Two SEO Threats You Probably Aren’t Monitoring

Search Engine Optimization


No matter what industry you’re in, any marketer would agree that getting your site ranking as high as possible on Google should be a priority, and for good reason: research proves that the first page of Google receives 95% of web traffic while subsequent pages only receive 5% or less of total traffic.

One of the most common ways to boost your site’s rankings is through high-quality backlinks, and a recent study of one million Google search results revealed that “the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.”

In other words, off-site links are a crucial ingredient to any successful SEO strategy. However, Google and your competitors know this, which is why it’s essential to monitor the quality of your inbound links. Otherwise, you can fall victim to one of two SEO threats: negative SEO or a Google penalty.

But how common are these threats? Alexa recently surveyed 17 SEO specialists and discovered that these are actually two of their biggest concerns.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at how you can identify if your rankings have fallen victim to one of these SEO threats and what you can do to solve it.

Negative SEO: What is it, and How Can You Identify It?

Negative SEO occurs when someone attempts to lower a site’s ranking by unethical means. The most common attack is creating hundreds of spammy links that point to your site, but below are a few other forms:

  • Copying your site’s content and republishing elsewhere on the internet (sometimes referred to as “scraping”)
  • Pointing links to your website using keywords associated with seedy content like prescriptions, porn, gambling, and payday loans
  • A large number of links coming from blog posts that make no sense whatsoever

Although Google works hard through its algorithm updates to protect sites from these kinds of attacks, nearly half of those surveyed by Alexa believe negative SEO is on the rise—with more than 40% of participants knowing someone who has been the victim of negative SEO.

Before you begin to panic, keep in mind that there are sites that are more susceptible to this type of rankings threat than others. If your site is in a highly competitive vertical, for instance, or if you’ve previously been hit with a Google penalty, then you’ll want to be more diligent in monitoring negative SEO threats.

Whether you fit within these parameters or not, you should conduct a backlink audit regularly—particularly because it is the best way to protect yourself from any sort of threat to your ranking.

There are a ton of tools out there to make your backlink research easier. Below are a few tools you can experiment with to help you get a better picture of your current backlink portfolio:

  • Ahrefs: Allows you to compare inbound link portfolios of competitors to your own and discover missing backlink opportunities to help you build a stronger link profile
  • SEMrush: Get a complete look at your backlink portfolio while discovering and eliminating any toxic backlinks before Google penalizes you
  • Alexa: Perform a backlink check to see not only who is linking to your site but also discover new linking opportunities to help improve rankings
  • Open Site Explorer: Find link-building opportunities and discover potentially damaging links

Google Penalties: How to Avoid Being Hit

Although I mentioned it briefly above, Google penalties can also hurt your rankings tremendously—and a majority of the SEO specialists surveyed consider them a very real threat: more than 80% of respondents said they are at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about Google penalties while 50% actually helped a client who got hit with one at some point.

So how can you protect your site? The first thing you want to do is understand the difference between the two types of penalties:

  • Manual penalties are issued directly to a site if Google’s web spam team identifies that the said site is not complying with their Webmaster guidelines
  • Algorithmic penalties come as a result of a Google algorithm update detecting spammy or unnatural behavior which will result in the penalty

Google is continually tweaking and revising the way it indexes content, but below are some tell-tale signs if you’ve been hit with a penalty:

  • If you perform a site search— plus a keyword—and you get no results
  • The listing for your site on Google links to a page other than your home page
  • Your site isn’t one of the first options listed when you search for your brand name

If you notice any of these signs, take swift action. If it was a manual penalty (meaning Google informed you about it), you’ll need to submit a request for reconsideration and work on identifying and removing any spammy links. If you believe it was an algorithmic penalty, you’ll also want to begin eliminating any harmful links, but you won’t need to submit anything to Google.

Unlocking the challenges of how to overcome a sudden dip in rankings can seem intimidating, but these two SEO threats can be fixed with a little digging and a focus on both quality content and links when rebuilding your site. There isn’t one equation for success when it comes to improving your site’s rankings, but there are things you can keep your eyes on—such as diligently monitoring your backlink portfolio and making sure it aligns with Google’s best practices.

Have you noticed a drop in your Google ranking? What have you done to increase your ranking in the past? Tell me about it in the comments!