You know how important SEO is to your brand, and you’ve taken the necessary steps to make sure your website is optimized. But what do you do if you’ve been targeted by a negative SEO campaign? Most business owners have no idea how to fix negative SEO attacks. Most people don’t know how to spot negative SEO in the first place.
What are negative SEO attacks?
“Negative SEO” is any tactic done by others that negatively impacts your rankings. Examples include sending bad links to target URLs, getting your site re-indexed, scraping content, forcefully crawling, adding spam content or redirects, and more.
How to Spot Negative SEO Attacks
I’ve been working in the SEO space for years and have helped many clients with SEO optimization and reputation management. Here, I’ll share my best tips for spotting negative SEO attacks so that you can stop them in their tracks.
1. Use major search engines ensure your pages are showing up
It’s easy to see how your site is showing up on search engines, which is why I suggest it as a first step. Google is the most important. You might want to use Bing, too. Here’s how to do it:
Type site:yoursite.com into the search bar. (Replace yoursite.com with whatever your website is).
Then, look to see if any of your pages are missing from the ranking. You’ll probably see your most popular pages right at the top. If a formerly-popular page isn’t on the first page OR if there are pages you don’t recognize as being a part of your website, there’s a problem—you might have been targeted with negative SEO tactics. You’ll want to dig into the matter or consider hiring an SEO pro.
2. Run your site through a plagiarism checker
This is also an easy thing to do, though it can be a bit tedious: running your site through a tool that checks for plagiarism. It’s all too easy for people to copy your content and put it on other webpages, and Google’s algorithms will quickly notice the duplicate content and can demote it. Google cracks down on duplicate content on the Web because it can hurt the user experience. If the same exact content is on a higher-ranking domain, your page could get demoted even if you owned the content in the first place. I suggest using Copyscape, though there are plenty of plagiarism checkers out there.
3. Look at your Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Google Analytics is simple to use, and everyone should be looking at it! In Google Analytics you can see your traffic, bounce rate, session duration, loading speed, traffic channels, and more. Look at your Analytics consistently so that you notice any big changes that might be the result of negative SEO attacks.
Google Search Console is another helpful tool. In many cases, Google will send you a message through the Search Console to let you know that they think you’ve been targeted by negative SEO. You can also use GSC to check for link problems and crawl errors.
4. Search through your log files
This is a bit of a tedious task, but it’s an important part of maintaining control over your website. The raw access logs let you see everyone who has visited your website along with the time and date of their visit. In your logs, you’ll be able to find out if the same IP or group of IPs has been probing through your site or scraping your content. Any negative SEO activity will probably look different from the average visitor to your site. Looking at your logs also helps you figure out where and why you’re having server response issues.
5. Run your site through a link analysis tool and/or crawling tool
There are lots of link analysis tools that can help you look at how your outbound links and backlinks are functioning. A common negative SEO tactic is to create a large increase in links. You may also find that someone has gotten your links removed or switched over to a competitor’s page. This is a good way to find out if you have any broken links, even if they’re not the result of negative SEO.
On a similar note, crawling tools can help you figure out where you’ve been targeted by negative SEO. These tools can help you determine indexation status, on-page technical factors, redirects, site speed, and more.
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