Negative SEO: What It Is And How To Stay Safe?

Nowadays, getting on the first page of a Google search is a huge accomplishment that needs extensive keyword research, content creation, social strategy, campaign measurement, and on-site optimization.

Unfortunately, some people choose to refrain from putting in the work or money necessary to construct their websites effectively. Instead, they use shortcuts—negative SEO tactics—to undercut legitimate competitors and gain top rankings through deception.

Negative SEO has become a major worry as search algorithms develop and competition heats up.

This tutorial will cover all you need to know about bad SEO. So without further ado, let us get started.

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO (also known as unfavorable SEO) is an intentional attempt to reduce a company’s visibility in search engine results, usually to steal keyword ranks and traffic.

The goal is to make it appear like the target website is utilizing SEO spam practices that violate search engine regulations. And therefore cause the search engine to conceal its results.

Alternatively, make the business appear awful to human users. So they do not click through.

Negative SEO is unethical and may be illegal in some circumstances.

It is also known to be ineffectual. Because search engines are becoming more adept at identifying—and ignoring—negative SEO efforts. 

For years, Google representatives have recommended webmasters to disregard threats and assaults. Instead, focus on improving their website.

So, if you see a drop in keyword ranks or organic traffic, it’s doubtful that bad SEO is the cause.

Nevertheless, many marketers feel assaults can affect a company’s rankings and image. So you should understand the various varieties and how to cope with them.

Types of Negative SEO & How to Stay Safe!

Let us now analyze the many forms of negative SEO attacks and how to recover from them.

1. Spammy Link Building

Spammy link building is the process of producing a large number of low-quality or spammy backlinks pointing to the target website. These links may come from irrelevant sources and might result in search engine penalties, causing the targeted site’s rankings to decline.

Tools such as Google Search Console and Ahrefs can assist identify spammy or low-quality backlinks, which frequently come from unrelated or dubious sources.

google search console results

Creating a disavow file is required for backlinks that cannot be manually deleted.

disavow backlink

This file contains the URLs or domains of the remaining bad backlinks, which are subsequently uploaded to Google’s Disavow Links tool in Google Search Console, indicating that Google should disregard these links when determining the site’s rating.

2. Content Scraping

Content scraping is the process of copying content from a target website and posting it on other websites without authorization. This can lead to duplicate content concerns, prompting search engines to devalue the original site’s content and perhaps punish it for plagiarism.

To address content scraping, first identify situations where your material has been scraped.

If you believe that some of your URLs have been damaged by content scraping, you may check their status in Google Search Console. Search for a Google-selected canonical. You may go there by pasting the URL into the Google Search Console address box.

google search console

You’ll want to view the Inspected URL. This signifies that Google believes the examined URL is the most authoritative version of the item.

If you notice another internal URL there, you have a duplicate content problem. If you find an external URL there, it’s probably a symptom of bad SEO.

First, contact the website owner and suggest that they delete the duplicated information or provide correct attribution with a link back to your original source.

If contacting the website owner does not work, or if you are dealing with several instances of scraping, you can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request with the web host or search engines.

3. Hacking and Malware Injection

Hackers may try to get unauthorized access to the target website’s server or content management system (CMS). Once inside, they can insert malicious code, remove material, and make other modifications that have a severe impact on the site’s speed and security.

To see whether you have any security concerns, go to Google Search Console and select the Security concerns option. If there are no security problems, you will get the following notice.

malware and issues

If there are any security vulnerabilities, you must address them promptly.

Make that your website’s software, including CMS (e.g., WordPress, Joomla), and plugins, are up to date. Hackers frequently exploit weaknesses in out-of-date software, so regular updates help avoid future assaults.

4. Smear Campaigns

Smear campaigns are another sort of negative SEO that includes distributing false or damaging information about a company or people to destroy their reputation and trustworthiness.

These campaigns can take many forms, including writing bad reviews, spreading rumors, or establishing phony social media pages to undermine the subject.

For example, in 2019, Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing Apple of anti-competitive activity by unfairly pushing its own music streaming service, Apple Music, while blocking competitors such as Spotify.

Monitor your company or personal brand’s online mentions regularly across many platforms, such as search engines, social media, and review websites. This will assist you in identifying any bad information or campaigns that may be targeting you.

If you come across anything that violates the platform’s terms of service (for example, fraudulent reviews or harassment), please report it to the moderators or admins. Many platforms have measures in place to address abusive or harmful content.

5. Unauthorized Hotlinking

Hotlinking, also known as inline linking or leeching, is a bad SEO strategy in which someone connects directly to photos or other multimedia assets housed on your website from their website without your consent.

This can deplete your website’s bandwidth and resources, resulting in higher hosting charges and potentially slowing down performance.

You may avoid hotlinking by including the following code in your .htaccess file, which prevents external websites from linking to your photos.

Final Thoughts

Above, I discussed the most prevalent negative SEO methods and how to avoid them. However, this list is not complete; anything that might harm your site’s reputation has the potential to be used against you. 

It’s critical to understand the numerous negative SEO strategies and the impact they may have on search engine ranks, traffic, and reputation.

Furthermore, responding to any instances of poor SEO quickly and efficiently is critical to preserving a favorable online presence.

If you have any recommendations or additions to the list, please share them in the comments section below!


a. How can I tell if my website is being targeted for negative SEO?

Sudden decreases in ranks, odd backlink profile changes, a rise in spamming traffic, unjustified Google penalties, and other questionable activities are all signs of poor SEO.

b. Can negative SEO affect my website’s reputation?

Yes, bad SEO may harm your website’s reputation by manipulating search engine rankings, distributing misinformation, or publishing bogus reviews.

c. What should I do if my website is targeted by negative SEO?

If your website is being targeted by negative SEO, determine the source of the assault, record the facts, submit a disavow file to Google, file a reconsideration request if punished, and take legal action if required.

d. How long does it take to recover from negative SEO?

Recovery from bad SEO might vary depending on the intensity of the attack and the efficacy of recovery attempts. It may take weeks or months to fully heal.

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