What is negative SEO and what to do in the face of an attack

negative seo

Many people think that negative SEO is something that appeared with the first versions of Google Penguin, however, negative SEO is something that has always existed .

There have always been websites with very committed and even illegal topics, from which it has not been good for them to link to us. By this I mean that before the appearance of Google Penguin, links could also affect you in a negative way, not in such a “strong” way as happened in the beginning of Penguin, but it could also have negative consequences.

In addition, negative SEO is not only limited to links, but there are also other types of practices that I will name later and that can also negatively affect the SEO of a website.

Regardless of what was mentioned above, we will all agree that the time when negative SEO has been most noticed, took place at the time when the first versions of Google Penguin were launched, since it was when the most negative SEO could be noticed. negative results when receiving any of these undesirable practices.

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What is negative SEO exactly?

Negative SEO is a set of practices by which you try to manipulate Google rankings in order to harm certain websites.

Generally, negative SEO is usually seen in the most competitive topics, and it is clearly a deplorable practice that should not exist.

Does negative SEO really work?

Unfortunately, I have to say that negative SEO does work.

On many occasions it has been said that Google has the ability to detect when they are doing negative SEO to us and, therefore, not to take it into account.

However, this is not entirely the case, since on many occasions we can see websites penalized or with serious effects on their rankings, due to negative SEO attacks.

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Can it affect any website?

Yes, negative SEO can affect all types of websites, whether they are large or small websites; however, there are times when it can affect more or less.

Let’s see each of the cases:

1. Cases in which a website is less vulnerable

When we have a website with a certain age, an excellent link profile, worked without any problem for years and with a fairly large authority, as a general rule our website is much more protected against negative SEO attacks.

By this I mean that, if you have a website with high authority, a negative SEO attack may not affect you instantly, but that does not mean that you do not have to act quickly since, if you let it go, it will affect you just the same. .

2. Cases in which a website is more vulnerable

However, if a website is newer, created much more recently, or is a website with a history of penalties in Google for trying to alter the rankings, let’s say that it has less credibility with the search engine.

That is why a negative SEO attack could affect much more quickly than a website with a clean history and much older.

Types of Negative SEO Attacks

Negative SEO attacks can be of different types:

1. Toxic links

The toxic link attack is the most common of all. In this type of attack, what happens is that they send you thousands of links to your website at once.

This has three problems:

  1. They send you many links at once and without measure, which sets off Google’s alarms.
  2. Sends you links from very poor quality sites; this again sets off Google’s alarms.
  3. Many times they manage to overoptimize Anchor Text in your link profile, that is, they send you hundreds of links with the same anchor text, which again triggers Google’s alarms.

2. Content Copy

Although Google has very controlled the issue of copied content, we can find some problems. When we publish new articles on our website, Google does not automatically access and crawl our content at that time. It may take hours or even days for you to access.

That is why if someone gets ahead of the Google robot and copies the content to us before it is reviewed by Google Bot, and the robot sees it before on their website than on ours , it can detect that content as if we are copying it. that website and not like that website copies it from us.

As a general rule, the websites that copy content are usually junk websites and, therefore, there is usually no problem with it .

However, if a more authoritative website did so, we could have problems seeing whose content it originally came from.

3. Server attacks

Unfortunately, DDoS attacks on the servers where our websites are hosted are very common. These attacks try to saturate our web server based on thousands of requests; that is, they saturate the server until our website is inoperative.

If this happens in a specific moment, there is no problem, but I know of cases in which the attacks have lasted up to a week. Google accessing our website for several days and seeing that it is not operational is not good for our website or for our rankings.

4. Hacking the web

On some occasions, due to vulnerabilities in our CMS or programming, they hack our website and inject malicious code that makes Google detect our website as an infected website , or they inject hidden links and hidden text.

This last practice is highly penalized by Google; therefore, we could fall into a penalty without even knowing what has happened, since that text is invisible at first sight; We could only see it by accessing the source code of our website.

How do I know if I am being the victim of an attack?

The first symptoms of a negative SEO attack are:

  1. The drop in visits.
  2. The drop in Google rankings.

When this happens, the first thing we have to do is keep calm , since these drops may be due to a change in the Google algorithm and not to a negative SEO attack.

Therefore, our first action will be to investigate to see if there have been changes or general movements in the Google rankings. For this we can use, for example, MozCast , which is a website that shows us the general movements of the search engine.

Tools to help us

There are several tools that can help us defend against negative SEO, such as these:

1. Webmaster Tools (Search Console)

The main defense tool for negative SEO is the Google Search Console .

Webmaster Tools will indicate situations such as:

  1. When we have received a hack on our website.
  2. When we have received an automatic penalty.
  3. When do we massively generate 404 errors and a long etc.

This can give us clues about what is happening on our website.

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an indispensable tool to control our link profile.

The advantages that Ahrefs offers us are the following:

  1. It is the tool that most quickly detects new links to our website; therefore, it will be of great help to us to detect a negative SEO attack by links.
  2. In addition, it also has a keyword control section ( keywords) , where we can control their uploads and downloads.

3. Link Detox de LinkResearchTools.com

Link Detox is one of the tools that was born specifically at the time of Google Penguin to be able to detect toxic links in a much simpler way. The problem that existed mainly at that time was that there were websites with thousands of links and, therefore, it was very complicated, on the one hand, to classify them all and, on the other hand, to find all these links.

This tool allowed us to process all the incoming links to our website and showed us an alert on the links that it believed to be toxic and some others it marked as doubtful, in this way we could generate a list of links classified as toxic in a much faster way.

This could make our task much easier, but the problem with these tools is that they can add a link as toxic when it really isn’t . For this reason, when using them, it is recommended to also manually review the links that the program has added.

Later they added extra functions to their service, such as the automatic creation of the disavow file , in order to upload it directly to the Google tool without too much effort.

They even added the link booster tool , which allowed us to force the re-indexing in Google of all the urls where we had disavowed the link or where we had managed to eliminate it. In this way, Google would track them much faster and, therefore, would detect the removal of these links earlier.

How to prevent attacks

There are several ways to deal with these attacks, and they are these:

1. Alertas de Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools)

In addition to being able to help us with all the information that the Search Console gives us, we can configure email alerts so that, when important events occur on our website, we are notified.

2. Link profile monitoring

It is very important to be aware of new links on our website. This way we will be able to detect early when we have received a negative SEO attack and, therefore, we will be able to act quickly and in a much more efficient way.

3. Fast content indexing

If we index our content much faster, we will prevent others from copying us and being considered as your original content. You can do this very effectively by manually indexing it with the “Browse as Google” option in the Google Search Console . It can also help that it is shared soon on social networks, mainly on Google+ of course.

4. Server status monitoring

On many servers you can configure email or SMS alerts when the server is down. This can be very useful to be aware when we are being hacked and to be able to act quickly.

5. Servers and secure programming

It is true that any type of programming and CMS will always have vulnerabilities, but the fewer it has, the more difficult it will be for anyone who wants to hack us. And, of course, a good hosting , with good anti-hacker security measures , will take away a lot of headaches.

That is why it is important to keep the CMS we use updated and, if we use custom programming, not to hire any programmer.

What to do in case of toxic link attacks?

There are two ways to deal with these types of attacks:

1. List of incoming links

The first thing we have to do when we receive a link attack is to list all the links we are receiving.

It is true that, many times, the tools do not show them all on the same day. For this reason, you will have to be patient and compile all the links that you have been given every day.

2. Disavow Tool

It is important that as you collect those links and that you upload them to Google’s Disavow Tool , to disavow them.

Don’t expect to detect all of them within a few days; the best thing is that you go putting them as you list them.

What to do in extreme situations?

In extreme situations, what you have to do is, fundamentally, the following:

1. Situation analysis

The first thing we should do is analyze the situation in which your website is.

It is true that there are negative SEO attacks (especially through links) that can be very strong and, therefore, we will reach a situation where our website is penalized.

That is why we must act quickly and make the right decision, which allows us to recover our website as soon as possible.

2. 301 Redirects

A solution to recover our website can be the 301 redirection. This type of action consists of redirecting your current website, which is in a certain domain, to a new domain. But is it as simple as changing the domain and setting up a 301 redirect?

No, it is not that simple. If we only do that, what we will do is pass the penalty from the old domain to the new domain as well. What we have to do is solve the problem for which the website was penalized in its original domain, and only then redirect to the new domain.

Therefore, if we have negative links, we will have to configure a Disavow also in the new domain, so that these links are disavowed.

Why are we interested in 301 redirects? Because, on many occasions, if we do it quickly and well, it is a quick way to avoid the penalty.

Negative SEO and the new Google Penguin 4

What is new Google Penguin 4 in real time?

Google Penguin is one of Google’s algorithms that affect the quality of links. That is, it is the reason why we can be penalized for the links we receive on our website.

Recently there have been changes in it and Google Penguin in real time has been implemented ; that is, now it will act much faster , so it will take links into account much more quickly, both positively and negatively.

Will it help or worsen cases of negative SEO?

In principle , it is something that can have a negative effect, since the links of a negative SEO attack can affect much more quickly than before, but, on the other hand, it is an advantage that we can deal with it much sooner since, in theory, the disavowal of them will also be faster .

You also have to take into account another factor that is being talked about a lot, which is that the new Google Penguin may devalue the value of some of the negative links, instead of penalizing them. This may have a double aspect, since on the one hand it may be more complex to carry out a negative SEO attack, and on the other hand a negative SEO attack may set off the alarms of the algorithm and it begins to disavow links, and in that disavowal, remove more links than necessary.

Something very important to discuss about the new Google Penguin is the “granularity” of the algorithm, that is, the algorithm will not do as before, that when it penalized a website it did it completely, but it will differentiate the areas of the website .

In this way, if an internal section of the web receives a negative SEO attack due to massive links, the algorithm will only act on that section , and not on the home page or on the rest of the sections of the web.

This is good news, since in the event that negative SEO attacks continue to be as effective as in the past, they will no longer affect the entire web, but will only affect a single localized area, for which it will be much easier to mitigate the consequences of the attack.

Conclusions about negative SEO

Negative SEO, although we may not like it, unfortunately exists and we can be affected by it.

Therefore, it is best to try to prevent risk situations and be prepared; To achieve this, it is essential to inform ourselves and have sufficient knowledge since, in this way, we will be able to act quickly in the event of suffering an attack of this type.

With the appearance of Penguin 4.0 it is clear that we will see changes. The theories that are being handled about the effects related to negative SEO are in line with what I have commented above, but we will have to wait a while until we can be clear about it.

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