How to Defend Your Website from Negative SEO

The first thing you learn once you start tackling your SEO is how complex the process can be. In order to climb to the top of Google’s search results, you have months, if not years, of keyword research, content management, technical management, and link building. Therefore it is important that you not only build your rating but also protect it from negative SEO. Negative SEO is the practice of using unethical and malicious techniques to harm a website’s search engine rankings and online reputation. In order to defend your website from negative SEO, there are several measures you can take. So, let’s explore different ways to protect your website from negative SEO and outline why it is crucial that you do so.

What is negative SEO?

Negative SEO is an online marketing term used to describe certain unethical practices. This is when a person, or a computer, tries to manipulate Google’s algorithm to lower someone’s SEO rating. This is usually done to undermine competition and ensure that specific websites have an easier time climbing the SEO ladder. After all, you don’t have to have good SEO, just that your SEO is better than your competitors.

The common ways in which people practice negative SEO include:

  • Leaving fake, overly negative reviews.
  • Creating spammy backlinks.
  • Hacking or otherwise attacking a website.
  • Copying content and claiming that it is original.
  • Creating fake social media profiles.

All these serve to present a company as a poorly managed brand, both in the eyes of the customer and in Google’s algorithm. They can easily cause traffic loss, brand reputation deterioration, and a considerably lower SEO rank if they succeed. While negative SEO practices are punishable by law, they are often tricky to catch and even more challenging to prove. Therefore, the best practice is to adopt certain defensive measures and help your website stay safe.

Different ways to defend your website from negative SEO

What we will not outline are the defence measures against the most common negative SEO tactics. Of course, newer, more advanced negative SEO tactics can come around, depending on how online trends develop. Therefore, you must understand the basics of how to defend your business from negative SEO and which updates to Google’s algorithm are noteworthy. That way, you can introduce changes in due time and ensure that your SEO remains safe from malicious practices.

Get an SSL certificate

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a must-have if you wish to defend your website from negative SEO. The importance of it is hard to overstate, as it both helps keep your site secure and helps improve your SEO. Google has publicly outlined the SSL certificate as a ranking signal. What it does is that it encrypts the communication between your website and visitors. Doing so makes it much more difficult for hackers to access sensitive information. This, in turn, lowers the odds that you will be a target of negative SEO attacks.

Furthermore, an SSL certificate puts a degree of trust in your visitors. If they see the padlock icon next to your URL, they will rest easy that their data is secured and that they can visit your website without worry. Seemingly little things like these go a long way in building an excellent online reputation and ensuring that people return to your website repeatedly.

Backlink monitoring

Your SEO rating is highly dependent on the quality of your backlinks. The better you are able to connect your website to other reputable websites, the easier it will be to climb the SEO ladder. People that want to hurt your SEO are also aware of this. So, they will likely try to build spammy links from low-quality websites. Or you might even resort to using anchor text over-optimization or link farms as a way to hurt you.

Well, the best way to fight this is by monitoring backlinks and disavowing yourself from subpar ones. First, you can analyze your website’s backlinks with Google Search Console or Ahrefs to identify new (and potentially toxic) backlinks. Once you have a list of toxic backlinks, you can use Google’s disavow tool. It will simply notify the algorithm to ignore specific URLs when they analyze your website. Doing so will stop the toxic backlinks’ effect on your website.

Regular website updates

Website developers fully know the negative SEO and how it affects their clients. Therefore, they are always looking for new safety measures and protocols to mitigate or completely eliminate certain types of attacks. But, to reap the benefits from their hard work, you must update your website regularly. Cross-site scripting, SQL injections, and various other forms of cyber attack are based on exploiting certain weak spots in website safety. And new updates precisely serve to eliminate those weak spots. Updating your CMS and plugins is essential for overall protection, not just defending your website from negative SEO.

If this is not enough, keep in mind that regular updates help your website run well. By not updating your website, you risk it slowing down or malfunctioning. Modern customers have little patience for slow websites. And if they experience a malfunction, they are pretty much guaranteed to leave. So, use regular updates as both an easy way to boost your website speed and protect it from negative SEO.

Captcha Verification

Another common way people artificially lower their SEO rating is through brute force attacks. This entails logging into your website as if they were the admin and wreaking havoc. Brute force attacks, as you can imagine, take some time as it can take quite a long to guess the right password. Especially if your password is long and uses different characters, numbers, and symbols. But nevertheless, you need to look to protect yourself from brute-force attacks.

One of the easiest ways of doing so is with captcha verification. What it does is that it simply ensures that the person visiting your website is human. This alone goes a long way in protecting your website from brute-force attacks. If you want to take it a step further, you can look to introduce two-step verification. This way, you will have to use your phone or some other device to verify your login attempt. All in all, protecting your website from brute force attacks isn’t all that difficult. But you need to apply these solutions and be aware enough to adhere to them.

Keeping track of website performance

Developing an SEO rating takes time. Whatever change you make to your online presence, it will take time before it shows effect. While this is frustrating when you want to improve your SEO, as you cannot do it overnight, it is also helpful when it comes to tackling negative SEO. Namely, another way to be on guard for possible SEO attacks is by simply monitoring your website’s performance. There are sudden changes in traffic, suspicious bounce rates, weird user engagement metrics, etc. These are all signs that you could be under a negative SEO attack. This might mean that you need to take active measures to protect your website. Or that there is simply something amiss with your online presence that requires further attention.

The sooner you are able to identify potential issues, the less damage they will cause. So, you’d be smart to actively monitor your online performance and ensure that you are aware of everything that is going on.

Addressing comments

If you have any form of online presence, you will experience poor comments. Some customers won’t be satisfied with your brand and will simply vent their frustration. At the same time, others will provide genuine criticisms in hopes that you will improve. What’s important is that you address these comments both on social media and on sites like Google. Poor but well-written comments deserve a response. You should look to manage your online presence in such a way that it boosts your brand reputation. You need to thank users for their honest criticism and elaborate on how you will improve your service.

On the other hand, there are specific comments that you need to delete or forbid. If comments contain sware words, racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, or otherwise harmful remarks, you should delete them. Know that keeping such comments active can lead to the association by proximity. Meaning that just because you chose to leave those comments active, you somehow agree with them. Such an association can substantially hurt both your SEO and your online reputation. It can even have legal ramifications. So, do yourself a favour and always watch out for them.

Keeping the following thing in mind if you have a comment section on your website is essential. Namely, an unprotected comment section is an easy target for negative SEO attacks. People can efficiently overburden your comment section and ruin your website’s credibility. So, if you plan on running a comment section, ensure that you introduce safeguards and regularly monitor them.

Final thoughts

What we’ve outlined so far will help you effectively defend your website from negative SEO. If you believe that you’ve already experienced a negative SEO attack, there are specific extra steps you can take. The best one is to hire an experienced SEO specialist and have them aid you. They will outline the full scope of the attack and help you track the culprit. If it becomes necessary to take things to court, you’ll be happy to have a professional help you make your case. And, if you simply want to negate the negative SEO and help your website stay safe, you’ll also be happy to get sound advice. So, don’t shy away from hiring pros when need be.


by JP Office

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