalty should not always be caused by that. As in the actions we carry out to improve SEO, preventing a negative SEO attack from harming us depends on continuous work, analysis, and the ability to react.

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