Search engine optimization is one of the best strategies for online marketing. With people turning to Google and other search engines to help them find the products and services that they need, SEO has become an important ingredient in any organization’s online journey. Optimizing for certain keywords helps websites achieve a higher ranking on SERPs and this generates more organic traffic for that website. With competition for online users rising by the day, companies are initiating dirty SEO practices against their competitors to get them penalized by Google.
Such practices are called black-hat SEO and they are usually targeted at a competitor’s website with the intention of sabotaging their ranking on search engines. Such unethical practices are designed to make it look like a competitor is using black-hat linking techniques to improve their search engine performance and have them penalized by Google. They are basically a workaround Google SEO algorithms so as to get websites punished for failing to adhere to the rules on SEO. Black-hat SEO practices could take different forms such as:
- Copying the content on your web pages and publishing it elsewhere.
- Creating poor quality links that are pointing back to your website.
- Creating fake profiles on social media to tarnish your online reputation.
- Using suspicious keywords like “Viagra” and “online poker” as anchor text for the links terminating to your website.
- Contacting webmasters to remove the most valuable backlinks to your website.
- Hacking your website.
With Google finding it difficult to differentiate between a black-hat SEO attack and actual spamming, it is up to the webmasters to monitor their websites to find out if they are victims of a negative SEO attack. High performing websites are the main targets for such attacks and here is how you can tell if your website has been targeted by black-hat SEO.
A sudden decline in traffic
If you have not violated Google’s algorithms and you notice a sudden decline in traffic, then you could be a victim of black-hat SEO. It is for this reason you need to monitor the traffic coming to your website and tools like Google Analytics, Searchmetrics, and Google Webmaster Tools are helpful in this regard.
Perform a backlink audit
To get your website penalized by Google, spammers will build low-quality links to your website. You should, therefore, perform a backlink audit if you feel your performance on search engines is not at its optimum best. Some of the tools that you can use for this purpose include Ahrefs, Open site explorer, and Google Webmaster Tools.
Check for fake reviews
This is another negative SEO tactic that spammers perform to discredit websites. Webmasters should, therefore, monitor their mentions on Google My Business to identify genuine and fake reviews.
Watch for duplicate content
If you regularly post great content, spammers will copy and claim it as their own. Google usually de-lists websites with matching content and competitors will opt to duplicate your content to affect your ranking on search engines. To search for duplicate content, use Copyscape to find out if the content on your website has been published elsewhere.
How to combat Black-Hat SEO
When you find that your website has been targeted by spammers, here are a few things to do to get the situation under control.
1. Organize the data
After collecting relevant data concerning the negative SEO attack on your website from Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs and other tools, copy the data into a sheet to make it easy for you to identify the link owners. To make sure you don’t have duplicates of the same link, use the ‘Remove Duplicates’ button to save only one URL link.
2. Identify and remove bad links
Once you identify the links that need to be removed, you need to contact the webmasters of those websites and request them to remove your link. If you are not able to find a contact on the website, use WHOIS Lookup to find a contact email.
Should they fail to remove the link, reach out to the company that hosts the website and tell them to remove the links. Use WhoIsHostingThis.com find out the company hosting the website.
3. Disavow spammy links
If the above methods have not worked, create a disavow list and submit it to Google-Webmaster Tools. Google Disavow will add a tag to the spammy links and this way, Google Algorithms will not use the links to credit your website either positively or negatively.
Your efforts to achieve a good ranking on search engines will bear no fruit if you are the target of a Black-SEO attack. Should you fail to protect your website from such an attack there are a few things that you can do to remedy the situation and we have highlighted a few of them in this article.