Ranking high in organic search results for competitive keywords is becoming harder as more sites compete for users’ attention. The competition for ranking can get so fierce that some sites maliciously use unethical practices such as negative SEO tactics to attack other sites that have better content.

What is negative SEO? It is a series of link tactics that make search engines treat your site as one with poor, spammy content. For example, if your site is consistently receiving inbound links from sites that cover unrelated topics, it is possible that your site is receiving negative SEO attempts.

Negative SEO can significantly hamper your site’s consideration for search engine queries, placing your content in front of fewer people over time.

Google has made changes that marketers should heed to help combat negative SEO. The search giant has refined its algorithms to emphasize real-time communication of social media as well as link strategy. The newest algorithm, Penguin 4.0, is designed to be responsive to immediate link corrections, a boon to publishers who quickly correct bad site links discovered through audience responses in social media.

Thus, you can avoid negative SEO by proactively managing your links and establishing a vibrant social presence with tools like social sharing buttons.

Here are four tactics to avoid and correct negative SEO

1. Audit links to your site

Use tools such as Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Search Console to display a list of current links to your site. You can then eliminate bad links by downloading a list and submitting the unwanted links to the disavow tool, which is accessed in both Google and Bing Search Console. The disavow tool indicates to search engines that the submitted links are not to be taken into account when assessing your site.

2. Prevent duplicate content

Search engines view duplicate content – the display of the same content repeatedly within a search query result – as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings to gain more traffic. Duplicated pages can be removed from search query results. To prevent this, use canonical links, an HTML element that specifies the version of a web page that search engines should select when a query is conducted.

Also consider using original media, such as graphs, infographics, and images, to complement the originality of your content. Search engines will recognize it as source material rather than media from a copycat site.

3. Make sharing buttons prominent

Make sure your readers can easily find and use your sharing buttons. Tweets, shares, and reposts from your audience assure search engines that the activity reflects a legitimate source of information online. Facebook pages, Twitter tweets, YouTube videos, and Pinterest boards can all appear in a given Google search query result page.

4. Leverage data to optimize the reach of your content

Use analytics reports to find the evergreen posts that can be repurposed, to check which social media is referring traffic, and to monitor page load speed to ensure that slow pageloads do not interfere with audience engagement on your site.

Creating engaging content can feel overwhelming, requiring a dedicated effort to form and a skilled eye to crafted appealing media to your readers. Protecting the link quality and encouraging engagement through sharing will make your content a lot easier to be discovered.

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