The battle for higher rankings never stops. Once you get to the SEO battlefield, you either never stop fighting for your place in the sun or lay down your arms. And because SEO is a covert war, not everyone is willing to play by the rules. No matter how hard you try to win top spots in SERPs, there may always be someone throwing up roadblocks.
While you are busy implementing all your on-page and off-page SEO tactics to boost your rankings, your competitors might be doing whatever it takes to sabotage your efforts. We are not talking about your competitors trying to optimize their websites in turn. What we mean is that your competitors can go further by implementing negative SEO techniques.
What is negative SEO is and why is it dangerous?
Negative SEO is still SEO. The difference is that it is not implemented by you to promote your site, but by your competitors. The aim of negative SEO is to hurt your website’s rankings and reputation in Google’s eyes, sometimes to the point that the website may be removed from search altogether.
Every digital marketer knows that by using black hat SEO tactics to promote your website, you are putting the success of your overall SEO strategy in jeopardy. So it follows that utilizing these tactics towards your competitor’s website will have the same effect. And, yes, some people actually implement negative SEO attacks intentionally and achieve “impressive” results.
For your business, such SEO attacks do not bode well. A drastic drop in rankings and lost credibility are what your website will be dealing with if your competitor has a grudge against you.
However, in most cases, sudden poor SEO performance of your website occurs for reasons other than someone’s dirty tricks. There is a list of some most common reasons for ranking drops that you should check out before you start suspecting your competitor of negative SEO.
Even though negative SEO attacks do not happen often, they still do happen. If you know what an opponent can potentially do to your website, you know how to protect yourself. Here is a list of the most easy-to-employ but powerful negative SEO techniques you should be aware of:
5 Powerful Negative SEO Techniques
#1 Spammy Link Building
Links matter for SEO success, but only high-quality links really count. To achieve the opposite effect, links have to be of low quality and there must be loads of them. The best option for building thousands of spammy links are link farms.
These links are either built using some anchor text that is not related to the niche at all (for example, porn videos); or built deliberately using a keyword that the website is trying to rank for. Obviously, the website will appear as if the owner is trying to strengthen the site’s link profile and manipulate rankings this way.
For this reason you should run link audits from time to time to check whether or not your backlink profile is unexpectedly growing without your knowledge. To run the audit, you can use auditing software like SEO SpyGlass or perform it manually.
#2 Content Scraping
You know that Google hates duplicate content, right? Your competitors know it too. They also know they can use copied content against your website. When search crawlers come across the same piece of content copied across multiple websites, they choose only one version to rank on SERPs and won’t ‘touch’ the rest. And unfortunately the chosen version not always is the original one.
Normally, Google is able to tell which piece of content is original – it is obviously the one that was posted first. That’s why newly-posted content is always in the crosshairs of content scrapers who are looking for an opportunity to steal it. Copyscape can help you detect whether anyone is using your own content against you.
#3 Crawling Attack
Your website’s speed is an essential ranking factor. If lately you have noticed that your website is getting slow and plodding, you should identify where the problem lies at all costs. Aside other common reasons reasons why it happens, slow site speed may be caused by a crawling attack.
Your competitors can deliberately create heavy server load by forcefully crawling your website. If they are very diligent and do their utmost to overload your server, they can even crash your website. This will prevent search crawlers from accessing your website freely and may result in de-ranking.
Your hosting company or a webmaster should be able to tell what went wrong and who is hurting your website’s performance. If you have a little bit of technical background, you can always try to do it yourself by means of robots.txt and .htaccess.
#4 Leaving Fake Reviews
Users usually care about reviews and refer to multiple resources to check them. Your reputation highly depends on reviews your previous users and customers leave about your business. Will anybody trust your brand if your Google My Business account is stuffed with negative reviews?
Well, chances are that some of your previous users or customers were not satisfied with your products or services (or whatever you market). If so, it is a good opportunity for you to learn how to improve. But dozens of negative reviews in a row look somehow suspicious. This simply may be your competitors playing their dirty tricks. The good news is that you can easily report fake reviews.
#5 Hacking The Site
The goals that particular individuals pursue by hacking websites can vary. They can modify your content and redirects, or alter your robots.txt. They can hack your site with no SEO goal in mind, but to make use of sensitive data that your website contains.
Whatever the reasons some individuals may hack your site – to manipulate your rankings or steal your or your customer-related data – Google will notice it and, for sure, nothing good will come out of this for you. That is why you should take proper care of your website’s security to make sure you don’t let hackers to damage your website’s rankings and reputation.
Successful negative SEO attacks are not common and do not happen a lot, because in most cases Google is able to detect them and take punitive measures. However, this does not mean you can relax, trusting Google to do its job. No one knows when and which of your competitors will come up with a sophisticated negative SEO strategy to get around the system.