In that regard, SEO is a positive, productive, and beneficial pursuit.

But your website can also suffer from negative SEO. Negative SEO can occur when a third party wages a deliberate, malicious campaign to lower your site’s ranking and authority. This would usually be achieved by creating low-quality links to your web pages.

Negative SEO rides on the penalties the Google Penguin update applies to sites that spam the web and employ black hat techniques to accelerate traffic growth and search ranking. Penguin was a necessary and good-intentioned change to the Google algorithm but had unintended negative consequences.

Now, a business can deteriorate its rivals’ ranking by creating a huge number of negative links. Fortunately, there are things you can do if you find out your website is under a negative SEO attack.

1. Google webmaster email alerts

Before you look anywhere else, start with the search engines. Google offers a raft of tools that can help you identify and respond to negative SEO. The most important is Google Webmaster’s email alerts.

You can set up email alerts for a wide range of triggers including pages indexed incorrectly, server connectivity challenges, malware attacks, and Google’s manual penalties. All you need to do is connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools and you’ll be ready to enable and configure the alerts.

2. Track backlinks profile

If you want to know when your backlinks profile is changing for the worse, you should make the most of tracking tools. You likely already track your backlinks as part of monitoring your SEO performance so it will be just a matter of keeping an eye on negative, unusual links.

Some of the best-known link tracking tools include Ahrefs, SEMRush, Linkio, and Open Site Explorer. Alternatively, you can subscribe to MonitorBacklinks.com, a service that will send you an email whenever a significant backlink is added or removed from your profile.

3. Protect your top backlinks

Backlinks are not created equal. Google gives greater weight to links from websites with a high PageRank. SEO and outreach service providers can help you secure mentions on leading blogs. If your web pages receive links from these sites, you will want to keep them given their value.

A negative SEO campaign may include attempts to get your backlinks removed from authority sites. The attacker may contact the site and provide one or more reasons why your site doesn’t belong there. More commonly though, they’ll create an Internet email address using Gmail or Yahoo where they masquerade as you and lodge a request for link removal.

To prevent this from happening, all site-related communication from you should originate from your site’s email address. In addition, keep an eye on your best backlinks so you know quickly when any changes occur.

4. Identify and take down duplicate content

Google values original content and it makes sense. Given the intense competition for the top positions in search results, there’s no point in having multiple pages having the exact same content occupying the first set of pages. That’s why attackers may create duplicate content of your site on multiple websites to lower your page’s originality. Duplicate content could also be the pretext for asking your guest post to be removed from an authority site because it looks plagiarized.

You can reduce the risk of duplicate content getting published without your knowledge by leveraging online automated plagiarism checkers such as Copyscape. You’ll get a notification whenever duplicate content is identified somewhere else on the world wide web.

A negative SEO attack is not something that can happen to prominent websites only. In fact, it’s easier to run a negative SEO campaign against a smaller site. It’s important that you line up the tools you need beforehand so you are ready when you find yourself in the thick of a negative SEO attack.

*Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash