Are you struggling to increase your search traffic even after creating great content and building relevant backlinks?
Are you noticing a sudden drop in your website’s traffic?
Then…. Someone might be using negative SEO against your website!
If you’re not careful, negative search engine optimization techniques can get your site penalized by Google and you’ll not be able to recover from it.
So what is negative SEO and how can you prevent it? This detailed guide is going to show you all that.
We’re going to talk about;
- What is negative SEO
- How does it work?
- How to protect your site from negative SEO and many more
So are you ready? Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Negative Search Engine Optimization: How to Defend Against It?
- How To Protect Your Website from Negative SEO Attacks: 4 PROVEN Ways
- 2 Helpful Tools to Fight Against Negative SEO in 2023
- Final Thoughts
Negative Search Engine Optimization: How to Defend Against It?
What is negative SEO?
Negative SEO refers to the practice of using Black Hat and unethical SEO techniques to a competitor’s ranking in search engines.
Your competitors implement negative SEO techniques on your site to tarnish your website’s reputation with Google and steal search rankings for important keywords.
How does negative SEO work?
The main objective of negative SEO is to harm the search rankings of a competitor’s website.
Here’s how negative SEO works.
- A negative SEO identifies a website that they want to target. This is someone who wants to see your website getting penalized (or demoted) in search results. It could be anyone including your competitors, a company, or anyone who doesn’t like you succeeding!
- The negative SEO then either purchases black hat links (using platforms like Fiverr) and points them at their target website or they could hire people to do blog commenting spam, forum spam, etc to build toxic links for the target website.
- Some negative SEO even use “adult anchor texts” such as “buy Vi**ra” to hurt the target website’s backlink profile
Google then identifies these links and will most probably penalize the website. The job is done!
That’s how negative SEO works. It REALLY hurts your website in search results if you’re NOT careful.
How to identify negative SEO?
So how can you identify whether your website is hit by negative SEO?
Here are a few simple ways to spot negative SEO.
- You suddenly notice your keyword rankings going down for no apparent reason
- Your website starts getting a ton of links and social mentions all of a sudden
- Your competitors are ranking higher than your website for relevant keywords that you used to rank before
- Your website starts getting a ton of traffic (mostly abnormal traffic) from search engines like Google or Bing (when you’re NOT doing anything special in terms of promotion or SEO)
Let us explain in a simple way. Suppose, if you’re ranking well for a specific keyword and suddenly you’ll notice your keyword rankings going down in search results.
If that happens, you should definitely analyze your website’s backlink profile and find out if you’ve any toxic (or suspicious) links. That’s how you spot negative SEO.
All in all, negative SEO can hurt your search rankings and badly impact your traffic and overall sales.
So in this guide, let’s discuss how you can protect your website against negative SEO attacks.
Types of Negative SEO
There is a wide range of tactics people use to inject negative SEO into a site. But here are five of the most common types of negative SEO people (or agencies) use to demote a website in Google search results.
1. Scraping a website’s content: Creating duplicates of the website is one of the widely used types of negative SEO. In this method, the attackers scrape your website content and distribute it all over the web including forums, social media, other websites, etc.
In case you’re wondering, scraped content refers to content that is stolen off your website and then used on someone else’s domain.
2. Hacking a website: This technique was used against our blog (BloggersPassion) in 2016 as someone hacked into our site and stole links (to point those links to malicious sites by changing the files on our hosting servers).
That’s why you need to take utmost precautions to safeguard your website files from hackers and malware attacks.
3. Creating toxic backlinks: Another common type is to create suspicious or toxic links with spammy anchor texts. Make sure to keep an eye on your backlink profile to remove such links.
4. Posting fake reviews online: Most people look for reviews online before purchasing a product. So your competitors might ruin your online reputation by posting fake reviews about your website or brand.
5. Removing a website’s backlinks: This is another common tactic where spammers try to get rid of your best backlinks by sending out fake removal requests to bloggers.
How To Protect Your Website from Negative SEO Attacks: 4 PROVEN Ways
Here’s how you can protect your site against negative SEO attacks in 2023 and beyond.
1. Getting rid of suspicious backlinks
One of the best ways to combat negative search engine optimization is to keep an eye on your website’s backlinks.
Most spammers try to build spammy links pointing to your site which can lead your site to get penalized in search results.
The best way to stay safe is to find and disavow (or remove) suspicious backlinks from your website.
How can you do that?
One simple way is to use tools like Semrush. You can use the Semrush Backlink audit tool to get rid of toxic links.
Here’s how it looks like;
As you can see above, the Semrush Backlink audit tool shows you a list of all toxic links your website has.
You can then use the following methods to remove those links from your website.
- Contact the website owner to get rid of the bad links
- Use the Google Disavow tool where you can request Google to ignore your toxic backlinks. Move them to your Disavow tab, prepare a single file with all the backlinks you want to be ignored by Google, and then upload it to the Google Disavow Tool.
We’ve removed (disavowed) a ton of toxic backlinks from BloggersPassion.
Here’s how it looks once they’ve been disavowed.
Quick note: Once you’re on the Backlink audit tool on Semrush, simply add your website and run the campaign. It will give you a full report of your backlink profile and show you if you’ve any toxic links.
2. Defending against fake backlink removal requests
You ALWAYS need to spy on your BEST backlink sources. Your competitors’ might be trying hard to send fake backlink removal requests to take them down. Who knows?
Here’s how a fake link removal request looks like;
As you can see above, people (AKA scammers or hackers) will send email pitches for the removal of links. If you’re NOT careful, you might also become one of their victims and start losing all your best backlinks.
What can you do to protect your best backlinks?
You can use the Semrush backlink audit tool to easily detect the disappearance of valuable links.
Here’s how it looks like;
As you can see above, in the Backlink Audit tool on Semrush, you can easily discover all your lost and found backlinks.
You just need to always keep an eye on “lost backlinks” so you can take immediate action if you notice anything unusual.
3. Fighting against scraped content
Scraped content can lead to cannibalization issues. That’s why you need to protect your site against imposters who try to scrape your content.
Fortunately, you can use sites like Copyscape to regularly audit your site for copied content.
Here are three simple ways to deal with scraped content.
Method #1: Contact the web hosting provider to take down
If you find any website copying your content and publishing as if it were their own, you can simply get in touch with the web hosting provider that website is using.
You can use ICANN Lookup to quickly find out where any website is hosted.
Here’s how it looks like;
Once you find out the web host, you can get in touch with their support team and provide your website details (along with their copied content URLs) and ask them to take that content down.
Method #2: Removing content from Google
You can also remove scraped content from Google search results.
You can use this link to report content that you would like removed from Google’s services under applicable laws.
Method #3: Try DMCA takedown service
One of the widely used ways to get rid of scraped content is to use DMCA services. In fact, DMCA offers a paid takedown service if someone is scraping your website’s content.
Their premium takedown service costs you $10/mo or $100 per year but it’s REALLY helpful if you’re facing infringement issues often.
4. Safeguarding your website from hackers and malware
One of the simplest ways to secure your site against negative search engine optimization is to safeguard your site from malware attacks and hackers.
Here are a few things you can do to secure your website from most of the security vulnerabilities.
- Use a strong password for website login (keep changing it regularly)
- Implement two-step authentication (which helps you add an extra layer of security to your account in case your password is stolen)
- Install security plugins such as iThemes Security, Sucuri, etc
- Make sure to backup your site regularly
One of the simplest ways to secure your site from all security threats is to use a superior web host like WPX Hosting.
We’ve been using WPX since 2016 and we NEVER had any security issues with their hosting.
So how much does WPX Hosting cost?
WPX Hosting currently offers you the following three pricing plans.
Business: This plan costs you $20.83 per month where you can install up to 5 websites. You’ll get access to 10 GB storage along with 100 GB of bandwidth with this plan.
Professional: This plan costs you $41.58 per month where you can install up to 15 websites. You’ll get access to 20 GB storage along with 200 GB of bandwidth with this plan.
Elite: This plan costs you $83.25 per month where you can install up to 35 websites. You’ll get access to 40 GB storage along with unlimited bandwidth with this plan.
2 Helpful Tools to Fight Against Negative SEO in 2023
The best way to protect your website against negative SEO is to get access to the right tools.
Here are TWO of the handpicked tools that help you fight against negative search engine optimization in 2023 and beyond.
Semrush is the world’s #1 SEO toolkit used by over 10 million people. If you’re looking for ONLY one SEO tool to combat negative SEO and boost your search rankings, Semrush is a perfect choice.
Here’s a list of some of the incredible features offered by Semrush.
- Keyword research
- Backlink analysis
- Site audit (helps you find malicious links as well)
- Organic research
- Social media management
- Brand monitoring
- PPC research and the list goes on
How much does Semrush cost?
First things first: Semrush is not a free SEO tool and it currently offers you the following three pricing plans.
Pro: This is the cheapest plan from Semrush which costs you $119.95/mo ($99.95/mo if billed annually) and gives access to the following limits.
- Results per report: 10,000
- Reports per day: 3,000
- Projects: 5
- Keywords to track: 500
- Pages to crawl: 100,000
Guru: This plan is suitable for growing businesses and it costs you $229.95/mo ($191.62/mo if billed annually) and gives access to the following limits.
- Results per report: 30,000
- Reports per day: 5,000
- Projects: 15
- Keywords to track: 1500
- Pages to crawl: 300,000
Business: This plan is perfect for agencies and it costs you $449.95/mo ($374.95/mo if billed annually) and gives access to the following limits.
- Results per report: 50,000
- Reports per day: 10,000
- Projects: 40
- Keywords to track: 5000
- Pages to crawl: 10,00,000
2. iThemes Security Pro
One of the ways to inject negative SEO into your site is to hack your site. Whether you know it or not, over 30,000 WordPress websites get hacked every single day.
So if you’re running a WordPress website, you need to install a security plugin. We HIGHLY recommend you iThemes Security Pro.
It’s an exceptional plugin used by a ton of WordPress sites to prevent WordPress hacks. Here are some of the features of this plugin.
- Schedule database backups
- Strong password enforcement
- Offers WordPress Brute Force protection to limit the number of failed login attempts allowed per user
- The ability to change the default URL of your WordPress login area
- Get email notifications when someone gets locked out after too many failed login attempts
- File change detection if someone manages to get into your site to modify anything
- And many more
So how much does iThemes Security Pro cost you?
iThemes Security Pro comes in three pricing plans which are listed below.
Blogger: This is the cheapest plan from iThemes Security Pro as it costs you only $80 per year and you can install this plugin on 1 WordPress website. It comes with 1 year of ticketed support and 1 year of plugin updates.
Small Business: This plan costs you only $127 per year and you can install this plugin on 10 WordPress websites. It comes with 1 year of ticketed support and 1 year of plugin updates.
Gold: This plan costs you only $199 per year and you can install this plugin on unlimited WordPress websites. It comes with 1 year of ticketed support and 1 year of plugin updates.
They also offer a 30-day refund policy so if you’re not satisfied with their plugin or features, you’ll get your money back within 30 days after signing up.
- Semrush 30 Days Free Trial: Try Pro or Guru Account for Free Now
- 5 Conservative Search Engine Alternatives to Google
- Yoast SEO Premium vs Free Plugin: An In-Depth Review
- Best Alternative to KWFinder for Keyword Research
- Ubersuggest vs Semrush: Which SEO Tool Is Worth Trying?
- Best Answer the Public Alternatives for Topic Research
- Most Effective Google Search Tips And Tricks for 2023
- YouTube SEO Tips: 11 Ways to Get Your Videos Noticed
Here are some of the frequently asked questions around negative SEO.
Negative SEO uses suspicion of Black Hat SEO tactics such as toxic links, duplicate content, or keyword stuffing on your site to tarnish your reputation with Google. It ultimately leads to Google penalizing your site in search results.
Negative SEO violates webmaster guidelines set out by search engines like Google and can lead to getting your site penalized in search. If your site is affected by negative SEO, you should immediately start combating it to stay safe.
Here are some of the common types of negative SEO.
– Website hacking to modify your files to steal links
– Content scraping
– Keyword stuffing
– Building toxic links to your site in the form of blog directory submission, forum posting, etc
Here are some of the best ways to protect your website against negative SEO.
– Keep your WordPress version up-to-date including plugins
– Use a CAPTCHA for login
– Keep track of backlink profiles and get rid of toxic and spammy links
– Install a plugin like Akismet to prevent spam comments
Here are some of the best tools you can use to protect your website against negative search engine optimization.
– Semrush (helps you easily find toxic links)
– Google Search Console (which you can use to disavow unwanted and suspicious links from your site)
– iThemes Security Pro (helps you safeguard your site from malware attacks)
Here are some ways to find if your site is infected with negative SEO.
– Your search rankings go down all of a sudden
– Your website no longer shows up in Google search
– You’ll suddenly start getting huge traffic, social mentions, etc (even if you haven’t done anything “special” on your website)
Black hat SEO refers to unethical SEO practices that are used to QUICKLY increase a site’s rankings through means that violate search engine guidelines. The black hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, creating doorway pages, comment spam, buying links, overused anchor text, and so on.
Yes, Google will sooner or later penalize a site that uses negative SEO as it mostly includes Black Hat and unethical techniques to sabotage a competitor’s rankings in search results. Any website that uses unethical SEO practices gets penalized by search engines like Google.
Few More Helpful Resources:
- 7 White Hat SEO Techniques to Boost Website’s Google Rankings
- 8 Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid Like the Plague in 2023
- 10 Gray Hat SEO Techniques to Quickly Boost Your Website’s Rankings
- What Does SEO Stand For? A 5-Step SEO Plan for Beginners
- 10 Best SEO Books to Help You Master SEO in 2023
- Important SEO Statistics You Need to Know in 2023
Negative search engine optimization techniques can lead to disastrous results in search results. You should always need to focus on your website’s backlink profile, scraped content, security vulnerabilities, etc to protect your site.
So what do you think? Are you taking necessary actions to protect your site from negative SEO? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Reader Comments (9)
Nice Blog. Thank you for sharing such useful information about Negative SEO & How to protect from negative SEO to websites. It’s very useful content Keep sharing.
On page & Off page SEO – In Negative on-page SEO attacks are way more difficult to implement. These involve hacking into your site and changing things around. In Negative off-page SEO backlinks from dark page attack the site & results ends in low ranking.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge on SEO strategies like headings and subheadings tag, mobile compatibility, title tags and meta data, page speed and keyword analysis. Keep sharing and posting such well informed blogs on Digital Marketing, excellent post.
Negative SEO is pretty scary.
All your hard work to build a blogging “presence” can just get destroyed.
Thanks for letting us know about the threat, and especially… the things to do to protect against it!
Nice write-up, but is SemRust the best or the only site we can audit our sites? But it was good cause at least I now know how to use the SemRush, I tried it last but didn’t get it well. Your pics help
Thanks for sharing a valuable information about How negative SEO effect ranking of site and how to solve this issue in simple way.
Thanks for sharing an information about How negative SEO effect ranking of site and how to solve this issue in simple way.
Thanks for this valuable information this blog is really interesting you shared a very valuable information through which i got to learn what is negative SEO but i want to know more about negative SEO how it is helping in creating negative image of any website can you breif me more about that i want some websites also which are helpful for negative SEO and how we can prevent our website from Negative SEO
Thank for such useful information.
I have checked my site backlink in GSC and found that there is total number of backlinks is 1500. Some of them are spammy sites (around 700) that are pointing towards my site. As I need to disavow those links or Google will ignore those links?
Apart from that, I would like to know when do we need to disvow those links, because spammy and adult sites keep on linking to the site. Should we do it every month or after reaching a particular number?
Thanks in advance sir.