How competitors can use SEO attacks to destroy your brand’s online reputation and diminish your rankings.
Competition can be quite fierce in the digital world but unfortunately, instead of embracing this competition in a healthy way, there are many brands that turn to black hat SEO techniques to attack their competitors to get ahead online.
Types of negative SEO attacks
There are a number of different techniques that could be used by competitors to negatively affect your SEO rankings, let’s look at a few of them here.
- Fake reviews. In a world where reviews, recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing are exceptionally important, fake negative reviews can really wreak havoc on your online reputation and your rankings and are easily to implement.
- Forced crawling. Some competitors could try and forcefully crawl your website in order to cause slow server load times, and slow loading speeds do eventually lead to lower search engine rankings.
- Google isn’t a fan of duplicate content so when it does pick it up on it, it will eventually only index one version of that content. Competitors could scrap and duplicate your content across multiple sites in an attempt to decrease your rankings.
- Link farming. When spammy websites are linking back to your site, it can have a negative effect on your rankings. Competitors will also generally try to use anchor text links that are unrelated to your sector to send unrelated traffic to your site, which will eventually mess with your rankings.
- Spam content. When a competitor is able to hack your website, they have the ability to add spammy content to your website that can be difficult to see if you’re not looking out for it. This content could eventually lead to a decrease in your rankings if Google starts picking up on it.
- Site de-indexing. If a competitor is able to get their hands on your robot.txt file, they could alter it in such a way that Google stops crawling your site, leaving your website in the dust.
How to prevent negative SEO attacks
While negative SEO attacks do require a lot of time and resources to implement, they’re not impossible and they do happen.
A number of brands have been affected by SEO attacks over the years but there are a few tactics that you can implement so that you don’t become one of them. Here’s how to prevent negative SEO attacks:
- Turn on Google Webmaster Tool alerts. By turning on Google Webmaster Tools email alerts, you will be notified when your pages are not indexed, if there’s a malware threat, if you get a penalty from Google and if there are any connectivity issues that you should be aware of.
- Check for duplicate content. There are a number of tools available that will help you scan for duplicate content. Copyscape and Sitliner are examples of tools that will help you pick up on duplicate content. If you do come across duplicate content, contact the site’s webmaster about its removal. If you don’t have any luck with that, you can simply report the copyright infringement to Google.
- Monitor backlinks. It’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the websites that are linking to yours. Tools such as SEO Spyglass and MonitorBacklinks make it really easy to monitor your backlink profile and see which domains are linking to your site. If you notice a spike in backlinks, these tools are able to create a risk profile for you to help you decipher how these backlinks will affect your rankings in the long term. You can then simply disavow any domains that are putting your ranking at risk.
- Keep an eye on Google My Business. Make a point of closely monitoring your Google My Business profile in order to pick up on any negative reviews as soon as possible. Luckily, fake reviews can be flagged if need be and Google will review and remove them if deemed fake. It’s important to be sure that it isn’t indeed an actual negative review though.
- Prevent hacking and malware. Keeping the security of your site in tip-top shape will go a long way in protecting your website’s reputation and rankings. Usernames and passwords should always be strong and plugins such as Wordfence Security really come in handy if you’re running a WordPress website.
- Test your website’s speed. If you happen to notice that your website speed has really slowed down of late, it’s best to contact your hosting company to find out where the heavy loads are coming from so that you can rectify your site’s speed as soon as possible.
- Keep an eye on social media. It doesn’t happen very often but competitors could take the time to setup duplicate social media profiles for your brand that could end up damaging your reputation and your rankings so search for your brand on social media every now and then to make sure this hasn’t happened.
- Run regular site audits. Tools such as Website Auditor and DYNO Mapper will help you keep track of your website’s structure in order to pick up on any spammy content that might be able to affect your rankings.
- Monitor your website rankings. Lastly, use Google Webmaster Tools to keep track of your crawl stats and your robots.txt file to make sure that your website is still being crawled and indexed.
Negative SEO attacks are not something that you need to spend hours worrying about as they aren’t easy to implement so they don’t happen very often. It doesn’t, however, hurt to just keep an eye on your stats and your website’s presence on the world wide web on a regular basis so that you can catch any potential attacks and black hat SEO tactics before they affect your brand’s ranking and reputation.
What steps are you currently taking to protect your brand from online attacks?