What is Negative SEO And How to Prevent It?

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder

August 23, 2022 | 5 Min Read

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is becoming an increasingly important component of business growth and customer acquisition. It involves producing content in line with user intent and adopting techniques to increase visibility in the organic search results. However, despite adopting all the SEO tips and tricks, you might face dipping organic traffic owing to negative SEO.

In this article, we’re going to shed light on negative SEO — what it is, how it impacts, and in what ways you can prevent and defend against a negative SEO attack.

What Is Negative SEO

Negative SEO is any malicious activity by the competitor aimed at hampering your site’s organic visibility (i.e. presence on the search engine) and its rankings on the Search Engine Result Page (SERPs)– the first page of a search engine when a user inputs a relevant query.

Here are some of the unscrupulous negative SEO activities that are undertaken to sabotage the competitor’s website and undermine its SEO performance:

  • creating spammy backlinks – inbound links from another site that act as a ranking mechanism by the search engine

  • attacking website reputation by posting fake negative reviews

  • removing a website’s backlinks by sending out fake removal requests to webmasters

  • copyright complaints for a duplicate content

  • website hacking and cyber-attacks

  • website cloning or duplication of a portion of the content

To be precise, the negative SEO attack could be internal or external with an aim to harm your SERP positions.

Does Negative SEO Work

It is widely believed that negative SEO is unlikely to succeed these days. Google and other search engines are committed to updating algorithms and ranking tactics that thwart negative SEO. However, negative SEO tactics remain prevalent today. You must be vigilant and closely monitor any potential threat to your organic ranking – external or internal.

Not just from your competitor, but you may also fall victim to a negative SEO attack mounted internally. For instance, your inexperienced SEO manager might build low-quality backlinks to your site or pay for fake online reviews. Or you might end up with an inefficient content writer who will plagiarize most of their copy from other websites.

Is Negative SEO Illegal

Negative SEO is not illegal, but it is most certainly unethical and should be avoided at all costs. Instead of killing competition unfairly by attacking the competitor’s site, website owners should focus on improving their search engine ranking by producing original and quality content, generating authentic backlinks, and earning genuine online reviews.

How To Prevent SEO Attack

Although the threat of negative SEO is far-off, these are real attacks and are daunting. Are you worried about a potential competitor attack on your website that might make it fall off the SERPs?

Here are some pre-emptive actions that you can consider protecting the site from the repercussions of a negative SEO attack:

  • Be proactive in monitoring your SEO performance and detecting any signs of traffic dip owing to malicious behavior.

  • Regularly engage in site audits to ensure your website’s content is SEO optimized, engaging, and user-oriented. According to Google’s latest ‘helpful content update’, you’ll be better rewarded if you follow Google’s long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines.

  • Rely on specialized tools and ensure your backlink profile is trustworthy and clean.

  • Create robust security layers to prevent cyber-attacks on your site. In order to detect security breaches, you can set up notifications in Google Search Console and regularly run site audits to fix any technical issues.

  • Look for signs of any bulk link removal attack that looks to be fake and take appropriate legal action to protect your backlinks.

It’s been seen that a new website or one with a poorly attended backlink profile or thin content is more susceptible to a negative SEO attack.

How to Defend Against Negative SEO

Negative SEO tarnishes your brand image and impacts your organic ranking. Are you unsure how to report negative SEO? Here’s what you can do to improve your positioning if you discover falling rankings due to a negative SEO attack:

  • Evaluate all the plausible explanations of the ranking drop- if it’s a negative SEO attack or an update in Google algorithm and algorithm filtering hampering the organic traffic.

  • In case you identify any low-quality and toxic backlinks, you can disavow and disassociate with them to protect your ranking.

  • If you notice quality backlinks disappearing, reach out to the reporting sites to verify if there was a genuine reason for the link removal or if that’s a fake link removal attack.

  • If you spot a fraudulent website that duplicates entire or portion of your content, consider doing the following:

  • Reach out legally to the spammy website owner and explain why it must be taken down;

  • Seek out an attribution link (credits to the original source) if you feel the scraped content from a high-quality site can boost your ranking;

  • Use this Google form to report it and demand it is taken down;

  • Use The FTC Complaint Assistant to report the imposter.

  • Constantly watch your online Google reviews and what appears in the SERPs for your brand reviews. Report any fake and malicious reviews.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you’ve been penalized by Google and you’re confident it’s an unwarranted penalty, submit a reconsideration request with Google Webmaster Tools.

You might feel overwhelmed after reading this article, but you should know Pedestal Search specializes in optimizing your site for search engines and outranking your competitors with winning ethical strategies.  And if you think you want to guard your online presence against a potential negative SEO attack, we can help. Contact us and we will guide you with appropriate insights and recommendations.


SEO, SEO Basics

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt

CEO & Founder

Aaron Levenstadt completed his degree in Statistical & Data Science at Stanford University. That focus has given him an unparalleled data-driven approach to search engine digital marketing. Prior to founding Pedestal Search, Aaron worked at Google at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View California. At Google he worked on the Organic Search, Paid Search and Google Analytics products, which equipped him with extensive knowledge of the mechanisms driving Google’s algorithm and other internet search engines.