What is Negative SEO? and How to Secure your SEO gains?
SEO and Digital marketing is about learning the internet, and use it to make brands popular, famous, discoverable, Negative SEO on the other hand, is a reverse process of the same practices to get the opposite effect.
In this article, we will cover the most common practices, and some tips to protect your website, but there is no ultimate way to fully secure your SEO, in search, there are no guarantees, and even big G cannot control Good SEO, Negative SEO and Webspam, however, they are getting better year after year, so are we.
Before getting to Negative SEO, beware that in most cases of ranking drops or other SEO issues, the cause is usually Self-inflected, in the process of optimizing something that is actually working, webmasters can change settings that back-fire! not a Negative SEO attack, nor Google penalty or any other outside action, check all on-site, redirections, server-side, Google Search Console security issues, activity log, and other monitors before investigating Negative SEO.
Installing SSL Certificate - HTTPS
Most hosting providers offer it for free, or for 5 USD max, and it’s astonishing how many websites are running on htttp:// versions, and they already installed the SSL security!
installing an SSL certificate is a simple process, not more than 13 clicks! that will help from the SEO standpoint, that your webpages are secured for Google to recommend for more users and slightly up the ranking if the rest of your competition are not securing the content.
Also, from a user standpoint, it’s annoying to get the pop on your browser asking you if you trust the website you are about to visit, for first time visitors that would be a total turn off, clicking back to search results will demolish your engagement rate and increase Bounce time, it’s simple that any one can do it, or have their webmaster helps them implementing it.
just check the what version your browser is using http://www.domainname should be switched to httpS://www.domainname
Harmful Links, Spam Back-links and Other Linky stuff
Links used to be as harmful as powerful, back in the days it was easier to hack a website place a link from their most authoritative page to your website, fortunately it’s getting harder to place links nowadays, but still you need to check your source pages and run test for external links regularly.
The most common links Negative SEO practice, is using a tool to build thousand of low quality back-links to your website, which will either get you a penalty for links scheme, or fill your back link profile if on Google Search Console Link Report.
Fortunately, Google is getting much better in detecting those links and ignoring them, they probably have equal positive effect if they were intended to boost your ranking and authority – Yeah some SEO’s still do that – But it’s pointless.
However, if you detected such links polluting your link profile, you can always disavow low quality links through Google Disavow Tool.
However, you should not help Google with their job, if it’s not counting the link positively, then it will ignore the links, don’t worry.
So when to use the disavow tool? in some cases, if the links are being built manually, with the intention to Negative SEO your website, check your competitors, who is winning, or who else is loosing, a good SEO consultant can bring you more details than you could imagine.
Chris Bennet – Well Known SEO from Agency Hacker – once shared a story, his father had a car wash station in Australia, their website and local SEO is their bread and butter, and they had some decent competition for 4 years.
Then the rankings began to drop, and their regular competitors too, while a new player in town has entered the market with big budget for links and a sophisticated SEO agency, getting them links worth 100 USD for link, and buying links for their competitors 1,000links for 1USD!
There Chris decided he is guilty by situation, and decided to Negative SEO attack him in return, long story short Chris destroyed him.
He brought him links from inappropriate websites, and pushed relevancy by anchors related to Cars and Ladies which turned to be huge category with traffic from the inappropriate websites, that caused the spammer a manual penalty taking him out of the SERP completely.
Google Maps Spam and Negative SEO
Here is more gems if you enjoy the read so far, Google My Business is a solution under development, work in progress, with a different algorithm than organic search, more pieces to move, simpler strategies and practices, in short, there is so many flaws in the system.
A recent bug was solved recently -this no more works – where users were able to suggest the opening date of the location, if he suggested a futuristic date and it got approved by Google Algorithm, it will disappear from maps until the supposedly launch date! that affect many business and it’s a relief that it’s fixed.
This we came across last year in 2019, we were looking for SEO Agencies and we found two listings belongs to a well know restaurant, one of them was verified and changed to an SEO agency Amman! taking their reviews and changing some images but could not delete all, we reported the incident on Local Guides Connect and it received a hard suspension, here is the full story:
It trended once in Ukraine, where SEO’s where playing with governmental listings on Google Maps, posting photos of hairless cats and dogs, and due to the engagement rate on those images, Google was featuring it as cover photo since the listings aren’t verified.
Another way of doing it is posting inappropriate back images on a black background, users and bots view images differently which may trigger a penalty, so beware of blank images posted by users, and remove all immediately.
Securing WordPress Website against Negative SEO
WordPress is by far the most dominant CMS in the market, it runs on PHP and it’s great for blogging and it’s considered the best CMS – Cost to Benefit- for small businesses. given that 70% of internet webpages are running on WordPress.
However, it’s not well known for its security standards, the platform is secure indeed but it’s the 3rd Party Plugins you need to worry about.
When your website is using an old version of a less secured plugin, it gives room for hacking your plugin and then using it to control your website, the solution is easy, keep all updated, it’s bit of a headache but it’s totally worth it, you can enable the automatic update feature but it’s not recommended depending on the plugins you installed.
How To Secure a website against Negative SEO?
If you are a business owner, get an SEO expert for consultation if you suspect you might be a victim of Negative SEO, the fundamental security measures should be implemented by developer or webmaster working on the website.
Also, there is many tutorials on how to do the basics that actually work and protect you from the most common attacks, including some dangerous types like DOS Attack.
The problem with Negative SEO that even if it diagnosed and fixed, there is still someone trying to harm your business, and you need protection for future SEO rewards.
Lastly, Negative SEO is a part of the game, we don’t mind taking down competitors if we they spam their way up the rankings, and in many cases including Negative SEO in your arsenal could be more helpful than On-Site practices, if the affected person deserve it, it’s case by case scenario, so consider this blog an educational resource to detect and prevent Negative SEO against you.