SEO Audit Tools Protect Your Website From Negative SEO
All website owners – or their SEO agency for preference – should carry out an SEO audit of their site from time to time. An SEO audit is essentially a health check for your website, making sure any issues that are negatively affecting your performance in the search engine rankings are identified and addressed. Much of the time, the problems you’ll find that are holding you back are technical details, like broken links or poor speed when loading a particular page. A full SEO audit may also flag up areas where your site’s performance could be better, for example, fine tuning page titles and meta descriptions to attract more traffic; or tightening up content and more closely relating it to chosen keywords.
But during the course of a complete search engine optimisation audit, you may come across evidence that someone, maybe one of your competitors, has done something that’s skewing the way Google is looking at your site. Rest assured; these kinds of scenarios are relatively rare. But left unaddressed, they could add up to a down-ranking that will cause a drop in traffic and eventually impact on the success of your business. So while you shouldn’t get too paranoid about it, it’s well worth building in the checks outlined below and being prepared to address the issues if they arise.
First, we’ll outline why and when these types of attacks might happen, then look at the three most common areas of vulnerability and how you can identify and address them as part of your routine SEO assessment procedures.
What Is Negative SEO and Why Is It Used?
We all understand the value of search engine optimisation. It’s a way to convince the search engines, of which Google is the most prominent, that your site is the one that best answers your target audience’s questions about the products or services you sell. Google rewards informative, engaging, well-structured and high performing websites with higher rankings in its search results. And featuring more prominently in the search results means more people will navigate towards your website, rather than your competitors’, when they’re looking for market offerings in your niche. More visitors translate into more opportunities for sales, making your business a successful one.
Most of us play fair and concentrate our time, energy and marketing budgets on how to make our own websites the best they can be. We use White Hat SEO, legitimate tools and strategies to improve our visibility to the search engines. But there are always people who’d prefer to cut corners and get to the top without putting in that level of effort on their own sites. Initially, these unscrupulous individuals devised ways to try and fool Google’s algorithms – so-called Black Hat SEO. Common tricks here included keyword stuffing, sneaky redirects to other pages and poor-quality content that didn’t add to the viewer’s knowledge base or answer their questions.
But Google and other search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in their own ranking methods over the years and have blocked the typical Black Hat avenues as far as they can. They started rightly penalising websites that used these methods. So negative SEO has become the refuge of individuals that want to get ahead in the search engines’ results without having to put in the effort to improve their own webpages.
Negative SEO involves deliberately working behind the scenes to lower a competitor’s score in the search engine rankings, and an SEO audit report is one of the better ways of identifying it.
It’s worth stressing that this is still incredibly rare, and you may never come across instances of negative SEO affecting your website while carrying out your routine search engine optimisation SEO audit practices. Nonetheless, it could happen, and being alert to the signs is all part of keeping your own site up-to-date and protected, very much like ensuring all your windows are closed and locked before leaving your physical business premises for the night.
What Forms Can Negative SEO Attacks Look Like and How To Address Them
So what should you be looking for when you conduct an SEO examination of your site? Here, we’ll guide you through three of the most common attacks.
One of the first things is spammy backlinks. It’s a relatively unsophisticated technique – the attacker will submit your website URL to dodgy link farm sites. Your pages are then apparently inextricably linked with sites that the search engines know are spam and add no value to your readers. So ultimately, your site will be associated with poor-quality content and get downrated because of that.
As a matter of good practice, you or your SEO agency should be checking all backlinks pointing towards your site on a monthly basis as part of their SEO audit UK to ensure they’re relevant and quality sources of information. There are various professional tools you can use to gain greater insights you’re your backlinks, like MozPro and Ahrefs. If you find backlinks to sites you’d rather not be associated with, your first step should be to ask that the site owner removes them. However, in the case of negative SEO, this request is unlikely to be honoured. Fear not, though – you can use Google’s Disavow tool to break the association.
Sometimes malicious, sometimes pure laziness, plagiarism has been around since forever, and if someone is replicating your content word for word, or almost, Google will pick up on this. And there’s a danger that the search engine will identify your copy as the duplicate version and penalise you for it, rather than the guilty party. Your SEO survey process should include steps to check that’s not happening, either on a one-off or ongoing basis.
One quick way to assess whether someone’s using your content is to copy and paste a block of text from your website – in quotes – into Google’s search bar and see whether it appears on others’ websites. There are also tools like Copyscape that can do the job of checking your wider webpages for matching hits. The best SEO audit report includes routine steps to test whether your content will be flagged up as duplicate by Google and the like.
Again, if you come across another website that’s posting your content wholesale without referencing or linking to yours, your first port of call should be to contact them direct. Being charitable, it’s entirely possible they don’t know that this could be harming your profile with Google, and they’ll take steps to address the issue.
But if it’s clear that it’s being done as a deliberate attempt to steal your traffic, or they won’t otherwise respond to your requests, you can use Google’s DMCA dashboard (where DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 United States copyright law) to submit a DMCA takedown request.
Your best tool for the success of your business is your reputation, and any hits on this can leave you reeling – not just in terms of your search engine ranking, but your whole profile and how you appear to your customers. Two ways your competitors can seek to harm your reputation are by posting negative reviews of your goods or services and creating fake profiles in names similar to your business’s.
A complete SEO audit will include periodic checks on how your business name is being used. Again, Google is your friend here as you can establish an alert through the search engine to notify you every time your business name is mentioned on a review site you’re signed up to. Make sure posts are relevant and genuine and respond in a positive way to all legitimate ones, even the negative ones, to enhance your profile as a responsive, caring business. If you find any you think are malicious, the review site will have a procedure for handling these.
Also make checks on your social media profiles – again, setting alerts so you’re notified every time someone refers to your business – and handle these in the same way. It’s important not to miss out on poor press on social media platforms where you don’t have a presence too, so even if you don’t plan on using a particular platform, it can be worth preserving your company’s name by creating a profile and leaving it dormant.
As we said above, the chances of any of these scenarios occurring are fairly minimal. Google and other search engines have increasingly sophisticated methods of preventing negative SEO and will catch a lot of the most amateur attempts to circumvent their algorithms. So you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no need to pour extra time and resources into checking these things as part of your routine SEO examination.
But the best SEO audit procedures are comprehensive enough to capture the above and other negative SEO methods as a matter of course, the consequences of which can be anything from irritating to having a devastating effect on your hard-earned high search engine ranking. So it’s a little extra work for a lot of extra peace of mind.
If you don’t have the time or the technical know-how in-house to carry out an SEO audit on a regular basis, it’s time to call in the experts. Here at Position1SEO, we’ve been around since the early days of Black Hat SEO techniques, so we know exactly how to spot and address negative SEO to stop it in its tracks. For more details of our services and how we can improve your SEO by carrying out the best SEO audit UK wide for free, and in a whole host of other ways too, call us today on 0141 404 7515.