If you are relatively familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), as many business owners are these days, then you are likely aware of black hat SEO, including practices that result in unfair or unearned rankings with search engines. Practices like linking schemes and keyword stuffing are by now pretty well known and are not tolerated by search engines.
What you might not know is that black hat SEO can go two ways. Just because you avoid black hat SEO practices, instead utilizing approved methods to improve your rankings through the merit of your content and the value of your contacts, doesn’t mean your competitors aren’t using negative SEO tactics to damage your rankings and your business. It’s like reverse SEO.
Negative SEO is a tactic that involves using black hat practices not to unscrupulously boost your own rankings, but to damage the rankings of a competitor. Such practices could include hacking your website for malicious purposes, creating spammy backlinks pointing to your website to make it look as though you are conducting black hat SEO yourself, or building fraudulent social media accounts to ruin your reputation.
In other words, your competitors could be attempting to sabotage your rankings, your website, and your ability to operate in the online arena. What can you do to stop this? You’ve worked so hard to create and promote quality content, engage in honest lead generation, and build your online business.
The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from black hat SEO practices your competitors might use against you. Here are a few strategies to employ.
You went to all the trouble of hiring professionals for custom website design and premium SEO services; the last thing you want is for a hacker to sneak in and tear it all down. Suitable security measures are the first step toward protecting what you’ve built online.
A web application firewall (WAP) is a good place to start, as are antivirus/anti-spyware programs. You should also set up secure passwords for anyone accessing your site. In terms of regular password protection, requiring users to create strong passwords (8+ characters with letters, numbers, caps, and symbols) is a must.
You should also choose a password program that automatically deletes all information when any component is wrong (instead of keeping a correct username even if the password is wrong). Further, you’ll want to implement a 2-step verification process that requires the use of a unique code generated (and generally sent to phone or email) each time a user logs in.
Don’t forget to back up your database regularly. If the worst should occur and hackers breach your defenses and alter or destroy your custom web design, you can at least revert to a save point without losing much data.
In addition to populating a network of spammy and unsavory backlinks to your website, competitors practicing negative SEO could also attack the network of quality backlinks you’ve struggled to accrue over time. They do this by contacting host sites in a seemingly official capacity on behalf of your business and asking them to remove links to your website.
The best way to prevent this problem is to only communicate with sites that host your backlinks via an official company email address, rather than through personal Gmail accounts, for example. When they are contacted by others, this discrepancy may give host sites pause and cause them to contact you directly before taking action on requests.
It’s hard to be everywhere at once, especially when you’re dealing with management, production cycles, marketing services, purchasing and sales, client interactions, and every other aspect of owning and operating a business. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone.
Keeping track of your online operations in order to catch negative SEO attacks can be done with the use of tracking and monitoring software and apps, especially with alert and notification features. These programs can keep tabs on content duplication, backlinks, website downtime, loading times, and unusual server or network activity.
This software is not designed to avert attacks, but when you receive notifications you can stop hacks, deal with backlink problems, and begin the process of tracking down the culprit, reporting abuses, and beginning to clean up the mess.