Good search engine optimization (SEO) can mean the difference between your business coming up first in search results or getting lost in the depths of Google’s billions of pages.
You know this — and your competitors in the plumbing industry know it too. Instead of focusing on positive SEO-building strategies, unfortunately, some competitors take the low road and engage in devious tactics designed to tank your site.
As an SEO company for plumbers, Relentless Digital knows all about negative SEO attacks on plumbing sites. Below, we’ve gathered our best tips on how to prevent negative SEO attacks from occurring and how to deal with one if it happens to you.
What Is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO refers to unethical attempts to sabotage a competitor’s website in search engine rankings. Often referred to as “black hat SEO” (you should picture a villain here), these malevolent tactics can seriously harm your business and damage your reputation.
Most businesses build up their web ranking through solid SEO strategies that play by the rules. These include publishing quality content, having a well-optimized website, and keeping up with Google’s constantly changing algorithms. Instead of doing this, black hat characters try to bring you down with shady strategies like writing fake reviews, duplicating your content, or hacking your website outright.
While Google has become better at detecting some black hat schemes, negative SEO attacks can and do occur. If successful, these attacks can drop your search ranking, slow your website down, and potentially put a dent in your hard-earned revenue.
5 Common Types of Negative SEO Attacks
Negative SEO attacks can employ any number of tactics, or use several at once. Below are five common types of negative SEO attacks.
1. Copying Your Content
As the saying goes in the digital marketing world, “Content is king.” Quality content helps your business engage with customers, enhance your brand awareness, and, most importantly for our purposes here, improve your SERP (search engine ranking page) position. So when black hat actors plagiarize your website’s content, it can really mess with your rankings.
That’s because Google prioritizes original content and penalizes duplicate content. If other sites copy your content and spread it around the internet, there’s a good chance Google will penalize your website and you’ll lose ranking.
2. Writing Fake Reviews
Many modern consumers have a vague sense that not all reviews on Google, Yelp, or Amazon are above board. Still, they rely tremendously on these online reviews when evaluating companies, including plumbers.
Spammers can hit your business where it hurts by creating fake profiles and using them to trash your reputation. Sometimes, they may even create fake accounts on social media using your company name. While a few fake negative reviews (or real ones, for that matter) are unlikely to damage a large business, many negative reviews could certainly hurt your small business.
3. Removing Your Best Backlinks
Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. They help establish your reputation as a trusted authority on a given topic (such as plumbing), which can boost your ranking in the SERPs. Malicious SEO attackers know this and will make a strategic effort to get your most helpful backlinks removed.
In these cases, spammers usually contact the website owner where your link appears. Claiming to be you or an agency representing you, they ask the webmaster to remove your backlink. In rare instances, attackers go even further by sending fake DMCA removal requests claiming your original content violates U.S. copyright law.
4. Creating Spammy Links
If your specialty is plumbing, you don’t want your website associated with Viagra pills, porn movies, or online poker. Yet that’s just what negative SEO attackers will do. They use link farms or automated software to create hundreds or even thousands of low-quality, toxic backlinks to your site using anchor texts that intentionally misrepresent the nature of your business.
5. Hacking Your Website
Hacking your website is one of the most direct and effective black-hat tactics. Hackers can do just about anything they want to your site: install malware, release private information, or steal credit card data. When these malicious hacks intend to drop your ranking, they fall into the category of negative SEO attacks.
Hackers can engage in all sorts of nefarious practices to hurt your SEO, such as inserting spammy links into your content or changing your links to redirect to theirs. Unlike traditional hacks designed to steal information or hijack your website, hacks that target your SEO may not always be obvious at first glance.
How To Spot (and Prevent) Negative SEO Attacks
Have you heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? The same is true with negative SEO attacks. Luckily, you can often use the same tools to both spot an attack and stop one from happening in the first place.
Track Your Search Engine Ranking
Perhaps you already track your rankings regularly, but to know whether a negative SEO attack has harmed your SEO, you need to know whether your site has gone down in rank.
You can find valuable information about your search traffic, ranking positions, and site performance via Google Analytics and the Google Search Console. Rank-tracking software like Semrush’s Position Tracking can also alert you when your rankings drop.
Keep an Eye on Reviews
A negative review from time to time doesn’t generally pose a major threat to your reputation. It can even provide a valuable opportunity for your company to improve in some areas. Unless you’ve made a big mistake lately or your business has a major issue you already know about, however, a sudden barrage of negative reviews is a sure sign something is wrong.
Regularly check for indicators of unusual activity on your Google My Business listing, Yelp account, and any other online company listings. To keep tabs on your reviews more easily, you can also sign up for a service like Semrush’s Review Management Tool.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
If people are talking about your company online, you want to know about it. This can help you respond to legitimate reviews, keep tabs on your reputation, and head off any potential PR problems. It can also help you spot social media imposters fraudulently using your brand name to create fake profiles.
Web monitoring tools like Mention.net let you let you track online conversations related to your brand. When someone mentions your name on social media or a website, you will receive an alert and can decide whether you need to take any action. If you do find a fake profile, report it as spam as soon as possible to prevent it from gaining any followers.
Watch Your Site Speed
Fast-loading pages tend to rank better in Google. If you notice that your site speed has suddenly slowed for no apparent reason, take a look for any signs of suspicious activity. Spammers may be sending thousands of requests per second to your server to make your site unreachable or even cause it to crash.
While it’s obvious when your site slows to a crawl, you can proactively keep tabs on the situation with monitoring tools like Pingdom.com. Comprehensive analysis programs like Semrush’s Site Audit Tool also contain site speed data, enabling you to identify and address any issues quickly.
Look for Duplicate Content
Duplicate content tools like Copyscape and Siteliner scan the internet for instances of plagiarism. By regularly running your website through these online checkers, you can find out if someone has scraped your content or created a fraudulent website copycat.
You can also sign up for a service like Copysentry, which automatically monitors the internet for copies of your pages. It then sends you an alert if it finds anything.
Monitor Your Backlinks
As you know by now, good links can help your ranking, and bad links can hurt it. Fortunately, many backlink monitoring tools on the market help you track both.
You can manually audit your links from time to time using SEO software like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer. To avoid having to stay on top of the process yourself, however, you can register for services that do it for you.
For example, the site Monitor Backlinks will send you email alerts when your website gains or loses important backlinks. The SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool is another service that tracks lost and found backlinks to your site.
Beware of Security Breaches
Although a cyber attack on your site won’t necessarily target your ranking, it could affect it. In addition to spammy or misdirected links, Google may drive traffic away from your site by flagging it with the warning “this site may be hacked.”
To prevent hacking, take steps to maintain strong security protocols that include the following:
- Upgrade your security with updated technology and software.
- Install antivirus software to prevent malware attacks.
- Use security software to scan your website regularly.
- Set up security alerts in the Google Search Console.
- Use the Google Authenticator plugin for WordPress to secure your website.
- Create strong passwords containing numbers and special characters.
- Regularly back up your files and databases.
How To Clean Up After a Negative SEO Attack
You’ve used the tools, done the research, and come to one conclusion: your website has been attacked by a malicious campaign to harm your SEO. Now what?
The best steps to take depend largely on what type of attack has occurred. You may find the suggestions below useful in dealing with the attacks that center around fake reviews, copied content, and backlinks.
Addressing Fake Reviews
Many review platforms use automated software to spot and remove fake reviews. Spam detection isn’t perfect, however, so some fake reviews may make it onto sites like Yelp, Google, or Amazon.
If you find a review that you know is fake, report it to the site administrator where the review appears. Each website should detail its procedure for flagging fake reviews.
Removing Plagiarized Content
If you spot someone copying your original content, take the following steps to protect your website:
- Contact the provider that hosts the fake website or plagiarized content and explain why you want them to remove it.
- Ask Google to take it down by alleging copyright infringement via the Copyright Removal Request form.
- Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although they cannot resolve individual cases, they use reports to investigate scams and bad business practices.
Replacing Lost High-Quality Backlinks
Since your business may have any number of backlinks, you’ll want to keep a list of which ones are your best. Tools like Monitor Backlinks can find your backlinks and sort them by Page Rank or social activity.
Once you’ve made a list of your best links, use your monitoring tools to alert you when any of them disappear. If that happens, contact the webmaster and ask why they removed your link. They may have a valid reason, but if they say it is because you requested it, you can clear up the confusion and see if they will restore your link.
Fixing Low-Quality Backlinks
Not all questionable backlinks pose a real threat to your site. When you find new links, your first step should be to distinguish the safe from the dangerous. You can use services like Semrush’s Backlink Audit Tool, which discovers backlinks and then assigns them a Toxicity Score.
When you decide you want to attempt to get a link removed, your first step is to contact the webmaster of the referring site and request that they take it down. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, you can contact the website’s hosting company and ask them to remove the spammy links.
To bolster your credentials when communicating with webmasters, make sure to use an email address from your domain. This would look like email@example.com, rather than firstname.lastname@example.org. Domain-based email addresses can help prove that your request is authentic and that you are who you say you are.
Using email addresses like these can also indirectly help keep your good backlinks online. Webmasters who have communicated with you previously may be suspicious of new Gmail or Yahoo addresses claiming to be you.
How To Keep Your SEO Game Strong
While negative SEO attacks are real, they don’t explain every drop in SERP ranking. If your website has recently lost ranking, in fact, a negative SEO attack is probably not to blame. It’s more likely because Google has changed its algorithm, your site is having technical issues, or competitor websites have made significant improvements.
That’s why the best defense against SEO attacks is a good offense. To keep your rankings strong, make sure your plumbing business follows solid marketing strategies and SEO best practices like these:
- Create useful, original website content
- Optimize the technical aspects of your site
- Maintain strong website security protocols
- Have a strong, active social media presence
- Stay up-to-date on Google’s algorithm changes
- Don’t buy links for SEO purposes
- Regularly monitor your brand mentions and site performance
SEO Services for the Plumbing Industry
If your website has lost its high ranking due to a negative SEO attack or any other cause, Relentless Digital can help. Our SEO experts provide personalized, industry-specific digital marketing support for home services businesses like HVAC, electrical, and plumbing.
We can perform an SEO audit of your plumbing website to evaluate how well it meets Google’s ranking factors. Based on the results of this audit, we recommend solutions to help you increase your web traffic, improve your rankings, and boost your overall online performance.
Call us today at 262-947-4652 to schedule a consultation with the plumbing SEO experts at Relentless Digital.