Negative SEO – often referred to as black hat SEO – drives down the search engine rankings for a website. It’s typically done by unscrupulous companies willing to do whatever it takes to knock out a competitor.

While black hat SEO is not something you want to practice in your business, it is something you must defend yourself against. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of companies willing to sink to low depths to “win.” And there are plenty of content producers and SEO experts willing to do negative SEO work if the price is right.

Small and medium-sized companies are especially vulnerable.

How Negative SEO Works

For those committed to putting on the black hat, the options for messing with a competitor’s websites are numerous. Negative SEO experts use them all to lower a site’s rankings in Google. They include the following.

  • Creating “spammy” links to your website, sometimes numbering in the thousands
  • Stealing your content by copying it and using it on other sites so it is no longer seen as original
  • Creating links that point to your site using keywords that drive down rankings such as “Viagra” and “poker online”
  • Creating numerous, fake social media accounts and then using them to bash your products or services in online forums

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. A practitioner of negative SEO has many tricks in his bag, and all of them are really bad news for you.

Defending Yourself Against the Black Hats

It’s easy to get emotional about a black hat attack. But once you’ve calmed down, the best recourse is to develop a plan of defense. Professionals in digital media can best advise you on steps to take. Without delving too deeply into technical details, the following certainly will help.

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Monitor backlink profile. One of the main ways negative SEO users attack is by creating backlinks to your site from low-quality or suspicious links. It’s important to keep an eye on your backlink profile every day, which can be done with a software program that alerts you when you have either lost or gained many new backlinks.

Monitor social media. It’s time-consuming, but also smart. Make sure to check out references to you or your business online. Respond to legitimate negative reviews. Talk to the social media site itself about removing content you feel is part of a negative SEO campaign against you.

Protect against hackers. Cybersecurity should be priority No. 1 for any site. Make sure entry into your system is extremely difficult with original passwords and add-ons such as the Google Authenticator Plugin.

Find duplicate content. Use services such as CopyScape to check your copy and see if it has been duplicated anywhere on the web.

Monitor site speed. If your website begins to load slowly, negative SEO could be the cause by attacking your site with thousands of requests to your server simultaneously.

Getting professionals involved is another smart move. You want to spend your time running your business and accomplishing positive goals. It’s often best to leave defense against negative SEO to those with experience in that area.

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