SEOers go to great lengths to get their websites ranked at the top of the first page on the Search Engine Results Page. However, there are some competitors who launch negative SEO attacks to try and rank your site down. Although these kind of attacks are having less of an impact on site rankings, when done effectively, they can still have lasting consequences.
Negative SEO is usually a combination of the following tactics:
- Building spammy backlinks to your website
- Removing your high-quality backlinks
- Hacking your website
Building spammy backlinks to competitors’ sites are the most common method of negative SEO. A report in 2018 from Search Engine Round Table found that 44% of respondents said they had tried to build spammy links to their competitors. 60% of these were also successful in doing so.
As we have mentioned, these kind of attacks are having less of an impact on websites. In the last couple of years, Google is now ignoring a lot of these spammy backlinks. However, it’s still important to occasionally monitor the type of backlinks going to your website in case Google miss some.
Types of links you want to avoid
Before you can remove any links, you need to know which links are affecting your site negatively. There are backlinks from sites that you want to avoid at all costs from connecting with your website:
- A large number of links from unrelated websites
- A large number of exact-match anchor text links
- Links from directories and link farms
- Links from penalised domains
- Links from foreign language websites
- Links from ‘Bad Neighbourhood‘ sites
Google realises that sites who want to rank high and has links from penalised domains and bad neighbourhood sites are likely to not have created these on purpose so will ignore these. However, Google may think that a website that has a large number of exact-match anchor text links and links from foreign sites is trying to manipulate the rankings which could lead to the site being penalised.
Find where the toxic links are coming from
There are a number of tools that can tell you which links they believe to be toxic. Tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs have slightly different metrics when deciding which links are toxic, however, they usually pick out the same links. Once you have found all of the toxic backlinks that are directing to your site, you should try to export these as a CSV file so that you can sort these in a spreadsheet. This will come in helpful when you come to removing the links.
Request removal of spammy backlinks
When it comes to removing toxic backlinks, Google recommends you first try to contact the webmaster of the site who is directing the toxic backlink to your site and ask them to remove it. However, 9 times out of 10, you will not be able to contact them or not hear back from them. If you are unable to find the contact details, you can use Whois Domain Lookup to try and find out who owns the site. Again though, although you may find who owns it, there is not always an email address you can use to contact them. If you are able to find an email address but do not hear back from them, you can use WhoIsHostingThis? to contact the hosting company to ask them to remove the backlinks.
Create and submit a disavow file
It is highly likely that this will be the method you will need to use. Google’s Disavow Tool allows you to import a text file which contains all the links you want Google to ignore using the Google Search Console. The tool allows you to record specific URLs or you can ask Google to ignore all links from a domain. It’s important that you have checked the links that you want to disavow. Disavowing high-quality links can have the opposite effect and negatively impact your rankings. The process can take some time. After submitting your list to Google so you need to be patient before you will start seeing results.