Many businesses fail to realise that they are vulnerable to attacks from competitors. These attacks which are known as negative SEO can take the form of unnatural links which Google will recognize as spam and downgrade that site’s ranking. There are a number of important ways that webmasters can protect their website from negative SEO attacks.
First of all, utilise Google Webmaster Tools to constantly monitor the site’s links. A webmaster can head to Google’s Webmaster tools and click on the “Search Traffic” option. Under the available options, he or she can choose the “Links to Your Site,” which should bring up a list of inbound links. Beneath should be a list of options including “More” under “Who Links the Most.” There should be three options which include “Download the Latest Links.”
Choosing this action will bring up a list of recent links. Webmasters can check to see if they have been the subject of unnatural links. New artificial links can result from other competitors introducing spam links or older artificial links, replicating. The best option of course is to disable them, or if necessary to file a link repudiation claim with Google.
Another powerful tool for analyzing unnatural links is Majestic SEO’s link analysis tool. This tool will display data about links to a website in a variety of formats. An important tool is the “New” links analytic which will provide a bar graph of link activity for the past 90 days. This can be broken down into 14 day periods so that more detailed analysis of links can be performed. Majestic also provides data about links which includes when they were first indexed, the last time they were seen and when they were lost. This can help determine if unnatural links were created and how long they negatively impacted the search standing of a website.
Open Site Explorer is also an effective tool for finding and analyzing artificial links. The “Just Discovered” functionality will list new links, their domain, subdomain or URL. Webmasters can then use Open Site Explorer to download a spreadsheet with all the relevant data about these links.
Once a webmaster has a list of recent links, the can more easily identify unnatural links. Manually disabling these links is the most reliable method. If some cannot be removed in this manner, they can be disavowed. The disavow tool is a tool offered by Google which allows webmasters to request that Google not include them while evaluating their websites.
It is also important to determine the source of these links. If it is merely a member of the SEO team using poor quality links in an attempt to raise search rankings, then they can merely be corrected. If these unnatural links are a part of a competitor’s negative SEO campaign, then more direct action should be taken. In any case, this process should be implemented on a regular basis, like monthly or quarterly at the latest.