Christmas markets have always managed to stir up the holiday spirit. Mulled wine, sweets, lights, ornaments and presents you can buy at every corner.
The latter could’ve caught your eye, and soon you realise that every third market stand sells the same stuff. If we presume the stands are websites, in the SEO world, it would mean that we have duplicate content problems.
Identical products, or in our case, content, can severely damage our site’s reputation. These issues are repairable, but untreated and coupled with other bad practices form so-called negative SEO.
The Definition of Negative SEO
Negative SEO is an array of actions that a competitor can do to lower your SERP ranking and eventually, cause you an inevitable financial loss. In the SEO terms, these actions are mostly off-page (building spammy links etc.)
However, aggressive competitors will sometimes go the extra mile and hack your site. It means that they can do whatever they want, e.g. modify its content and destroy the valuable data.
Luckily, most of the sudden drops in ranking aren’t associated with negative SEO. But let’s see what happens if it does occur to you.
What Happens to Your Site After the Negative SEO Attack
- Bad rankings in the results pages
Presume site had a constant position in the SERPs for a couple of months or even years and it suddenly drops drastically, negative SEO might be the culprit. Fortunately, as mentioned, the most common issues for falling down the SERP ladder are on-page optimisation problems that occur because of Google’s algorithm updates or after making a wrong keyword research in the beginning.
In case the drop in rankings seem suspicious, it’s better to check all of the following symptoms.
- Spammy URLs that link back to your site
While analysing the site for more signs of a negative SEO attack, it’s a good idea to see whether the backlink analyser notices a surge of spammy URLs that point back to your site. It might be a few pages, put those pages can be filled with dangerous URLs.
- Duplicate content issues
You may find an article or paragraphs from your page in other places without the author credits. That means someone took your content and it can result in diminishing the backlink value, as well as lowering your already low position in the results pages.
- Content theft (Scraped content)
Similar to duplicate content, scraped content are parts of your articles that someone pasted into their own. Scrapers will frequently add bits and pieces of content from your pages to the content that is often unrelated to the subject of the original.
- Hacker attacks
Probably the most threatening of all, hacker operations can ruin all of your SEO efforts in minutes. The number of hacked sites increased by around 32%, compared to the year before.
One of the signs of a hacker attack are links to bad sites that you never added on the page. What does it mean?
It means someone entered your CMS and inserted the spammy links inside the text.
Recognizing the Negative SEO
- Huge and fast drop in search traffic – As the primary goal of negative SEO is to lower the traffic to your site, you will surely see a huge and fast drop in search traffic.
- Keyword rank drop – Once your rankings are as low as they can go, the keywords your site ranked for will weaken.
- Penalty notifications from Google – Either a manual or an algorithmic penalty can be the result of suspicious SEO tactics. An algorithmic penalty will lower your position even more, while the manual one comes in the form of a message from Google.
Make frequent link audits.
Frequent link audits can save your site from the dangers of negative SEO. If you constantly monitor your links, it’s easier to spot a sudden change before it becomes uncontrollable.
The two main tools you’ll use to make link audits:
- Google Search Console to see the current disavow link file
- Majestic if you want to download a CSV of the links that point back to your site
Pay attention to your click-through rate
If your site had a stable flow of traffic and then it began to bounce in an instant, it’s obvious something suspicious is going on. Luckily, Google Search Console can help you notice a sudden spike or drop in search traffic so make sure you use it.
Take a look at your ranking
You will surely notice low rankings for your pages, and Google Penguin algorithm update can save you. Penguin decreases the rankings of websites that do not comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. To be entirely sure, just have a look at your position in the SERPs a bit more often.
Increase the level of security on the site.
Since hacker attacks are on the rise each year, better to be on the safe side; have your software upgraded. Also, if the still uses the old HTTP certificate, migrate it HTTPS protocol.
Moreover, update your CMS now and then because every new feature is there for a reason.
Look for scraped content
Using tools such as Copyscape will help you find if someone has plagiarised your content. If that happens, you should ask the admin to remove the part of the content from the site. If they’re not willing to do that, report them to Google.
Negative SEO is still not that prevalent in the world of SEO, but it gets more and more powerful. It can hurt your website by lowering its position in the results pages and show it off as spammy to the visitors.
Nevertheless, constant checks of your CTR, rankings, and scraped content can help you notice if you are a victim of negative SEO practices. Lastly, it is smart to do regular link audits and increase the level of security on the site to stay safe from a potential hacker attack.