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Negative SEO: How to Stay Protected

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Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

With the recent news about Expedia’s potential negative SEO woes, a lot of companies have become paranoid about suffering the same fate. Negative SEO is a nasty business built with devious schemes to convince search engines to punish competitor sites, and many marketers suddenly feel powerless in ensuring it will never happen to them.

While it’s evident negative SEO can be a problem for some, it’s easier than you may think to stay protected. Negative SEO is a very hazardous endeavor. Any reputable company would never dream of sailing these seas. If and when perpetrators are discovered, it’s a death sentence in the eyes of Google and their counterparts. Yet since the problem still persists, there are a few core things you can do to ensure you are not an easy target.

Demystifying Negative SEO

Negative SEO takes many forms, and each cause a varying degree of damage. The policies most often employed include the following:

  • Buying links, then pointing them at a competitor’s site in an effort to negatively affect their rankings
  • Review bombing, which involves generating a slew of 5-star reviews for a business. This can make it seem like the brand paid for the fake feedback.
  • Hacking a website to thwart existing organic SEO efforts.
  • Reporting a competitor’s black hat SEO procedures.

Why Negative SEO is Risky Business

Before you get too concerned about being a target for these malicious attempts, it’s important to understand the inherent dangers of launching an attack. Google is also aware of the propensity for competitors to engage in these behaviors, and has implemented some safety measures. So before your paranoia reaches any level of panic, consider the following:

  • Your best defense is a good offense. Meaning, focus on your own brand strength and SEO efforts, and you’ll be much harder to affect. Companies with a strong domain authority are far less vulnerable to negative SEO.
  • If you are hit with any form of an attack, Google is aces at reviewing and identifying these infractions, and they often help businesses recover in a hurry.
  • It’s so risky to launch a negative SEO campaign, virtually no legitimate businesses attempt it.

How to Keep Your Sites Safe

In addition to maintaining solid organic SEO tactics, there are many steps you can do proactively to keep your website safe and secure. Consider the following negative SEO maneuvers, and the counteracting strategies:

  • Backlinks and reviews are the most susceptible elements to negative SEO. Keep your eyes firmly planted on your metrics and identify any oddities as they occur.
  • Paid links are a major no-no for Google, and a common tactic for negative SEO. If you are dinged by the search giant and are not at fault, comply with their requests and rectify things as quickly as possible. Then issue a reconsideration request, citing links over which you have no control. Chances are very good that Google will not hold you accountable.
  • Use the “report a problem” link at the bottom of any reviews that you feel are generated falsely. This means you need to stay on top of feedback about your site on a regular basis.
  • Content can often be scraped before it is indexed, giving authority to someone else for your content. To prevent this, keep your sitemaps current and re-submit it each time you publish new content. Using rel=canonical tags also help you secure your rightful authority over published pages.
  • The sneakiest negative tactic involves writing to your legitimate links and requesting removal. Folks can pose as the owner of the content, citing copyright infringement for the link share, rendering your external connections obsolete. This is admittedly tough to thwart, but the best way to do so is to have some sort of a relationship with the site owner. If you do receive a link, reach out with gratitude; even the smallest of communications can raise a red flag if someone suddenly asks for that link to be removed.
  • Keep very, very close tabs on your external links and watch for unnatural links. Luckily, Google makes this easy. In Google Webmaster Tools, click on “Search Traffic”, then “Links to Your Site.” This will show you a complete list of inbound links. Select “More” beneath “Who links the most” and you’ll see the top domains that are sending you traffic. If you have spammy links, they will most certainly show up in this report.

Negative SEO is ugly commerce indeed, but it’s dicey enough to put the attacker in a very precarious position. While you shouldn’t lose sleep over fearing it might happen to you, being vigilant about keeping your SEO efforts clean and well-monitored is extremely important to your overall success.

Not only will a dedicated watch on metrics help catch any negative SEO tactics early-on, it’s standard procedure to ensure all your campaigns and efforts are truly succeeding. Thankfully, there are many tools and apps to aid you in this cause. A monthly sweep is sufficient, but don’t do it any less frequently. And if you haven’t gone through your SEO metrics lately, now would be a good time to start.

Have you been a victim of a negative SEO campaign? If so, how did you deal with it? Let us know in the Comments section.

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Competition is good but not on that level to harm some one same thing with Negative SEO. Do your own SEO for creating your own brand not to harm your competitor brand.

    Informative guide line for Negative SEO and site keep yours eyes on there external links on regular basis.

  • Very good information and to be honest, I never thought I would see a lot of coverage of Negative SEO on this site.

    That kind of web marketing practice is the largely “unspoken of” evil in the SEO business and is extremely sour and underhanded.

  • I totally agree. It is a very low tactic indeed. I have spent the last few years learning as I go especially with internet marketing. I made some big mistakes with my website that ended up giving me a manual penalty to recover from. I definitely do not claim to know what I am doing but with the assistance of friends I am learning more and more every day. I think the whole negative SEO thing really does come down to and show the true attitude of a person. Performing this kind of action to get ahead online is just like stabbing somebody in the back in the workplace to get a promotion. I do hope that google refine this more and more and are able to detect the source of these negative SEO efforts so they can penalise all websites associated with it. Just my two cents 🙂

  • Thanks for an informative and slightly reassuring article. What really gets up my nose about negative SEO is that Google should have made it possible in the first place. Yes – reward websites that do things right but trying to actively punish others – no. Surely just ignoring them would be best. That’s always been the best way to treat idiots and bullies.

  • Thanks lot, now i will keep eye on seo. one of my blog is suffering from outbound links. But still I have no idea how to remove that links can you give any idea ?

  • Thanks for this blog. There was some negative SEO “tricks” I was’nt aware of like the 5 star reviews. We are working in a very sensitive invoirenment here in Denmark where even small changes of ranking can be crusial.

    Rgs. Tommy

  • There are such dicks in this world that do everything to make life a misery right.

    Have they really got time to spend to destroy other peoples businesses. How sad for these low lifes..


  • Good article! We recently had some negative SEO to deal with on one of our top landing pages. One of our competitors was using comment spam with the exact anchor text for that page. One tool that helps combat negative SEO is the Google Disavow tool. It is a good way to catch negative SEO before it damages you. Thanks fro sharing!

  • I don’t know the causes of the problems I’m having with my site but I know that it disappeared from Google’s SERPs and I don’t use any black hat SEO tricks.
    When I was reading this article it came to my mind that I get, from 2 totally trustworthy sites, 600 and 400 links respectively. I don’t know how and why this happens but I’m sure it’s not deliberate spam. The owners are seniors like me and we have an excellent relationship. Now, I’m wondering if Google considered this fact as spam or something else not appropriate.
    Any ideas? Shall I ask them to remove all the links to my site? I’m a major contributor to one of them.
    Marcel White

    • Hi Marcel – yes, that’s a lot of links, and Google could very well suspect it’s spam or purchased links. Make sure each link is really valuable and sending traffic you can convert, not just a link for the sake of having one. Links are tricky business – it’s not one size fits all. If you can’t find any other smoking gun regarding your SERP issues, you are likely right in your instincts about these links.

  • This article made ​​me aware of the dangers that occur because of negative SEO caused by the act of another bad person. Thanks for the information, I have to prepare for this soon.


  • Briefly Mentioned Points regarding negative SEO. I would also prefer not to use fake reviews for your website or products.

    If any one follow these tips which are mentioned in this article, will be able to save the reputation of his.her website.

    Once again a great article, Teena 🙂

  • You can also see who is linking to you via your cPanel. It has all the information you need about your visitors and is more thorough.

  • Monitoring the quality of your “back links” is very important along with careful distribution of unique content. Thanks, Kim

  • I have an android app website which previously has 10000 page view per day but suddenly it drop down to just 200 page views per day. I Think it stuck by Negative SEO.
    But How to Find that this is due to some Backlinks or Some other factor.. is there any way ?

  • I am reading about negative SEO for the very first time and it has sent a shiver down me. Why do businesses do like this in the first place? Hurting someone else and then making progress for oneself, will only spell disaster in the long run.
    B’coz, Honesty is the best Policy.

  • Using negative SEO in attempt to pull down another business is shear wickedness of first order, and I wish perpetrators should stop that and use their time to compete positively rather using their time to try to destroy another company

  • I really like this post. It has put me on alert to watch out for actions that can lead to negative SEO and their effects. SEO metrics watch should be of great concern to site owners.