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What Is Negative SEO? (And How To Prevent It)

What Is Negative SEO? (And How To Prevent It)

When it comes to search engine optimization, negative SEO is a hotly debated topic. Every company hopes they never have to deal with negative SEO. It is annoying and may also hurt your site’s rankings and take a lot of work to fix. However, negative SEO is becoming more common as the internet grows in popularity. But what is negative SEO?

Many sites that have done nothing wrong are suddenly being targeted. If you don’t keep an eye on your backlink profile, Google might potentially take manual action against your site. Then you’ll have a great cause for concern.

Unfortunately, you can’t always stop negative SEO from happening, so it’s important to use the fantastic tools available to determine when you need to take action. Today, we’ll help you understand negative SEO and the various ways to prevent it.

What Is Negative SEO?

The term “negative SEO” refers to the practice of lowering a competitor’s search engine rankings through the use of dishonest or other unethical means.

However, it is critical to note that negative SEO is not always deliberate. There are now link farms, private blog networks, thousands of bot scraping sites, and various other activities that create links. Sadly, there are situations when your website will get lumped in with others.

Negative SEO

Looking at Google trends over the previous 24 months, we can observe that “negative SEO” appears to be on the rise. Unfortunately, this SEO issue is not going away anytime soon, so it’s critical to understand why it occurs and how to protect your website.

What Is a Negative SEO Attack?

Negative SEO attackers might use various methods to harm your site. Their methods vary, but they all share the same goal of undermining your site’s position to the greatest extent feasible. The following are examples of some of these attacks:

  • Duplicating content
  • Creating fake social media profiles that seem to represent your company.
  • Website hacking and link spamming
  • Spamming your website with poor anchor text full of misspelled keywords is a certain way to drive visitors away.
  • Getting rid of the existing links to your site.

Does Negative SEO Work?

As of the year 2021, Google’s official attitude is still a resounding “no,” and it has been for a long time. Negative SEO is become a meme, according to John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google:

Does Negative SEO Work?

Another Google official, Gary Illyes, has made similar claims. Many SEO professionals, though, would advise you that adopting Google’s comments at face value isn’t always the best option. So here’s what we believe. While negative SEO can still work, it is far less of an issue than it was some years back.

Why Would Someone Commit a Negative SEO Attack?

In the same way that hackers have their own goals, those who conduct negative SEO campaigns may have their own. It can be done on purpose, for example, to sabotage a competitor’s website, as an act of extortion, or even just for the sake of causing chaos.

Why Would Anyone Commit A Negative SEO Attack?

Don’t be shocked if you find various negative SEO services online. As surprising as it may sound, negative SEO attacks can occasionally occur accidentally.

Sometimes those close to the business owner, such as family members, employees, or even paid SEO companies, engage in deceptive and criticized “Black Hat” SEO tactics to believe they may improve the site’s search engine rankings.

Types of Negative SEO

1. Link Farms

There may not be much impact on a site’s search engine rankings from just one or two spammy links. This is why negative SEO typically employs link farms, which consist of a network of related sites, to mount an attack. A large percentage of these links have the same anchor text.

These exact-match anchors might be utterly irrelevant to the target website or include a specific term to make it appear that the site’s owner is attempting to manipulate the site’s link profile.

Link Farm

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This happened a while ago to WP Bacon, a WordPress podcast site. The site quickly accumulated thousands of links using the anchor term “porn movie.” Over the course of a week, WP Bacon dropped more than 50 places in Google’s search results for the vast majority of the terms for which it had previously ranked.

However. the webmaster disavowed the spammy sites, and ultimately, WP Bacon was able to regain most of its previous positions.

2. Fake Link Removal Request

This is a sneaky method of negative SEO in which unethical SEOs send emails to sites that link to you. Then, they try to persuade the websites to delete some of your best links. Such attacks are uncommon, but their consequences may be devastating.

Consider losing several of your top backlinks in a single day. Your ranks will significantly drop.

Solution: There is no easy way to stop the false removal requests from being sent out; you have no control over it. However, you can defend your backlinks by looking for symptoms of an active link removal attempt and taking action as soon as possible. You may do this by using Ahrefs Alerts.

3. False URL parameters

URL parameters are values specified in a page’s URL string. These parameters are widely used to sort and filter pages in e-commerce platforms and beyond. If the site URL is not properly set, it might cause various crawling issues.

URL parameters

Numerous versions of the same page can get indexed with just minor differences in content. Google can follow these links and de-index the pages if the site is not properly configured.

Solution: The coverage report in Google Search Console may be the easiest way to detect this type of negative seo attack. If you notice an increased number of indexed pages, it might be a sign of a negative SEO attack.

4. Heavy Crawling

A desperate competitor who doesn’t know better can try to bring your site to a complete halt. This Black Hat SEO tactic achieves its goals by aggressively crawling the site, significantly increasing the server’s load.

This may cause a slowdown or possibly a crash on the site. And if it occurs a few times, you may lose some search engine credibility.

Solution: Contact your hosting provider or webmaster if you see that your site is loading slowly or, even worse, crashing. They should be able to know and inform you if the slowdown is due to routine maintenance, increased organic traffic, or an attack.

They will also have various options, such as imposing firewall rules or rerouting traffic through a DDoS protection provider.

5. Fake Reviews

Reviews are just as important as quality backlinks. An inflow of negative ones is not only detrimental to your local search engine results; it is also detrimental to your business. However, reviews may be manipulated easily, and a jealous competitor may attempt this first.

Fake Reviews

Solution: You should often check Google My Business and read any new reviews left for your business. Fake reviews are against Google’s policy, which states that you should never submit reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with the site you’re evaluating.

6. Fake Social Media Profiles

Social Media

A business’s credibility and brand awareness may benefit from an active presence on social media. Therefore, one method of attacking your company’s credibility is creating fake profiles in your name and then misusing them.

7. Hacking

A hacking attempt might have a negative impact on your website’s rating. For example, your website might be injected with low-quality or duplicate information, your links could be updated, new links could be added, and your robots.txt file could be altered to disrupt indexing, among many other things.

Solution: Regular site audits with a program are the best ways to keep your site safe from such dangers. If you do this regularly, you should be able to detect minor changes that might otherwise go unreported.

8. Duplicate Content

Gaining high search engine rankings and increasing your site’s reputation in the eyes of search engines requires you to provide unique and well-written content. If you remove that sense of originality, your site’s search engine rankings may fall drastically.

Duplicate content on multiple sites

Negative SEO attacks can cause harm to a website by having its content scraped, reproduced, and published on other sites. Due to this, Google has to sort through all the duplicate content and decide which one to rank, which is not necessarily the original one.

9. DDoS Attacks

While this might also be considered hacking, the goal of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault is to bring down your website fully. DDoS is a malicious attempt to block legitimate requests and traffic from accessing your website by flooding your server or surrounding infrastructure until its resources are depleted.

DDoS Attacks- Types of negative SEO

DDoS attacks that don’t completely crash your site but instead slow it down are sneakier than those that do. Since page speed and other related core web vitals are ranking considerations, this would negatively affect your rankings and the user experience.

Solution: Ensure you and your team continuously monitor the incoming traffic and requests. It can help you spot the more subtle forms of DDoS assault, but the massive ones can still take your site down in a matter of seconds.

9. Pogo Sticking

Pogo sticking happens when a person clicks on a page from the SERP but then quickly leaves the page without completing their task. For example, this often occurs when a Google user encounters a page that does not satisfactorily satisfy his search query.

Google keeps tabs on all of this bouncing around. If a Google search returns this result, it signifies that the page should not be displayed. As a result, the website’s popularity and rating will decline.

Monitor activity on Google Search Console

Attackers employ specialized bots that scan the search engine for the terms that boost your website’s ranking. After clicking on your site, these bots will immediately go. The visibility of your site and the number of visitors it receives will suffer as a result of this.

Solution: Monitor the status of your website’s most vital pages regularly. Keep an eye on the vital statistics for these web pages in Google Analytics.

Why Negative SEO Attacks Are Difficult to Find and Correct

1. Google Now Devalues Link Spamming Rather than Penalizing Websites

Google’s Penguin algorithm is a crucial component that aims to detect spammy links. Penguin detects an increase in spammy links to a website.

The website may be degraded in organic search results, but then Google Penguin 4.0 was launched. Rather than devaluing whole websites, Google now devalues link spam.

2. The “Granularity” of Penguin 4.0 Has Been Increased

Penguin used to penalize whole websites for link spam. As a result, if you had a negative SEO campaign on a single page, Penguin would punish your entire site, and your results would fall. However, since Penguin 4.0, this has not always been the case.

Penguin has become more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by changing ranking based on spam signals rather than impacting overall ranking.

Google's Penguin updates

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However, since Penguin 4.0, this has not always been the case. This is because Penguin has become more granular. For example, Penguin now devalues spam by changing ranking based on spam signals rather than impacting overall ranking.

Penguin attempts to degrade the unsophisticated link spam associated with most negative SEO efforts.

3. Negative SEO’s Ineffectiveness is Essential to Google’s Business Model

Negative SEO is a strategy commonly used by website owners who cannot rank on merit alone. Instead of working to improve their site, they employ negative SEO strategies to bring down those of their competitors who deserve to be ranked higher than they are.

Google search engine results

No one would use Google if the first page of results were constantly spam. And if no one uses Google, the corporation loses money on advertising. Their company would crumble. This is why Google released Penguin 4.0.

4. Negative SEO Isn’t Limited to Link Spam

Due to the above factors, link-based negative SEO assaults are not nearly as common as they formerly were. However, not all negative SEO attacks are based on links.

A hacker might take control of your website and include malicious code, such as connections to malicious sites or bogus negative reviews.

Finding and disavowing links from dodgy websites is no longer sufficient for detecting and deflecting poor SEO. It is now necessary to monitor your complete online presence and implement good security measures to keep negative SEO attacks at bay.

How Do You Protect Your Website Against Negative SEO?

1. Detection

The first step in safeguarding your website is detecting any symptoms of a negative SEO attack, such as a significant decline in organic traffic. You will notice it if you continually monitor your traffic using Google Analytics.

Detection of negative SEO

A drastic decrease in organic traffic generally indicates a Google penalty. Google’s webmaster tools also provide an email notification feature.

If your website is not indexed or receives a manual penalty, Google will inform you through email. The sooner you learn about the negative SEO, the sooner you can respond and mitigate the harm.

2. Securing Your Administrator Login

Hackers usually need administrator access to interfere with your site, and by adding extra layers of protection, you can substantially minimize the chances that they’ll be able to break in and start damaging what you’re doing.

Doing so will help you prevent SEO properties from being altered, changes to critical files, and modified redirects.

3. Disavowing

The Disavow tool is Google’s response to negative SEO tactics like negative SEO. By disavowing low-quality links, you avoid associating your website with them, protecting your rating and reputation.

When used properly, the disavow tool may be an effective defensive mechanism against negative search engine optimization (SEO) results. Use the Disavow tool to notify Google that you do not wish to receive low-quality links.

Google Disavow Tool

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Using the Disavow tool shows Google they are concerned about the credibility of the links leading to your site. The Disavow tool is extremely beneficial when dealing with Google bowling and link farms.

4. Revising SEO Settings

This isn’t related to any specific issue, but you should review your SEO properties frequently. Some of the common examples of this kind of testing include periodic reviews of the internal coding of your content and visits from the robots.txt file (headers, image alt tag, etc.).

5. Preventing Hacking on a Website

In this situation, the hacker would have to take over your entire website in order for negative SEO to have any effect. While an attacker may have placed several spammy signals you may not see, you may still have full access to your website.


You may set up alerts in Google Search Console and conduct frequent site audits to identify and resolve technical vulnerabilities that could lead to security breaches. A straightforward application can also inform you at a glance if hackers have compromised your website. Another great way is to hire cybersecurity companies or personnel.

6. Fighting Fake Backlinks

Although Google does not consider negative SEO a major black hat SEO practice, according to John Mueller, using the Disavow tool may be beneficial if you believe you have been the victim of a negative SEO campaign when someone is producing bad links pointing to your site.

But what do you do when someone creates hundreds of harmful backlinks pointing to your site? First, you must disavow links in the same way that you would rectify a Google manual action. In all circumstances, you should go link by link, gather them based on criteria, and disavow them.

Here is a list of steps to take:

  • Use a backlink audit tool regularly for your website, and keep an eye on the score indicator to spot any questionable changes in your backlink profile.
  • Examine the worth and trends of your website’s authority score. A decrease in your score may signal that something is amiss with your backlink profile.
  • If you receive fresh harmful backlinks that you cannot delete, update your disavow file regularly.

7. Monitor Your Social Media Mentions.

Use your social page dashboards to take an active part in social media administration. HubSpot, Hootsuite, and Social Mention provide social listening tools that notify you when your name is referenced on social media.

Respond quickly and directly to any criticism voiced so that it doesn’t gain traction and generate negative press.

8. Make Your Website Load Faster

Google Analytics alerts provide notifications when your website’s loading speed slows, allowing you to determine when and why this is happening. You may need to enable caching, disable resource-intensive plugins or add-ons, optimize your image sizes, delete excess code, or make efforts to prevent spammer activity.

Is Google Doing Anything About Negative SEO?

Google is always occupied with the behind-the-scenes activity of reducing negative SEO attacks. However, they can’t reveal specifics about the workings of each update since doing so would give spammers a head start in finding ways to bypass the new protections.

Is Google Doing Anything About Negative SEO?

In October 2012, Google’s “link disavow” tool was released in response to public outcry over negative SEO. This tool alerts webmasters when their domain or site is being linked to by what appears to be manual spam activity and allows them to block harmful or unnatural links.

Google facilitates monitoring fraudulent behavior by removing one potential source of distraction, a text file with URL listings. On the other hand, Google would like you to trust its abilities to properly rank websites and penalize those that aren’t up to par.


No one likes to deal with negative SEO, but it’s a very real issue that you’re likely to face. Do you really want to rely on Google to remove all of the spammy links? It is always better to be safe than sorry.

It doesn’t matter what’s happening to your site right now or what kind of attack has been launched against it, and you can always fix it. While negative SEO can wreak havoc on your site’s performance, you don’t have just to sit back and watch it happen.