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.

How to Protect Your Website From Negative SEO

In this post, I will walk you through the tips to follow in case of an SEO attack. 

Website owners who have experienced the attack will agree that this is not a fun affair. After months of extensive efforts, you wake up one day to see your website filled with spammy links, a penalty notice, or worse - a sharp drop in traffic. 

Unfortunately, not everyone fights fair when it comes to the SEO war. And there is no way of predicting your likelihood of the hit. Your number one defense from such attacks is to enhance the protection by following good SEO practices and monitoring your website regularly for unusual activity. 

Let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can follow to protect your online reputation. 

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO is the method of using unethical practices and black hat techniques to sabotage a website’s rankings. Generally, SEO attacks are targeted towards a competitor’s website. However, sometimes these can result from bot scraping sites, link farms, and other protocols that generate links. 

This can take several forms, such as:

  • Duplicating your content and distributing it across the web
  • Building a large number of spammy and/or low-quality links
  • Generating negative reviews to influence SERPs
  • Creating fake social profiles
  • Removing the most valuable links on your website
  • Hacking your website and injecting it with anchor texts like ‘viagra,’ ‘poker online,’ and other spammy terms. 

During the past few years, negative SEO has become quite common. In fact, internet forums are filled with stories of successful black hat attempts. You can also hire someone easily to build bad links against any website via black hat community forums and freelance marketplaces. 

A similar incident happened in 2014 with Robert Neu of WP Bacon, a WordPress podcast site. He became a victim of spam links with the anchor text ‘porn movie.’ As a result, his website took a massive hit from Google. It lost  50+ spots for the keyword ‘Optinmonster coupon’ that was ranking on the second position.

Before the incident, WP Bacon had some solid links, a Page Rank of 5, and an Ahrefs Domain Rating of 53 in the 21 months of being ‘live.’

However, did that stop the SEO attack? No!

Was it fixable? Probably yes, but it would take him a lot of time and effort. Also, any ‘fix’ is pointless if the attacks continued!

This is why the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds true when it comes to these attacks. With this being said, let’s move on to our set of tips on how you can prevent negative SEO and keep your online profile safe. 

1 Setup Google Search Console

The Google Search Console provides free backlink data for your site. It enables you to assess your website’s performance in search engines. And offer troubleshooting tips for any element that is behaving abnormally. 

You can easily set up your website for monitoring by Google Search Console by signing in with your existing Google account. It will also send you alerts if Google notices a fluctuation in your website’s clicks and search traffic - compared to a week before. 

2 Audit your Backlinks Profile

Websites enjoy a stable upward-moving backlink graph as they continue their link building strategies. However, a sudden spike or drop should raise concerns, despite the efforts you are making. 

There are several free and premium tools available to check if someone is building links to your website. 

Generally, the standard is to conduct a website audit every 3 - 6 months. The frequency should be more often if you have a larger site with more links coming in. 

You might also see your links taking a strike if your website is hacked. The attacker can modify your content and include spammy links that are redirected to fishy websites. Since these types of attacks are usually hard to determine, a regular site audit becomes necessary to protect your site. 

Subsequently, you should also keep track of your best backlinks. Very often, the spammers will take a dig at your most valuable link and attempt to modify or delete them completely. As a precautionary measure, create tags for the best links so you can filter and monitor these links easily. 

If you do become a target of spam links, notify Google and disavow the links immediately.

3 Check for Duplicate Content

‘Content is the reason search begins...in the first place!’

However, not everyone has the creativity to create engaging, readable, and relevant material to impress both - the search algorithms and readers. 

To beef up their content, these people resort to ‘content scraping.’

Content scraping or duplicating content is the process of copying your content and passing it off as their own. They may also publish the content on other websites with spam links inserted. 

Plagiarism is an offense in the eyes of Google and can lead to penalization of your site. 

Keep a check on the content of your website with plagiarism tools like Copyscape. This will alert you if the content - same as your website is being published elsewhere. If you find duplicate content, ask the webmaster to remove the content or fill out a Copyright Removal Request on Google. 

4 Track Website Loading Speed

Another factor to consider when determining an SEO attack is the website speed. If your website suddenly becomes sluggish, make sure no one is sending out a massive number of requests. If they remain persistent, your site can crash as well. 

Keep an eye on the website loading speed. See if caching and optimizing the content helps improve the speed. If you suspect the speed to be unusually slow, determine where the traffic is coming from. You can also contact your hosting service or webmaster to catch the culprits. 

5 Monitor your Business Reviews

Negative reviews can hurt a business. No doubt about it!

Unfortunately, spammers can ruin the reputation you have built up throughout the years in a matter of minutes by leaving fake reviews on social media, forums, and listings such as Google My Business. 

Keep an eye on such mentions and report them as spam before they become widespread. You can also use automated tools that will inform you when someone mentions your business’s name on a website or social media platform. By remaining vigilant, you can take action promptly. 

6 Enhance Website Security

Cyberattacks are on the rise, with the ‘bad actors’ on the lookout for any ‘back doors’ that will gain them unauthorized access to your website.

While this may not technically be an SEO attack, a compromised website is usually flagged by Google. Hackers may also play around with the content of your site, negatively affecting your search ranking.

To protect your business website from any potential attacks, make sure to follow the best cyber security practices. You should also keep your CMS software updated along with its components to reduce the risk. 

7 Follow the Best SEO Practices

Last but not least, make sure you follow the best strategies when it comes to SEO. For example: 

  • Avoid linking to penalized websites.
  • Avoid buying links from any source.
  • Don’t build backlinks using irrelevant anchor text.
  • Don’t sell links without using the ‘no follow’ attribute.

Final Words

Negative SEO is rare but not uncommon. In most situations, Google is smart enough to catch the problem before it gets a chance to affect your search engine ranking. But remember, hackers have proven to be more intelligent in many cases. And establishing the best protocols is necessary to avoid any SEO issues - especially before they escalate and become a massive headache. 

Monitor your website regularly by following the above tips. If you suspect foul activity in your SEO strategy, try to manually remove the bad links and report to Google ASAP. 

Good luck!