Recent reports have indicated that negative SEO attacks with links from “linkfarms” (sites that sell all kinds of links from gambling sites, adult sites, and many other sites) are on the rise, meaning business websites are being attacked by competition that likes to fight dirty. When a site is targeted with a negative SEO attack, the outcome can totally knock the site out of organic search results and will cost a company thousands of dollars to get out of the mess.
Most negative SEO attacks are strategies using backlinks from shady websites to try and get websites penalized by Google's Penguin algorithm. These types of black-hat attack strategies are nothing new to SEO folks who have been in the industry for a while. In fact, they have been around for years, but now they are becoming more common as shady companies want to outrank the competition so badly that they will go to drastic lengths.
How to Protect Your Site Before Being Penalized
The best way to keep an eye on one of the most common negative SEO tactics is to monitor your website’s backlinks on a regular basis. There are many tools that can monitor backlinks, including Google’s own webmaster tools, which are free, or paid tools like Raven Tools, Ahrefs(free webmaster dashboard), SEMrush, Ubersuggest, and many others. You can use any of these tools to monitor links, and if you see there are a lot of links coming in daily or weekly that are not related to your niche at all, you may be getting attacked.
“When looking through your backlinks using the tools mentioned, look for any specific dates when there might have been an influx of links — you need to look at those first.”
When you are doing these regular link audits, you want to make sure all links coming to the site are fairly relevant because that is what helps Google put you in the right neighborhood. Your neighborhood should include other sites like yours.Most likely, these will include your competitors, but that's good when it comes to your neighborhood. You can see what Google thinks your site is related to (your neighborhood) by using this search command in your browser URL bar: related:yourdomain.com.
This tactic might just show the sites you are listed on, but if you do see non-relevant sites, you should improve your content to make it easy for search engines and users to know what you are about. Nasty backlinks can hurt in this area as well and will put you in the completely wrong neighborhood.
You don’t want to be in the wrong neighborhood.
When looking through your backlinks using the tools mentioned, look for any specific dates when there might have been an influx of links — you need to look at those first. Blackhat SEOs that provide negative SEO services tend to use free blogs that link to all kinds of garbage. So, the first types of sites to look at are sites from free blog sites like Blogspot, free WordPress blogs, and similar sites.
What to Do if You Have Been a Victim of Negative SEO
If you do notice a trend of non-relevant backlinks, the first thing you want to try is reaching out to these sites and asking for your link to be removed. That's because many of these black-hat hackers will just buy a ton of non-relevant backlinks from shady sites and have aimed to your site with all kinds of different anchortext.
If the outreach does not work, you should then use Google disavow to let Google know not to count these links as a link to you. But a word of caution: do not accidentally disavow links that are good links. I have seen many sites tank because they would just disavow all links due to laziness, or they just didn't know what was good and bad. Disavowing good links can make your rankings and traffic drop, sometimes very quickly. This is because links are the #1 ranking signal.
Disclaimer: If you do not have a lot of experience with SEO and backlinks and are worried about which links you should disavow, TSL can certainly help you out, and there are many other companies that can also help. The cleanup can be long and tedious, but it's better than being banned by the GooglePenguin algorithm. When your site is penalized, you will not show up in search results and it can severely hurt your company’s bottom line.
Stay tuned for other types of negative SEO attack strategies in upcoming posts, but since link-based attacks are the easiest for competitors to use,it was important to go over this tactic first.
See where you stand with SEO.
Additional Resources on Link Farms/Links Networks:
Learn more about “link farms” or “link networks”here