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When most people think about SEO, they usually think about things like social signals, high quality backlinks, good content, etc. But many are completely unaware of negative SEO. What is negative SEO you ask? Well, negative SEO is when a third party manipulates search engines by directing bad and frowned upon SEO tactics to your site.
Just think of it as if you hired the absolute worst SEO out there, but they did it all voluntarily... without you asking. Negative SEO can wreak havoc on any site and can be very disheartening when you have absolutely no idea what’s happening. The threat of negative SEO is remote but daunting. In this article, we’re going to give you a few tips on how to identify negative SEO attacks and counteract them.
How to Know You’re a Victim of Negative SEO
Well, the first thing you should do is check if you had any sharp decline of traffic recently. You can do that by checking your analytics report. If you notice a sharp drop in traffic and you haven’t done anything different lately as far as marketing goes, this could be a red flag.
However, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions and automatically assume that you are under attack. In some cases, the drop might have been caused by you. For instance, your robots.txt file might be configured in a way that prevents spiders from crawling certain pages. This is often common when people move to a new site or redesign their existing one. In some cases, people add the no index robots mention in the meta tag inadvertently which prevents spiders from indexing new pages or updating your robot.txt file in case you replaced or modified it.
You should also look at your page canonicalization and see if your rel=”canonical” tags are pointing to the right page. In many cases, people make the mistake of pointing all their canonical pages to one page, such as the homepage for instance. This will have the effect of sending all that link power to one page only.
You should also check the Google search console to see if there isn’t another crawl error that could be at cause for the drop. If, after checking everything, you don’t find any particular mistake, then it’s time to go the next step.
If everything is in order, you’ll have to check to make sure you haven’t been penalized by Google. Google will usually send a penalty notification along with instructions on how you can rectify the situation. But if you feel like you’re under attack or you might be, it’s better to be proactive and take matters into your own hands before it has to get that far.
Check Your Link Profile and Disavow Bad Links
The first thing you should do is check your link profile. This is a pretty simple procedure. All you have to do is open the Google search console and check incoming links in the search traffic section. You can also use a third party service like Kerboo or Majestic. If you see any suspicious links, download the report and go to the Google disavow link page at https://www.google.com/webmasters/.
You will be asked to choose which site you want to disavow links from and a txt file of the links. Just copy and paste all the suspicious links into a txt file, save it, and upload it. You can also choose to disavow all links from a certain domain by adding “domain:” before the domain name.
The next step will be to wait until the disavow request is processed. If you had a drop in traffic lately, you should expect traffic to bounce back automatically. You will have to wait until spiders crawl your site again which could take weeks.
Now that you know how to spot and reverse negative SEO attacks, make sure that you prevent them by regularly checking your link profile. You can set up your webmaster tools alerts to notify you if you’re being attacked by malware, have received a Google manual penalty or if any other suspicious activity has been noticed. Last, but not least, make sure that you’re using sound SEO tactics yourself so you don’t end up hurting your own rankings by accident.
Written by Laura Ginn