Negative SEO: What Is It and How to Fight Attacks

Written by: Branko Ilishev
Apr / 16 / 2024

Does it feel like Google has been hating on you lately? Do you see problems with your website in the shape of spam links to your site with unrelated keywords, viruses and malicious codes, and fake social profiles of your company? If the answer is YES, we have some bad news for you: You’ve been hit by negative SEO, and now Google might penalize you or even ban your website for good.


… you wonder?

Well, the truth is not everyone is your friend in the online business world, and there are lots who don’t want you on the top in the search result pages. In fact, the people who are doing this are probably your competitors.

Sounds scary, right? It indeed does, and it is hard to spot negative SEO because it is impossible to avoid an attack. However, you can stay alert at all times, especially if you are at the top of the first page of Google search results, and do routine checkups with the tools you have at hand.

Negative SEO Definition

If you’re asking yourself what is negative SEO, the definition is simple. Negative SEO is a series of activities taken in order to decrease a competitor’s website rankings in any search engine. These set of activities can include building unnatural and spammy links to the website, creating fake profiles that share incorrect information, content scraping, hacking, etc.

You work hard to create a powerful SEO strategy, so to protect it, you first need to know the various types of attacks.

Types of Negative SEO Attacks

Of course, there are various types of negative SEO attacks you need to know. Also, you need to know how to protect your website from negative SEO. We all know it’s not fair and it’s unethical to attack your site and your business, but these things happen, so you have to be ready at all times.

Hacking Issues

Hackers can harm your SEO in many ways, all they have to do is to gain unauthorized access to your site, which they can. After that, they can redirect your URLs to spammy pages, delete content, incorporate malicious code, and so on.

However, these negative SEO tactics aren’t always extremely obvious, which makes this potential issue even more complex, so protection is necessary. You need to scan your site on a regular basis, investigate sudden declines in SEO results, and enable security alerts in GSC.

Building Bad Links

The easiest way your competitors can get to you is by building bad links to your website and by bad we mean adult sites, gambling sites or even banned websites. Google will easily catch these links, and it will hit you with a penalty.

Removals of Links

Links from other websites, so-called backlinks, are important and earning backlinks isn’t an easy task. In order to harm your site, some competitors can try to remove these links. They will probably pretend to act on your site’s behalf, contact the site, and ask them to remove your link.

You need to pay attention and reach out to the website to kindly explain to them what happened and ask them to reinstate your link.

Web and Content Scraping

Content scraping is a common negative SEO tactic that means someone is copying content from your site and publishing it on another website without your permission. Of course, Google helps you here since if it spots duplicate content, it will typically choose one version to avoid displaying near-identical content.

However, it can display the plagiarized version, rather than your content, which means you will lose organic traffic because someone stole your content. If you spot such an issue, you need to contact that site and ask them to remove it. 

If they don’t you can report them to Google and they will be penalized if you prove that’s your original content.

Review Bomb Attack

Review bomb attack or commonly known as review bombing is the process of posting many negative and fake reviews for your company. And since bad ratings appear on Google, the goal of someone who wants to harm your site is to discourage users from visiting your website. In addition, it negatively affects your rankings and rating in local SEO results. Whether you use a reseller local SEO or any other local SEO agency, make sure they protect you from review bombing.

Fortunately, Google uses spam detection to remove these reviews, but you still need to monitor them manually since it’s best not to have fake bad reviews at all. 


Hotlinking gives one the chance to load media, such as images, directly from another website instead of hosting it on their own website’s server. And unauthorized hotlinking can be used as negative SEO since it can put strain on the host website’s servers in order to slow down the speed.

This can be one of the reasons why your WordPress site is so slow, and you can use the All-In-One-Security plugin to prevent unauthorized hotlinking.

How to Discover Negative SEO?

Here are a few simple and informative ways to discover it since that’s the first and most important step to solving it as soonest possible.

Use Google Analytics / Webmaster Tools / Searchmetrics / SEMrush

You can use these programs to detect a sudden fall in the search traffic. If you are hit by negative SEO, these programmes will easily show you a massive drop in search traffic. Therefore, using Google Analytics or any other of these tools is more than important and, in fact, necessary!

Do a Backlink Audit

By doing so, you can see whether someone has built any low quality and spammy links to your site. You can also use the previously mentioned programmes and tools to download all the latest links of your website or to get an overview of all your inbound links.

You can also use Ahrefs to get a full report with information on all links along with a whole lot of data to analyze. On the report, you can notice links that appear on a domain that is not indexed by Google, or website that have warnings for malware, link farms or links from pages that have zero Google PageRank.

Look Out for Unnatural IPs

Make sure that foreign IPs or TLDs are not pointing to your site. You can also check if there are many links from the same IP regardless of the domain. Use SEMRush to check the IPs.

Check for Duplicate Content

One of the many online tools you can use to check if anyone is duplicating your content is Copyscape. Enter the URL of the page you want it checks, and it will provide you with immediate results.

How to Fight Negative SEO?

man securing a website on a laptop

There are several things you can and must do in order to fight this unfair and nasty SEO war. No one likes it and it’s undoubtedly unethical, but that’s not your choice, so you have to fight back and win!

First, Organize Your Data

Analyze all reports from the tools and organize the data you got. Copy and paste the data from each link source into separate sheets and then remove the duplicates so that you are left with only one URL link. You can do that easily by clicking on the Data tab and selecting “Remove duplicates”.

Pinpoint the Bad Links

You can’t all go through all of the backlinks manually because it can be rather time-consuming. But what you can do is use tools like Cognitive EO, Backlinks Monitor or URL Profiler to identify the bad links. Next – disavow those bad links. With the disavow tool you can mark the link with a tag and by doing this you are telling google that you are not connected to that site in a positive or in a negative way. However, be careful with this tool as there are mixed reviews about it, so use it only as a last option.

Contact the Webmasters

In the case of duplicate content, contact the webmaster and ask them to remove it. If no positive answer or understanding comes out of this, feel free to submit a copyright infringement report to Google.

Only Work With Trustworthy SEO Agencies

Don’t hire SEO freelancers or agencies you know nothing about. Check who they are before starting a collaboration. Disreputable agencies won’t be able to handle the problems and even be the reason for some mess-ups.

Final Words on Negative SEO

These are the most significant aspects about negative SEO, types, how to discover them, and how to fight back. It’s important to pay attention since even though unethical, there are many competitors that may harm your website, hence your business. Also, negative SEO can affect any niche; it doesn’t matter whether you have excellent SEO Weebly in an eCommerce industry, SEO for Saas, or any other niche. Unfortunately, it can attack any type of a website, so you better be ready to fight back.

Therefore, make sure to practice these tactics or hire an SEO agency and let professionals take care of your business!


Is negative SEO illegal?

Even though it’s not explicitly illegal, negative SEO violates many Google and other search engines terms of service, which may lead to penalties. Also, it’s unethical to use it and in some cases it can even lead to legal consequences.

Does negative SEO work?

Even though negative SEO may not bring excellent results, it can still damage your rankings and site. So, someone may not get desired results for their business, but they can still harm your website in a significant way.

What is an example of a negative SEO attack?

There are various negative SEO attacks, and some of them may be building unnatural and spammy links to your website, hacking, review bombing, etc.

About the Author

Picture of Branko Ilishev

Branko Ilishev

Branko is your SEO prodigy. He manages the SEO team and finds creative solutions for your online visibility problems by thinking out-of-the-box. He also translates the collected data of analytics into understandable information that gives you concrete insights.