Negative SEO: It’s Real & Here’s What
Attorneys Can Do To Protect Themselves
Negative SEO is a malicious practice where harmful optimization techniques are performed on a website deliberately (most often in the form of spammy inbound links). If you’ve never been affected by a manual or algorithmic penalty because of unnatural links, I’m very happy for you and keep up the good work. If you’re an attorney who thinks negative SEO can’t happen to you because you’re following the rules, I’m sorry to say that you aren’t as safe as you think. Negative SEO is a real thing, people do it, it could happen to you and there are some simple things lawyers can do to protect themselves.
Why Attorneys Might Be A Target
Before we get to ways you can protect yourself, let’s explore some reasons attorneys might be a target of negative SEO. For the most part, negative SEO could happen for one or more of the following reasons.
- Your firm has been highly successful at marketing itself online and the competition can’t touch you using legitimate methods
- You’ve made someone angry
How Can Lawyers Tell if They’ve Been A Victim of Negative SEO
The point of this article is to help you determine if something fishy is going on before you (or your online marketing agency) logs into your analytics account and sees a sharp dip in organic traffic from search. Or before you get a notice from webmaster tools saying you’ve been manually penalized.
While almost no mess is too large to clean up, at that point the damage is already done and you’ll be in containment mode. To be successful at protecting yourself from negative SEO, you must take a proactive approach. Here are some things you can do:
Set Up Google Webmaster Tool Alerts
Google has a compelling interest in helping website owners keep their sites working well. Once you configure your site in Webmaster tools, you can set up alerts that will notify you when there is an issue with your site.
You’ll be notified if there is some sort of manual action happening against your site. You’ll also be notified if Googlebot can’t access your site which can also be an indication that you are being attacked in some way.
Monitor your Backlink Profile
Negative SEO is typically done through building harmful links to a website. Attorneys can use software programs to keep a detailed account of what links are appearing out on the web and pointing at their websites.
Pay close attention to the domains that are linking to you. Are there any that raise a red flag? Domains that have nothing to do with your practice, that are spammy or useless in nature, or that otherwise appear suspicious as it relates to your content and mission on the web should be scrutinized. Ask yourself, “why would this site be linking to me?” when you see a link you’ve never seen before.
Ahrefs.com is a wonderful tool that will show you all of the inbound links leading to your site, when they were discovered, the anchor text that they are using, and other useful information. You can also use Google Webmaster Tools to see links that are leading to your site although that information is a bit slow to update.
Remove or Disavow Suspicious Links Immediately
If you are monitoring your backlink profile on a regular basis and you notice suspicious links, start the process of removing or disavowing them immediately. Even if you don’t have any manual actions levied against your site or notice poor performance in search proceed with having them removed.
If you can’t get them taken down, update your disavow file (or create a new one) and submit it to Google to let them know you don’t want those links counted against your site.
You can’t always catch things right when they happen and for the most part, if someone is building bad links to your site, you may not ever find out who it is. If you do find out, your best bet is to reach out to that person or entity who is doing the dirt. If it’s another firm, find out why and contact them directly.
Sometimes when people are discovered they stop their behavior because they don’t want retaliation or negative consequences. At the very least you can start documenting a conversation for use further down the road. That sort of information can be very useful when it comes to submitting reconsideration request to Google.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
No we aren’t talking about building spammy links to people who’ve done the same to you (no matter how satisfying it might be). You can disavow links and remove bad ones all day long but if you don’t have positive links pointing at your site, you aren’t doing your firm much good.
Invest time and money building good links to your site. If you can mount an impressive link building campaign that dwarfs any negative link building that might be happening, you’ll come out ahead. Make your firm an authority online in its practice area. Create content that draws in good links and that will go much further than simply deleting the bad links.
Don’t Worry Too Much About Negative SEO
Just like doing positive SEO to your own site, doing negative things to someone else’s site takes skill. It is possible for example to actually help a site by building links to it that are intended to harm it. It is also possible that bad links won’t do anything to that site.
In a video released by Google about negative SEO, Matt Cutts points out that very few people actually engage in this sort of behavior: