Here are some things you can do that will help avoid your website getting penalized and help protect yourself against negative SEO. First thing is if you are using WordPress or outsourcing your website make sure you check the coding for malware or hidden links. There are a lot of outsourced cracked premium WordPress templates that are used that have hidden links placed in them. If you are having someone build your PBNs make sure you check them for the hidden code. Keep your word press websites updated as well as your plugins. You also want to make sure your site can not easily be hacked. Using difficult passwords and usernames helps. Changing the URL for wp-login to another URL and then redirecting any URLs that contain wp-login to a black hole can be an obstacle for bad bots. Also putting time limits on invalid password attempts helps as well. Make sure you whitelist your IP address. There are several WordPress plugins that will help. You also want to monitor comments. The spam comments are obvious but carefully look at the not so obvious ones. Allowing comments makes your website look more natural so you don’t want to totally turn them off. Be careful with comments that you do decide to allow make sure they don’t contain any Chinese symbols or text/font that would slow down your website. I personally disable HTML in my comments. Protect your website against DDoS attacks you can use websites like CloudFlare to help out with that.
When most new SEO people look into a negative attack they are watching things like GSA blast from a bunch or porn/spammy keywords and links. It is good to disavow those but those will have very little impact on rankings if there is any competition at all for the keywords you are targeting. Several years back people would send out mass links targeting URLs, for example, moneysite.com/”spammy-keyword” Those type of negative SEO attacks have not worked for years in the United States and only have potential to work if you 301 redirect all 404s to the home page. Fiverr mass blast won’t do much for a website ranking on the first page unless someone goes at it for several months. It is always good to disavow from the start doesn’t wait until you see your rankings drop. Fiverr and konker gigs that say “Manuel submission” or have a low number of .EDU backlinks in them can actually cause more harm than the mass blast will. Another negative SEO tactic that is no longer working in the United States is manipulating bounce rate. If you see a competitor trying to do that your main concern should be with taking up bandwidth and not with bounce rate hurting your site’s ranking. Again I am focusing on 1st-page rankings here. A site is a lot more vulnerable to negative SEO if it is not on the first two pages of Google. This is why you want to make sure you keep the disavow tool ready from the start. 301 redirects can have a negative effect as well on websites. Everyone talks about 301 redirects from de-indexed domains or porn sites as the ones to watch out for and you obviously want to disavow them, however, those are not the links that generally hurt websites. 301 redirects from multiple niche related index websites will cause more harm than those.
Google has done a great job with making it very difficult for negative SEO. Where websites are the most vulnerable to negative SEO is from 2nd tier backlink attacks. You want to guard your 1st tier backlinks. You want to monitor at least your top 10-30 backlinks. If you have a PBN make sure you take care of all those sites. Make sure you don’t have links or articles with spun content on tier 1 or 2 Articleforge or any type of spinning software is detected by Google. Always check Ahrefs and SEMrush for organic words your PBNs are ranking for. If it has been 3-4 months and a website is not rankings for any related low competition related terms then that PBN site isn’t doing you any good where it is whether it is indexed or not. Check that sites backlinks and make sure someone didn’t hit it with negative SEO or that it doesn’t have some shady backlinks you were not aware of. If the backlink profile looks clean then run it through Copyscape and smallseotools.com/plagiarism-checker/ to double check for duplicate content. After that disavow it or move it to another niche if it is a domain you own.
If you have a powerful first tier backlink on a page that you don’t control that is being hit with negative SEO make sure you make the site owner or page editor aware of the negative SEO attack. You can even put together a quick Disavow file for them to help make sure that it gets cleaned up. Google focuses a lot of 2nd tiers. So you always want to make sure your keyword ratios are decent there and someone isn’t purposely over-optimizing those ratios to hurt you.
You can use Ahrefs,Moz, and Majestic to monitor backlinks. However, If someone knows what they are doing they can block those sites bots from crawling PBNs. So if someone has a negative SEO PBN that is hidden there are a few things that can help. The first and most obvious one is checking Google webmaster tools and the new links. The next thing to do is search Google using
inurl:,intitle:, and link: website -website for the past month to see what others are doing for linking and to see if any spam is hitting your site or PBNs.
Then to stay ahead of the game it is always a good idea to visit SEO forums and websites and see what most beginner SEO guys are saying to do. One of the easiest ways for a site to get penalized or hit by negative SEO is by using aggressive link strategies that the average SEO guy thinks will work and keep your site safe. Now there are plenty of other strategies that can damage your site. Some of which I don’t know how to protect against yet.