Ranking on the first page of Google is magnitudes more challenging now than it was in Google’s infancy. Looking back on the early versions of the search algorithm, it was rather primitive and unsophisticated. There were plenty of holes in the search algorithm that hucksters took advantage of, such as the old practice of sending content through spinning software to generate and post back-links.
Fortunately, Google has evolved over the years to provide the best user experience possible. The problem is, however, that the technical knowledge needed to create a website has plummeted with the advent of platforms like WordPress and competition is fiercer than ever before. So fierce, in fact, that instead of striving to be the best website possible, some people choose to snipe their competitors’ websites with negative SEO.
What Exactly Is Negative SEO?
In a nutshell, negative SEO is anything a malicious foreign party can do to disable your website or make you lose rankings. There are many different varieties, but I wanted to talk about five main ways in particular. The first of which falls under the hacking umbrella. Basically, anything a hacker can do to gain the login credentials to your site or compromise it with attacks like SQL injection can damage your business.
Secondly, some attackers just copy and paste your exact content and post it on other websites to trick Google into thinking your content isn’t unique. Thirdly, another example is the creation of duplicate social media accounts that mimic your business to trick followers. Fourthly, sometimes jerks will spam links to your website from less than reputable sources. And last but not least, sometimes attackers use smutty or disreputable anchor text in links to try to throw off the search algorithm (text like pornography or curse words).
Now you have a general idea of what negative SEO is, let’s take a closer look at how to defend against it.
Secure Your Website
The first step is to make sure your website is secure, which consists of a variety of tasks. Naturally, the first step is to stay on top of all of your updates for WordPress and its plug-ins. In addition, you should invest in a competent WordPress security service, as opposed to forgoing it altogether or using the basic ones included with your hosting provider. These two tasks are a great place for novices to start, but there are many other steps to securing a website. If you don’t know-how, then you need to reach out to a professional as soon as possible.
In addition to keeping your WordPress and plugins up to date, you also need additional security software. For instance, hosting providers typically offer security packages that protect against fraud, DDoS attacks, and more. Furthermore, you should invest in a paid WordPress security plugin to add an extra layer of protection to your website.
Regularly Monitor Your Back-Link Profile
When was the last time you looked at your portfolio of back-links? This is something you should ideally monitor at least once a week to look for any anomalies. I imagine just about every website has a back-link it doesn’t want to be associated with from time to time, which is where the Google Disavow tool comes in handy. You should prune negative back-links as you see fit.
However, a bad apple in your back-link profile every now and then generally doesn’t indicate a negative SEO attempt. What you’re looking for is a large number of shady back-links – I’m talking about hundreds, maybe even thousands of them. You need to keep a close eye on your back-links too. If you only check once a month – or even less – you could have numerous toxic links poisoning your SEO potential.
Disable Right Mouse, Cut, Copy, and Paste on Your Website
The next thing you can do is altogether disable the copy and paste function on your website. I do want to be clear, however, that this is not a complete solution to preventing people from stealing your content and posting it elsewhere; instead, it acts more as a deterrent, making the task of copying your content exponentially more difficult and time-consuming.
Note that a competitor could still pull up your content and a word processor simultaneously and copy your content verbatim by hand, but depending on the size of your website and how many posts you have, the task would be unbelievably time-consuming. Still, it does offer some moderate protection against negative SEO and doesn’t take long to implement.
Protect Against Identity Theft by Way of Social Engineering
Sometimes hucksters will steal your identity and, after calling up the owner of a quality website that hosts a back-link to your site, pretend to be you. Then they request that the link be taken down. This is a really dirty trick, though there are some things you can do to prevent it.
First off, you should take an inventory of your highest quality back-links and contact the owners of the website by phone or email. In addition to kindly thanking them for the link, you should personally ask them to first call you or email you with the contact information you have provided them before taking down the link.
Monitor the Speed of Your Website
The speed of your website is also an SEO factor that determines how well, or how poorly, you rank. Also, the speed at which your website loads also affects your bounce rate and how good or bad your site’s user experience us. Unfortunately, some unsavory jerks intentionally overwhelm websites in a variety of ways to make them perform worse and adversely affect the user experience.
If you don’t know how to monitor, manage, and adjust your digital presence, you may have already been victimized by negative SEO. Small business owners have too much on their plate to worry about every aspect of their web presence. If that sounds like you, I encourage you to reach out for the help of a qualified professional today.