What to do if You’re a Target of Negative SEO

What to do if You’re a Target of Negative SEO

Negative SEO means essentially making it look as though a website is trying to spam Google so that it ends up being penalized. For instance then you might spend some money to buy hundreds of low quality links pointing to another website, and this would cause Google to penalize it by sending it down the rankings. This then means that site owners can target and destroy specific competitors so that they can then take their spot at the top of the SERPs and steel their customers and visitors.

Negative SEO has been around for a long time and it is not a myth, but a genuine method that many people use in order to take down sites that are standing in their way. And the bad news is that as updates such as 'Google Penguin' are penalizing sites more heavily for spam-like SEO, these strategies have become ever more effective.

As a webmaster or blogger this should alarm you somewhat because it means that through no fault of your own you can end up getting penalized sent to the bottom of the SERPs over night. So what can you do? How can you possibly defend yourself against these kinds of attacks?

Keep An Eye Out

First of all you need to keep an eye open for this happening so that you can react quickly. How do you know whether you've been the target of negative SEO? Well the first sign will be the number of inbound links to your site suddenly inflating. Keep an eye on your Web Stats and make sure that there is no unusual activity here. At the same time you should of course look for sudden drops in your ranking - if you've done nothing wrong and have abided by all of Google's recommendations then perhaps someone else is getting you into trouble.

Remove the Links

If you find yourself with lots of inbound links from irrelevant and low quality sites then a good move is simply to try and remove as many of those as possible. You can do this for instance by contacting the webmasters and asking them to remove your link, or by moving specific pages that have come under attack.

Identify Possible Opponents

Meanwhile you should also look at who might be attacking you in this way. Look at the SERPs you are on, and look at your to competitors for those keywords. Now look for inbound links to their sites - has the same thing happened to them? If it hasn't, then there's a chance that they are the culprits and the best thing to do is to get in touch and try to ascertain if this is the case. Don't go in guns blazing, but rather just ask them if they've experienced anything similar and then offer to exchange links. If they are willing to exchange links then they're probably in the clear, and at the same time damaging you will damage them so they might think twice.

Build Quality Links

Had a sudden influx of low quality links? Well then now would be a good time to build some good quality links to 'drown' them out. This way you can make sure that Google sees that you do have a lot of good referrals even if there are a few bad ones in there too.

Contact Google

You might also want to try contacting the Google Webmaster community and explaining to them your situation. Build up some good evidence and if you can show that the links all arrived at a similar time then this will help your case. This is rarely successful, but they have been known to reconsider their punishments on occasion and to review cases.

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  • avatar

    Thanks for the informative and eye-opening article. It’s very sad that people sabotage each other this way. I would never have thought that such a practice could actually happen. It’s sad and true that webmasters must keep alert for threats and dishonest practices from competitors.

  • avatar

    Great article, would definitely help webmasters recover from the Penguin update. Manual, high quality link bulding, social bookmarks and quality content are the most effective post-penguin SEO methods.

  • avatar

    Until now I had no idea of what negative SEO was, and now I am quite shocked to know that even when playing fair and trying to turn your site or blog into a successful one you can get ranked low because of concurrence. Anyway, I am glad that the article had also included some tips to prevent this from happening.

  • avatar

    Great article. I’m glad it caught my eye. I have a 20 year background in software development but I have to say it did not occur to me that such underhanded activity was alive and well. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom the inner workings of the criminal mind. I have a few ideas for some websites and I will be adding some steps from your article to make sure my bases are covered.
    I did some freelance writing in the past and searched for my stories shortly after they posted. Lo and behold, I had one story that someone had scooped up and was posting on their site. I was lucky in that I was able to track down the host of the website and they pulled it. I also contacted Google.com and I did hear from them, although by that time the site had been removed.

  • avatar


    My website is in a non-competitive niche, so I’ve never really thought about competitors. I suspect the more competition there is for the topic or product the more likely a rival would attempt something like negative SEO. It sounds like a good idea to keep an eye on statistical reports to make sure nothing fishy is happening.

    • avatar

      It’s a good idea to check on your rankings and backlinks. Yes, you’re right the more competitive your space is the more likely you are to fall victim to a negative SEO attack. Be vigilant!

  • avatar
    Patricia Coldiron 


    You made some good points Brad. It’s a shame that people have to stoop to that level, of making another blogger look bad. When I had my blog, I installed Akismet, and that kept out a lot of the spammers trying to post their links on my blog. When I leave comments on someone else’s blog, I often see more affiliate link posts than posts relating to the article.

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