Updated: Aug 20
What Is A Negative SEO Attack, And How Can Your Law Firm Avoid It?
When done right, Lawyer SEO can improve your ranking and drive traffic. However, it's also possible to do it wrong, which—predictably—can drive ranking and traffic down. It's also possible for a competitor to use these wrong tactics and redirect them to you, causing sabotage.
What Is Negative SEO?
Instead of improving your rankings, Negative SEO does the opposite. This can happen to you if your content suddenly dropped in quality, you lost a few great backlinks, or you started making duplicated content.
What makes Negative SEO attacks worse is that you don't always know who is doing it. Unlike your on-page settings, you can't control people or websites from posting spam about your links and on-page content.
The Most Common Types of Negative SEO
There are different types of Negative SEO, and most of it can be done without your knowledge.
Your content can be "scraped". In simpler terms, competitors can copy your content and repost them on other domains. Unfortunately, Google's algorithm doesn't favor duplicate material across multiple websites. What tends to happen is that the algorithm chooses one and shows only that version in search results.
Google can sometimes detect the original, but there's still a chance that it'll see the scraped version first and rank that higher than yours. Scraping happens almost immediately after posting, so duplicate content can go up almost at the same time as you publish yours.
2. Fake Reviews
Fake negative reviews linked to a company or website are more of an indirect Negative SEO attack. A bad overall review score can drive potential clients away from your website, which affects your traffic (and your ranking).
When search engines detect a significant drop in your stats, it might reduce your rankings. Worse, if you dropped significantly in the rankings, search engines might sense suspicious activity and penalize you.
While no one is exempt from unfavorable reviews, you might want to regularly check on them and see if something doesn't make sense (i.e., it doesn't match the number of clients you had, reviewer name is not any of your former clients', etc.).
3. Link Farms
In a previous post about backlinks, we discussed that not all backlinks are good for your Lawyer SEO. Too many backlinks to spammy, low-quality, and unreliable sites can negatively affect your rankings.
Link farms are essentially websites that have and create a large number of backlinks. A few spammy backlinks are unlikely to harm your search engine rating, but link farming can take up to hundreds or thousands of links.
If there are anchor texts, they'll likely be unrelated to your website or contain a keyword that makes it appear as if you're trying to trick search engines.
Make sure to regularly check on your backlinks and the sites they're coming from. If you see any toxic backlinks, have them removed or disavow them through Google's disavowing tool. For a more detailed explanation of how to manage bad backlinks, read our previous post here.
4. DDos Attack
Competitors can forcibly crawl your website to cause a high server load. The purpose of this is to prevent Google from crawling your website. If Google cannot access your website for some time, it may reduce your search rankings.
In short, a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack floods a website with bot traffic. This could cause the site to slow down or crash due to an internal server bug.
Not only will it affect traffic and conversions, but it's also possible that search engines will de-index your site if it tries crawling it while offline. When this happens, you should notify your web hosting provider immediately.
5. Removal Of Backlinks
If a competitor starts sending out false removal requests to web admins, all of your hard work poured into getting those quality backlinks would be at risk. They could pose as you or an agent acting on your behalf and contact web admins to request that links to your website be removed.
It's also possible to send bogus DMCA removal requests, so they really don't have to get into your emails and dashboards to do so.
6. Your Website Was Hacked
While not considered an official Negative SEO attack, it is an attack that can possibly cause you to drop in rankings. This is because Google doesn't want to risk directing users to potentially dangerous websites.
If they [Google] believe your site has been hacked, you'll either see a decline in rankings or a tag in your search result that clearly states you've been hacked.
Once a malicious individual manages to break through your site's security, they will be able to access your on-page SEO settings. Not only is that terrifying, but everything that's linked to your site (including emails, passwords, etc.) might be exposed to additional security risks.
Malicious entities can even go as far as to de-index your website. Worse, they might even change your robot.txt file settings and remove you from the search results altogether.
Make sure to monitor your website's ranking frequently so you can see if it's been de-indexed. Also, check your robots.txt file if anything doesn't seem or look right.
When it comes to negative SEO, the key is to keep an eye on your website's SEO ranking. The easiest method to protect yourself against any sustained attacks is to monitor your website regularly and have a solid website security system in place.