5 Signals to Identify Negative SEO Attacks
Negative SEO is one of the most talked about topics since the launch of Google’s penguin update. After the algorithm update was rolled out, there have been several speculations regarding the inception of negative SEO. Google, who always preached the triumph of good over evil, has somehow accepted that negative SEO is possible but is very rare. But even the slightest possibility for such an evil thing is enough for online marketers and web entrepreneurs to give nightmares. As we are living in an era where getting hit by Panda or penguin or any other algorithmic penalty is haunting, the presence of negative SEO is something we should take into consideration and it is should not be neglected.
What really is negative SEO?
Negative SEO in layman terms means strategically affecting or completely destroying the rankings/traffic of a site. In other terms, negative SEO includes all the tactics that can degrade a sites rankings and traffic. It is not easy to destroy a site’s rankings completely but it certainly is possible to affect it through negative SEO.
How it all started:
When Google rolled out updates such as Penguin and Panda, targeted to fight web spam and penalize sites which are involved in spam, there has been uproar of negative SEO in the SEO community. The speculations proved correct when a successful demonstration of negative SEO was done on a self proclaimed SEO guru, to see if negative SEO works. Today, there are several companies offering evil service of negative SEO claiming they can destroy your competitor’s online presence for just a few bucks.
As a turnaround of these events, it has become important to become aware of the negative SEO and take primitive steps, so that your site will not be the next target.
Give me the signals already?
So my fellow SEOs, following are the 5 signals which you should monitor closely to avoid any penalty which could be imposed because of negative SEO attacks on your site:
1. Backlink Profile:
This is perhaps the most important to monitor for avoiding any possible negative SEO attacks. Negative SEO is mostly done off-site, thus the most vulnerable aspect of a site is its backlink profile.
There is a popular tool named Ahrefs, which shows a graph of backlinks and months in its dashboard. You should be able to do this by simply signing up for a free account and using the “Site Explorer”. If should look something like this:
If negative SEO is being done for your site by building crappy links, the graph will show an unnatural spike in the recent months. This is a clear signal that tons of junk links are created for your site, which is enough for frowning Google. But a sudden spike in backlinks doesn’t always mean a possibility of negative SEO attack, so perform detailed analysis before coming to any conclusion.
Even if you write amazing content, you can never be sure that there is no one out there who can’t copy your content. There are enough black hatters and low life internet users who just don’t want to do the hard work. These are people who just scrape content from other sites and publish it on theirs. These scrapers have programs which are designed for crawling sites, scraping content and publishing it content on a particular site.
To identify content scrapers and stop them from ruining your effort, you should always have your guard on. Copyscape is an amazing tool to identify content plagiarism; I also highly recommend reading Neil Patel’s blog post on how to avoid content scraping.
3. Site Load Time:
You should also keep a close look on the site’s load time. If someone is trying to do negative SEO and scraping content of your site, they probably have a dishonorable spider that crawls your site and stores the content in a database. If you are experiencing higher than average site load time, you should have a close look at the site’s server log and identify where the bandwidth is going. If you find out something unnatural or you find a suspicious program that is accessing your site more than average, you should block it either on server level or through robots.txt file. Doing this will save your bandwidth and will stop that program from accessing your site.
4. Irrelevant Keywords in Google Analytics:
If you are an average Google Analytics user, you will easily find the keywords section under in Traffic Sources < Sources < Search < Organic. If you use Google Analytics on your site, you should have noticed the keywords which are driving traffic to your site. These are the keywords for which your site ranks in search engines. If you see any irrelevant keywords in “Organic Search Traffic”, you should do some instant digging on that and find out the exact reason for these referrals. It may be the case where someone is doing negative SEO for your site, targeting those “irrelevant” keywords and because of the reason your site is “temporarily” ranking for these keywords.
5. Fake Reviews:
A business can’t satisfy it’s every costumer and it is inevitable to receive a few bad reviews. But, the point of concern is when your site starts to receive a bulk of negative reviews especially exact same review on multiple sites. Although these reviews look fake but still can repel some of your potential leads. It is not easy to monitor each and every review for your site but if you see a negative review or a review that look fake, you should perform a Google search immediately and look if the same review has been posted on multiple sites. You can do this by performing a simple Google search for the exact review. By doing this, you will have all the sites in which the same review was posted. Another great technique to track these activities is setting Google Alerts for your site’s name. After setting Google Alerts, you will receive an email notification whenever someone mentions your site’s name on the web. This is an amazing way to keep a track of where your site’s name is being mentioned on the web.
If you can manage the above, you will be in a pretty good shape to identify a negative SEO attack in its preliminary state and can easily avoid the penalty. Keep in mind, there is nothing worse than bringing your competitors down just because you can’t outrank them.
Well, enough jitters for today! So, what is your strategy to identify negative SEO attacks?