Typically the first thing a law firm partner or marketing manager does when they detect a negative SEO campaign affecting their website is panic. Rightly so, as it can cause a number of unwelcome problems. However, with a good plan in place, there is a way to turn things around.

Detecting a negative SEO campaign is not always easy. Knowing your law firm has been hit with negative SEO is the first step. Rest reassured that negative SEO is not the end all for your firm.

Where to begin

What is  negative SEO? It is any action put into play with the intent to negatively impact the search engine position of a precise URL – meaning your law firm's website.

The first thing you need to know here is that if you identify a negative SEO campaign that is affecting your firm's website, do not contact Google. Their stated position is that they have protections in place to not only pinpoint negative SEO campaigns, but to stop them. That means Google is not inclined to take responsibility for any negative tactics you may be dealing with on your website.

Google you to get in touch with the webmaster of the site that back-linked a spammy link to your site and settle the issue. Of course, there might be times  when that approach does not work.

Additionally, if a competitor is really intent on harming your rankings and your firm's website, chances are they are not going to admit it and may ignore requests or demands to cease and desist. It is worth a try, but you may need to take other actions.

Can you take matters into your own hands and disavow spammy, negative links? Yes, however, it may be akin to hunting for treasure without a map. The reason for that is the Google's Disavow Tool. While it exists, it is well hidden and difficult to find.

It was made difficult to find because Google is adamant there is no need for such a tool because they already analyze, flag and deal with spammy links – so you do not need to deal with them. The Disavow Tool is a panic button for those who feel the need to take action and distance themselves from spammy links.

Identifying a negative SEO campaign hints

One of the first things that might catch your attention is a precipitous drop in search traffic. This is the time to check analytics. Make sure to check analytics regularly to avoid problems form developing.

You may receive a message from Google stating you are taking actions against their stated guidelines. This is a clear signal someone is using negative SEO tactics, particularly if you know for a fact that you have done nothing in contravention of Google's rules. Get into the Google Search Console as soon as possible if you suspect there is something wrong with your law firm's website. It is here you find out if you may have been hacked as well.

Another thing to be on the alert for is a drop in your law firm's individual keyword rankings. This is not something that everyone monitors all the time, but it is a good idea to as often as possible to catch if something is amiss. Monitoring keyword rankings really helps you get a handle in the case of a negative SEO attack.

Check your backlinks to see if there has been a jump, increase or a serious change in quality of the links. This too is a red flag for the possibility of a negative SEO campaign. Hopefully you have a tool in place that monitors backlinks that sends you an email if those links change. Good tools for this task include: MajesticSEO, SEO Powersuite or Linkody.

Flooded with new links suddenly? Take action fast to prevent any damage to your law firm's website.

While tools are handy, some blocked links may not show and the tools are not that helpful. However, once again, check the Google Search Console and Google Analytics. The Console provides a backlink report and Analytics lets you check the referral traffic report. You can nip a negative SEO campaign in the bud early by using these tools.

Instead of an increase in backlinks, you may even find the opposite to be true, a decrease in backlinks. Missing links? If so, investigate what is happening and why. Negative SEO also includes asking for links to be taken down or removed. You need to know why that happened to remedy the situation.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is whether or not your law firm's content (articles, blogs, etc.) is showing up on the internet. You could be dealing with content scraping – where someone lifted your item(s) in their entirety and posted them on another website.

To combat this negative SEO, you may want to consider syndicating your content on relevant and high authority websites. This can reap benefits for your law firm providing it is done correctly. If syndicating is not for you or your law firm then consider having a link back to your original article. You may also want to ask the webmaster of the site hosting your content to add noindex at the page level.

The main reason to be careful with syndication of content is that Google is the one that chooses which version of that content to rank and provide to searchers. The content Google chooses may not be your original content which provides the chance for other websites to possibly outrank you.

To really stay on top of what is going on with your website, audit, audit and then audit again. This can be done by doing a site search which would look like this: site:oppenheighellaw.com This search would then return a list of pages from your domain. Does everything look ok or is something off? If something is off, you may be the victim of a negative SEO campaign.

Even if you do determine your law firm is the victim of a negative SEO campaign, do not panic. Keep monitoring your website, keep up-to-date with your security and stay calm, because according to Google, they have your back when it comes to spammy links and not penalizing for them.

If you do not have time to deal with website issues, or analytics is not your thing, but you suspect there is something wrong, hire it out. Your firm's reputation is riding on a clean, functional and highly ranked website. It is marketing money well spent.

About Author

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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