Though investing in a search engine optimisation campaign can increase your chances of appearing at the top spot on Google for relevant search terms, there’s no guarantee that your competitors won’t be working twice as hard. In most cases, that simply means they’ll also be optimising their content, building links, and writing quality, impactful content, but it could also mean that they’re actively targeting your website using ‘negative SEO’ tactics.
Below, we’ve put together everything you need to know about dealing with an SEO attack.
Keep an eye on your analytics
The first warning sign that your website has been targeted by competitors or cybercriminals is a sudden, sharp drop in your visitor numbers or rankings on Google and Bing. If you have realised that you’re suddenly losing your organic traffic but can’t contribute it to any changes you’ve made on your website, you could assume that someone has been partaking in dodgy practices that could have your site penalised by search engines: and you need to act fast!
Of course, there are other factors that could come into play here. Google regularly updates its search algorithm and that can disrupt rankings, or search trends could mean that your usually high-traffic content has fallen out of favour. But an immediate drop is likely foul play.
Look at Google Search Console
Something that should be at the top of your list as soon as you’ve spotted a drop in traffic is heading to Google Search Console and looking to see whether your website has received a manual penalty or strike. Search engines, should they predict or assume your website has taken part in black-hat or disallowed practices, such as buying backlinks in bulk or leaving spam comments on other websites, could hit your website with a penalty that’s temporary or permanent. Sometimes, these penalties aren’t publicised, but more often than not, you’ll see them inside of your Search Console account. Turn on notifications so you’re always alerted.
See what damage has been done
It’s worth paying for an SEO tool such as SEMRush or Ahrefs to identify any problems or immediate issues with your website. These tools can help you spot things such as spam comments left on third-party websites, and you can use the data to disavow links to undo the damage of a negative SEO attack. Other comment tactics include duplicating your website’s content on another website, which could make search engines think your website has copied its content from third parties. If you do spot this, ask the webmaster to remove the content from their website or submit a DMCA takedown request – this usually works pretty quickly.
Bulletproof your SEO
The good news is that search engine robots and algorithms have come a long way in recent years and Google, in particular, is advanced enough to tell the difference between good SEO and spammy, unnatural practices. It’s now common knowledge that, rather than receiving a penalty for spammy links, those links will simply be discounted and ignored when deciding which website should rank first, second, third, and so on. That’s not to say negative SEO can’t still cause damage, but if you’ve invested in SEO for many months or years and you’ve got a quality website packed with content, as well as a strong backlink portfolio, you’re less likely to feel the effects than if you were a startup with a basic backlink portfolio and blog.
Keep your website protected
The truth is that most negative SEO damage is done off-site, but it’s still important to keep your own website up to date and protected against unwanted intruders. If you use a content management system like WordPress, make sure that it’s kept up to date and that all of your themes and plugins are also well-maintained. Choose a reliable web hosting provider that offers backups and install an SSL certificate for added security. If admins can log into your website’s back-end, we recommend using two-factor authentication to reduce the chances of someone gaining unauthorised access and making changes to your content or code.
Want to make sure your SEO strategy outperforms the competition? Find out more about our search engine optimisation services and give us a call on 01382 690080 to get started.