When your website grows, obviously you will start competing with similar websites to rank high in Google search results. As a competitor, you can monitor their SEO strategies and try to improve yours to stay on course. However, your competitors also follow your strategies and take counter measurements to beat you in the ranking. It will not be a big problem as long as it goes with a positive competition. But many competitors follow black hat SEO techniques to destroy your ranking. In this article, we will explain how to monitor backlinks and avoid competitors spoiling your backlink profile.
How to Know Something is Wrong?
Unless you periodically monitor the backlinks of your site, it is difficult to find things going behind the woods. Sudden drop in traffic is an indication you should get an alert and check the backlink profile of your site. Unnaturally generating backlinks will affect your site’s visibility no matter whether you, your SEO or your competitor is the reason behind. Google changes the search algorithm many times and there are lot of possibilities your site can be penalized for unnatural backlinks.
How to Monitor Backlinks?
You do not need to wait for the traffic drop and then react to the situation. Fortunately, you can monitor the backlinks using tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, MOZ and Semrush. The best option is to use free Google Search Console (GSC) to do the analysis and take necessary actions.
- Login to your GSC account and navigate to “Links” section available under “Legacy tools and reports” section.
- Here, you can find all details related to outbound and inbound links along with the top linking sites.
- You can download the entire list and do your analysis offline.
Other tools like Ahrefs, MOZ and Semrush offers limited options to find your backlink profile in free version. For example, go to Ahrefs backlink checker and check your site to get the top 100 backlinks.
How Competitors Can Destroy Your Backlink Profile?
Once you have the list of domains and URLs pointing to your site, it is quite easy task to find the unnatural links. Though it takes some time to check domain by domain, you need to do this to safeguard your website.
1. Comment Spam
The first and foremost way of spoiling a website is to leave spam comments in hundreds of irrelevant websites. In GSC, click on the domain name pointing your site to get the details of all URLs linking your site. You can randomly check the pages to find the how your website is linked in that domain. If you find the links are coming from unmoderated comments, they could be intentional spam left by your competitor.
Remember, though you did not leave the comments there are possibilities some real user would have left your link for a meaningful purpose. This happens especially on forums and support websites that simply link other websites offering solutions to the problem. However, below are some of the ways you can easily identify spam comments.
- Websites are irrelevant to your niche.
- Commented with junk username and linked your website with username.
- Linked page is not popular on your site.
2. Automated Queries
This is a dangerous way of spoiling your backlink profile. We will give you an example of how your competitor can use automated queries for backlinking. If you are using WordPress content management system, it supports in-built search function. Anyone can generate a query by appending /s=query or /search=query to your domain name. If you are not using noindex feature for internal search queries, then Google will index all junk search queries. You can see the details of indexed pages under “Coverage” section of your Google Search Console account.
If your competitor is aggressive, they will leave these URLs all over the internet with misleading anchor text. Any user coming through those links will land on the junk search page with no content.
3. Links from Junk Domains
The next black hat SEO technique is to create backlinks from different type of junk domains. You can take some suspicious domains from the GSC list and open them in the browser. Check whether you find any of the below pattern:
- Irrelevant country level domains especially from Russia (.ru), China (.cn) and Japan (.jp).
- Domain showing HTTP errors like internal server error (status code 500).
- Parked domains that are for sale.
- Blacklisted domains in a public spam database.
- Adult and pornography sites.
- Directory and business listing websites.
- Content curation websites.
Having few links from these types of sites will not harm your website. However, having 10K links from a single pornography domain will have problem for your site. Google most probably will penalize such links and you will not even know if you do not monitor the backlinking domains.
4. Sneaky Redirects
Cloaking is the process of showing different content to users compared to search engines. You can cloak a single URL and serve junk content for search engine crawlers and good content for users. Whether you use GSC or any other tool, they will show you the links found by using crawler as user agent. For example, Google uses Googlebot as a crawler and the links you find in GSC are discovered with Googlebot.
You can check the list of domains from GSC whether they are redirecting to different URLs. If large number of domains in the list are redirecting, then you can guarantee assume it is done with intention to spoil your site. Google may think you are trying to manipulate the backlink and penalize your site.
What Can You Do?
Above explained are only some of the methods to spoil to your backlink profile. Whatever the method your competitor uses, you have one option to avoid penalties from Google. That is to use disavow links option and submit the unnatural domains pointing your site. You can learn more about submitting disavow file for Google and Bing in our earlier articles.
In this way, you can inform search engines to ignore the domains or links when evaluating the ranking of your site’s page.
Creating and managing a website is a big task. Many people think website owners only need to focus on content creation and backlink building. However, monitoring backlink profile and competitor’s activities are some of equally important aspects to have a successful website. SEO world is filled with black hat techniques that anyone can harm your site without your knowledge. Make sure to use GSC and other tools to protect your site from intentional wrong doings by your competitors.