Negative SEO and Black Hat SEO: The Dirty Fight for Keywords
If your website drops in the search engine rankings, your own SEO or a Google update isn’t always to blame. It can actually be due to negative SEO by hackers or criminal competitors, particularly when the Search Console delivers strange error messages. This article explains what negative and black hat SEO are, how you can tell if your site has been affected, and what you can do as a website operator.
Good SEO Is Time-Consuming
Bringing your own website up to date in terms of SEO and keeping it at this level can be a demanding job. That’s because good SEO is not a one-off project, but an ongoing process that keeps content departments, in-house SEOs, agencies and your own IT department busy. But no matter how good your team is, your SEO work reaches its limits when the search engine still classifies your competitor’s website as more relevant for various search queries.
Negative or Black Hat SEO: What Is That?
One thought comes to mind here for a lot of people: If I can’t keep improving my SEO, can I make my competitor’s SEO worse? That’s the precise goal of black hat SEOs: lowering the rankings of competitors. The methods used are called “negative SEO”. But since the most effective negative SEO tools use illegal methods, most people who do this kind of work are cyber criminals. At the very least, negative SEO violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. And if the guidelines are violated multiple times, the webmaster’s illicit websites can be completely excluded from Google.
Methods Used By Negative SEOs
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are actually intended to support inexperienced site owners and prepare them for innovations and updates. But if you reverse these tips, you get a list of common ways to harm a website.
- Put bad or malicious links on the landing page:
Produce links from spam sites with gambling, pornographic content, etc.
Use link farms and set tonnes of backlinks
Abuse comment functions in forums and blogs for bad links
Use deceptive link text to link to a page (“Easy scam for beginners”)
- Report important and good sites to Google as spam
- Copying content and reposting it on other websites (to provoke duplicate content)
Set noindex and nofollow across the site, block crawlers, block IPs in bulk
Manipulation of the server and database
When your site sends Google a lot of trustworthy signals (e.g., good organic link growth, properly maintained meta texts, no suspicion of illicit SEO practices), it’s especially hard for competitors to harm you. But if Google has already undertaken actions against you, or your site has become suspicious in some other way, Google tends to downgrade you more easily.
Identify Negative SEO
The first alarm signal is usually a sharp drop in SEO ranking. If you can rule out that this is your own fault (such as an unsuccessful switch to a new URL) or a Google Core update, it’s worth taking a closer look at your Google Search Console. It generally makes sense to switch on the notifications for the Search Console, so you will be informed as soon as it detects any abnormalities.
1.Has Google Introduced a Manual Action Against You?
In the Search Console you should first check whether a manual action has been taken (menu item: “Security and manual actions”). If there has, you need to eliminate the errors found and record the actions. Then you can submit a “Reconsideration request” through Search Console to have your site reconsidered.
2.Check Links Pointing to Your Site
In the Search Console you can see which links point to your site. These so-called “backlinks” are still an important ranking factor for Google. If reliable websites link to your pages, it’s a sign for search engines that valuable information or products can also be found on your pages. But if suspicious or dangerous sites link to your site, it will damage your ranking. In particular, gambling sites, sites with pornographic content or spam sites lead to poor rankings for the target sites. Black Hat SEOs use this type of link building to harm competitors.
3.Familiarise Yourself With the disavow Tool
You can remove such links manually. That’s what the disavow tool is for. If you spot any suspicious links while checking the site, you can report them to Google. Entire lists of links can also be submitted here. But use this tool with caution as every useful link is important to your site.
4.Have You Been Hacked?
The most powerful weapon of negative SEOs is of course an intrusion into your infrastructure: But the attackers are definitely subject to prosecution in this case! Check if you still have access to all your programs and tools. If not, you’ve probably been the victim of a cyber attack. And even if everything looks good at first glance, attackers may still have access and may just be operating in the background.
You can check whether you have uninvited guests in the Search Console under the “Security problems” menu item. Immediately change all passwords, set up two-factor authentication and, if necessary, hire an IT forensic scientist to identify, limit and eliminate the extent of the damage.
This kind of operation can cost 10.000 euros or more. But if you have a First-Party-Cyber and Data Risk Insurance (FPC), the insurer will cover the costs. Find out what else Cyber Insurance does here: Cyber Risks: They’re a Threat, But You Can Protect Yourself
Extensive Damage: Negative SEO After a Hack
Negative SEO methods preceded by a hack are usually the most successful method and cause the most extensive damage. Because in this case the black hat SEO hacker can access your data (banks) and cause big problems. But there’s also good news. You are covered in such cases if you have the additional Add-on for the first-Party Cybre an Data Risks Insurance (FPC) through exali.
The insurer takes care of cleaning up your system, hires IT forensic scientists to investigate the hack and pays for financial losses caused by the hack. Do you have questions? Our customer advisors will be happy to advise you – call +49 (0)821 80 99 46-0 (available Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) or use the Contact Form on our website.
With over 10 years of professional experience in online marketing at various platforms and online stores, project manager Kathrin Bayer provides valuable tips that go beyond current trends.
When she writes articles for exali, they mostly revolve around SEO or SEA risks, e-commerce and online trade or the media industry. She is on fire for all online marketing areas, combining experience with curiosity.