Before we start delving into how negative SEO works, let’s define what negative SEO exactly is.
The Nature of Negative SEO
Simply put, negative SEO is a set of sneaky activities aimed at lowering your rankings in search results. This malicious attempt taken against your website is usually off-page, meaning unnatural link building to your site or reposting your site’s content.
Even though negative SEO isn’t the common cause of sudden ranking drops, it’s better for you to know how to define if someone is hurting your rankings deliberately.
Negative Off-page SEO
Negative off-page SEO refers to SEO that targets your website without internally interfering with it. Here is a list of the most common shapes negative off-page SEO takes:
There is a small chance that a couple of spammy links will hurt your site’s rankings. However, when it comes to link farms, then the likelihood of attack is highly increased.
As a rule, most of those hacker links use the same anchor text. These matching anchors may be unrelated to the website under attack or include a targeting keyword to make the resource’s link profile look like the owner is manipulating it.
To prevent such an attack, regularly check your link profile growth.
SEO SpyGlass tool can help you with that since it gives you progress graphs for both:
The number of referring domains;
The number of links in your profile.
An unusual spike in either of these two cases is reason enough to look into the links you recently acquired.
Another way competitors can ruin your rankings is by scanning and copying your content across other websites. This works as follows: when the search engine finds identical content across multiple websites, it picks only one version to rank. Even though search engines quickly identify the original version, there is always room for exceptions.
If you want to be sure your content isn’t duplicated by other sites, then you better check it on a regular basis with the Copyscape tool that perfectly determines instances of content duplication. In the event that you find scraped copies of your content, contact the webmaster and ask him to remove the piece.
Negative On-page SEO
Negative on-page SEO attacks involve hacking into your website and changing things around. There are way harder to implement than off-page SEO attacks. The main SEO threats a hacker attack can pose include:
The following tactic is tough to spot. Usually, the hacker adds spammy content to a site. Since those links are often hidden, you will not see them unless you examine the code.
One more possible negative SEO scenario is when the attacker modifies your pages, redirecting them to his web pages. Some site owners use this method to boost their own site’s PageRank or to redirect users to their site when they try to access yours. If search engines find out about the redirect before you do, they are likely to penalize your resource for redirecting to a malicious website. Regular site auditing with a solution like WebSite Auditor is the best option to spot these attacks.
Getting the Site De-indexed
You might be surprised, but little change in such a file as robots.txt can spoil your entire SEO marketing strategy. A Disallow rule is all it takes to tell the search engine to ignore your resource completely. Sad but true.
Fortunately, there is something you can do to prevent such a practice. Regular ranking checks will help you be the first to know should your resource get de-indexed. Rank Tracker is a great tool you can apply to schedule automatic checks. The moment your site suddenly drops from Google’ results, you’ll see a Dropped note in the Difference column. Simple as that.