4 Types Of Negative SEO To Watch Out For

4 Types Of Negative SEO To Watch Out For

SEO is highly competitive. You need to pull ahead of the competition to rank high in the SERPs, which takes a lot of work. In some cases, competitors will employ malicious tactics to get ahead.

There are several ways to address Negative SEO. However, you still need to be aware that it’s happening. The sooner you know you’re under attack, the quicker you’ll be able to address the issue.

In this post, we’ll go over the warning signs of Negative SEO.

What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO does the exact opposite of improving your SERP rankings.

Think about all the things you shouldn’t do in SEO, like making your pages irrelevant, spammy, or slow. Doing any of the above can get you penalized, knocked down the rankings, or de-indexed.

Negative SEO attacks are made worse by the fact that it is malicious. Worse, you don’t even know who’s behind it.

The best way to protect your rankings is to watch out for the warning signs. If you’re seeing signs of your pages dropping in ranks, getting de-indexed, or losing some traffic, you might want to start looking for clues as to why they’re happening.

Warning Signs Of Negative SEO

1. Suspicious Backlinks

As any SEO practitioner would know, backlinks can help you boost credibility. If reputable sites link to your domain, that suggests that your website and its contents are also reputable and trustworthy.

However, the same is true when multiple low-quality and untrustworthy sites link to your website. If spammy and suspicious sites are linking back to you, Google also assumes that your website is also unreliable and low-quality.

To be fair, a few backlinks from suspicious sites won’t hurt your rankings. However, if malicious entities were to use link farms, you might end up with thousands of spammy and irrelevant backlinks. If Google detects these links, you will most likely get penalized for them.

This is why you need to audit your backlinks. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Look at the websites your backlinks are coming from. Audit the site, and check for suspicious activity. Look for spammy links, poorly-designed sites, misleading ads, plagiarized content, and so on.
  • Check the anchor texts. The anchor texts used for your backlinks should be relevant to the destination page. If the keywords used for the backlinks have nothing to do with your pages or website, it can be detrimental to your SEO.

If you find any bad backlinks, have them removed or use Google’s disavowing tool.

2. Duplicate Content

Google hates duplicate content. If Google detects plagiarized or duplicated content, it won’t get indexed. Unfortunately, malicious entities know this and can use it against you.

Some competitors will “scrape” or copy your content, then post it on another site. While Google can occasionally detect the original, there’s still a risk that the scraped version will be the one that gets indexed. Worse, Google might rank the scraped version higher than yours.

While plagiarism in itself is a pressing issue, duplicating content as a systematic Negative SEO attack is worse for your website. If you’re a target of scraping, your content is probably scraped and posted mere seconds after going live. Since they’re posted almost at the same time, Google might not be able to identify the original and penalize you instead.

Here are a few warning signs you need to look out for:

  • Check for a sudden drop in rankings. If your blog posts did moderately well but are suddenly not getting indexed, then it’s time to investigate.
  • Check for plagiarism. Plagiarism checkers are programmed to search the web for copied content. Check for large chunks of text getting credited to websites you don’t own or associate with.
  • Check the SERPs. Take the main keyword for your blog posts and check the SERPs for copied content. Similarly, you can copy a large portion of text and paste it into the search bar. Then, you can check for an exact match.

3. Fake Customer Reviews

To be clear, reviews aren’t really a ranking factor. However, when your Google Reviews are bombarded by negative ratings, it might turn prospective customers off. After all, more and more people rely on reviews and other forms of social proof to guide and inform their purchases.

Remember, a low average rating and a slew of negative reviews can deter people from even visiting your website. In turn, it affects your site traffic, conversion rates, and brand reputation. If you experience a sudden drop in site traffic, you might slip down the rankings.

While no one is safe from the occasional bad review, having dozens of fake 1-star ratings can significantly lower your average ratings. That said, you need to manage your reviews and watch out for suspicious activity.

Here are some signs of suspicious activities to look out for:

  • Check the content. Fake negative reviews can sometimes be auto-generated, which will appear nonsensical or irrelevant to your products and services.
  • Check the names. Look for botted and throw-away accounts.
  • Check for a sudden spike. Monitor your review listing and look for sudden spikes in the total number of reviews (i.e., getting 20 or more 1-star reviews in a day).

4. DDoS Attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, in simple terms, floods a website with bot traffic. This would lead to a target website significantly slowing down or crashing. Not only will this affect a site visitor’s overall experience with your domain, but it will also affect Google’s ability to crawl and properly index and rank your web pages.

Malicious entities can send bots to forcibly crawl your website and increase server load. The goal here is to keep Google from indexing your website.

If Google is unable to access your website for an extended period of time, your rankings in the SERPs may suffer. Worse, if Google’s bots attempt to crawl your website while it’s offline, your pages will get de-indexed.

Here are a few ways to check for signs of a DDoS attack:

  • Check for slow servers. Bots can overwhelm servers, so check for any changes with them.
  • Monitor your site speed. If you don’t have access to your website’s servers, quickly check your site speed. If your website used to be fast but has significantly slowed down when you hadn’t changed anything, contact your web host immediately.
  • Watch out for crashes. If your site suddenly crashes, contact your web host or check your servers right away.

Do note that DDoS attacks can last from minutes to hours. In most cases, you won’t even know who’s behind it. If you can’t avoid a DDoS attack, you need to at least know when it’s happening.


Negative SEO can set your digital marketing efforts back by a lot. The sooner you can detect the attack, the quicker you’ll be able to recover from them. The faster you get rid of backlinks, detect duplicates, and address problems with your servers, the sooner you’ll be able to climb back up the rankings.

Regular auditing, backlink management, and SEO reports can help you see the warning signs before they cause more damage to your SEO.

Author’s Bio

JC Serrano is the founder of 1000Attorneys.com, one of the very few private enterprises certified to process lawyer referrals by the California State Bar. His marketing strategies have continuously evolved since 2005, incorporating ever-changing SEO strategies into lawyerleadmachine.com.