If your website was high on Google's rankings and seems to have suddenly dropped overnight, then you may be the victim of negative SEO. While SEO can boost your website's position in search engine results, a negative SEO attack does the opposite, sending it plummeting.
It can be carried out by competitors or anyone who has a grudge against your business, and it's inconvenient and can cost you money in lost revenue.
Here's what you can do if you think you may be a victim of negative SEO.
How are these attacks carried out?
When you are trying to build your search ranking, it's important to have good quality backlinks, that is, getting other websites to link back to you. An easy way for people to sink your SEO score is to make lots of spammy links pointing to your site, along with keywords often used by spammers such as those associated with online dating or adult content.
If your website is hacked, then it can also be filled with spammy links, making Google believe it's a spam site. Another thing that's becoming common is setting up fake social media accounts. With many companies now using Twitter marketing and similar digital campaigns, their reputation is important on these platforms.
There are a number of sites online where hackers offer to post thousands of backlinks for just a few dollars, so it doesn't take a great deal of money or resources to carry out this sort of attack.
Can you prevent an attack?
Luckily, Google is getting better at identifying negative SEO attacks, so it's mainly newer sites or those with few backlinks established that are most at risk. However, even if your site has been well optimized, a determined hacker could still launch this kind of attack.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to negative SEO. Google's Webmaster Tools can help by sending you alerts about pages not being indexed, malware, and manual penalties. There are also a number of tools you can use to see if people are building backlinks to your site, and your webmaster or SEO agency will be able to set up alerts.
Keeping your website secure from hackers is also important. You want to prevent hackers from being able to put spam on your page, as this will cause a negative effect on SEO. Make sure your website's security is up to date, with two-step authentication and strong passwords for starters.
A couple of other things you can do are to ensure you have unique content on your website, is to use a tool such as Copyscape, which will show you whether something has been copied from you, and to regularly search the major social media networks for posts about your company.
How can I undo the damage from negative SEO?
If you've identified that your ranking has definitely dropped due to negative SEO, then there are a number of things you can do to overcome it. Take a look at all the recent backlinks to your site and make a list of those that need to be removed. In some cases, you can get them removed by doing a Whois domain search, finding the webmaster's e-mail address and simply politely asking them to remove the link, since they may not even be aware of it. If you don't hear back, you may need to deal with their website's host to get the link removed.
If these methods don't work, you may have to use the Google Disavow tool. If you've received a manual penalty from Google due to spam links, then you can disavow these backlinks.
Overcoming negative SEO can be a long and tedious process. If you aren't technically minded, then you could damage your site's SEO by using the Disavow tool incorrectly. There are a few SEO agencies who offer services to help you overcome negative SEO, or it may be something you need to pass on to your IT team.
Negative SEO is annoying for companies of all sizes, but smaller ones often suffer most harshly, as a month without any visits could be enough to sink them. It can take a while to recover from an attack, so prevention is definitely the key thing, so ensure your website is secure and that you're keeping a close eye on anyone linking to your site.