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How to defend your business from negative SEO

By Adam Laurie

If you’re familiar with digital marketing, you’ll know that SEO relies on content and links. Publishing useful, quality content on your site and having other quality sites link back to yours is essential for ranking on Google.

And it’s no secret that Google has developed penalties for businesses attempting to game this content and links equation. While these penalties have done a huge amount to reduce the amount of spam online and improve the quality of search results, they’ve also given rise to a nefarious tactic known as negative SEO.

Negative SEO aims to inflict a Google spam penalty on a competitor by pointing low-quality links or spam infested webpages back to the target’s website. And it has the potential to decimate a business that relies on organic search engine traffic for lead generation.

So how do you combat negative SEO? Here are three key steps to ensure your business doesn’t get hit by negative SEO:

1. Monitor backlinks and set up alerts
Many businesses will only realise they’ve been attacked because search traffic dries up and their business no longer ranks in Google. By that stage, it’s already too late. With no inbound leads, your business is suffering real financial costs.

That’s why monitoring is so important. You can discover spammy links early. Start by performing a backlink audit and then use a link checker like Majestic SEO to keep an eye on domains linking to your site. You can also set up Google Alerts to notify you of suspicious behaviour or download a rank tracking app to easily keep an eye on search position.

2. Remove or disavow suspicious links
Once you know about the links, you need to do something about them – and fast. As soon as you notice suspicious or spammy links, you can lodge to get them removed and disavow the link. The faster you remove links, the less impact they will have on your business.

There are two things you can do. The first is to report the spam to Google. However, this method is not always effective in bringing back the strength of your domain name. As an extra precaution, update your website’s disavowed links list with the suspicious links.

3. Strengthen your backlink profile
A consistent program of ‘link building’ and network development will increase the strength of your domain’s backlink profile. By regularly building quality links back to your site, you’ll reduce the risk that spammy links will have an impact on your site.

But penalties can happen. Google penalties are notoriously hard to remove, and the effects can last months – or longer. In some rare cases, it’s better to start a fresh domain with a long term SEO strategy in place, rather than hoping your business will eventually recover.

Negative SEO remains a grim reality for Australian online businesses. There’s no sign of this nefarious tactic fading out anytime soon, yet too many businesses remain in the dark. The good news is that businesses can recover.

Adam Laurie is the managing director and co-founder of digital agency, Digital360.

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