Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved, and ranking high on Google is harder now than it was three years ago. More businesses are online, pushing Google to continuously change its guidelines to create better search experiences for users. This has resulted in companies also changing their strategies. Since Google and other search engines can easily detect black-hat SEO, a new type of SEO has emerged – negative SEO. 

Below, you will learn all you need to know about negative SEO and how you can protect your website from it. Suppose you are serious about building a successful online business. Negative SEO is an attack that, if ignored, can seriously harm your potential for your growth.

Negative SEO Explained

Negative SEO involves sabotaging your competitors’ search rankings using black-hat SEO and other unethical methods. These methods include:

  • Website hacking
  • Building spam links to a competitor’s website
  • Copying and pasting a competitor’s website content all over the internet
  • Pointing links to a competitor’s website by using keywords like Viagra, poker online, gambling, etc.
  • Posing as your competitor and requesting the removal of their best backlinks from the linking website
  • Creating fake social profiles to review-bomb and ruin the company’s reputation online

Is Negative SEO a Real Threat?

Negative SEO is a real threat, especially to larger online businesses. For example, if you go to Fiverr and search “negative SEO,” you will find many sellers offering to help you disavow spammy links and improve your online reputation.

There’s a market for it, which means it’s a very real problem. But fortunately, there are ways to prevent or reverse the effects of negative SEO.

Knowing about it and preventing it is much easier than fixing it. Google has a Disavow Tool to help deal with this problem, but use the tool as a last resort. It takes anywhere from two to four weeks to work, and by then, the damage to your website may already be done.

Why Negative SEO Attacks Can Be Difficult To Spot and Prove

It can be difficult to spot and prove a negative SEO attack, especially if you were penalized by Google and want to prove it was a negative SEO attack. This can be even more difficult if your website is relatively new, has poor-quality content or previously contained some spammy links to it.

Sometimes, webmasters may think they are victims of negative SEO when in reality, the drop in rankings could result from a Google algorithm update or getting filtered out by the algorithmic filtering. 

Thus, before jumping to conclusions, make sure:

  • Your content adheres to the latest Google guidelines
  • Your content is optimized and up to date
  • Backlinks are audited and you don’t have any that Google may consider spammy

Steps You Can Take To Prevent Negative SEO Attacks

1. Set Up Google Search Console Email Alerts

You will receive alerts when your website is being attacked by malware, your website pages are not indexed, your server is down or when you get penalized by Google. You can add your website to Google Search Console (GSC) by following the tutorial here, then set up your alerts.

2. Track Your Backlinks

This is perhaps the most important of all the steps you can take to protect your site from negative SEO. Low-quality links and redirects to your website are what you should watch out for the most, as this is a standard technique that spammers will use. Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush will help simplify this process for you. Instead of having to check the new links to your website manually, these online tools automate the process for you.

3. Protect Your Best Backlinks

Your website may have backlinks from high-authority websites. These links are the ones spammers will go after. The spammer will contact the linking website owner using your name and request that they remove the backlink. So how do you prevent this?

  • Communicate with the linking website using an email address from your domain and not a Gmail or Yahoo email. ([email protected])
  • Keep track of your best backlinks; use tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush

4. Protect Your Website From Malware and Hackers

If you have a good website hosting provider, they will usually provide you with antivirus services for your website for a small fee. This alone, though, is not enough. A strong login password for your website is also a must. Software like Avast Passwords can help create strong passwords and store them for you safely. Also, be sure to regularly back up your website. Your hosting provider may also offer this service.

5. Check for Duplicate Content

Content duplication is an easy way for spammers to get your website penalized. Your website content is copied and pasted by spammers everywhere they can. To check if your content was copied, use a tool like Copyscape.  

6. Keep Track of Your Social Media Mentions

Spammers tend to create new social media accounts with the name of your company, brand or website. When you find these accounts, report them as spam before they gain more followers. Also, be sure to use tools like Google Alerts so that when your company, brand or website name is mentioned online, you can check and see who typed it and under what context. Doing this helps not only in preventing negative SEO but also in brand management.

7. Check Website Speed

Sometimes, a spammer may send thousands of requests to your website, resulting in the website having slow load speeds. If you do not fix this, your server may crash, which could cost you valuable website traffic and potential clients. 

If you want to monitor your website performance, try Pingdom.

8. Do Not Engage in Black-hat SEO Tactics Yourself

As we mentioned, Google algorithms have become very advanced. Engaging in black-hat SEO tactics will only result in penalties that will take time and effort to remove.  Therefore, tactics like buying backlinks and linking to a penalized website should be avoided.

How To Combat a Negative SEO Campaign Against Your Website

So, you’ve noticed that someone has started a negative SEO campaign against your website. What do you do?

These are some of the steps you can take to minimize any damage the campaign may have done and prevent any further impact on your website:

1. Create a List of the New Backlinks You Need To Remove

It would be best to track all the backlinks to your website, as discussed above. Then, you want to check what new backlinks your website has and check the domain authority of these websites. If a backlink looks suspicious, write it down.

Create a list of these backlinks so that you can follow up with the next step.

2. Reach Out to the Link Webmaster and Request the Link To Be Removed

Go to the linking website and check for the email on their contact page. If you can’t find it, try and look up the domain owner using the free tool Whois.

You will want to send them an email requesting that they don’t link to your website. But let’s assume this fails as the spammer intentionally linked to your website: What do you do next?

3. Create a Disavow List

GSC has a Disavow Tool that enables you to disavow websites linking to yours. Suppose you have a manual penalty from Google for unnatural links to your site as a result of negative SEO from spammers. This tool can prove helpful, especially if any of your previous attempts to contact the owners of the websites have been unsuccessful. 


Your website can easily fall victim to spammers and ill-intentioned competitors. Protect yourself from their nefarious tactics by remembering these pointers:

  • Create GSC email alerts for your website
  • Track your backlinks using online tools
  • Protect your backlinks by using an email from your official domain and tracking your best backlinks
  • Protect your site from malware and hackers by creating strong passwords and choosing a host that provides antivirus software
  • Check for duplicate content of your blog posts online
  • Monitor your social media mentions (brand name, website name, etc.)
  • Monitor your website speed
  • Avoid engaging in black-hat SEO

By taking these steps, you can avoid the impact of a negative SEO campaign and make sure your brand remains strong.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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