Understanding Negative SEO and How to Counter It

Understanding Negative SEO and how to counter it becomes all-too-important when you notice your hard earned Google rankings slide into oblivion.

understanding negative seo


Negative SEO is the exact opposite of what people try to do with search engine optimization. Your rankings slide, not because you didn’t do something properly, but because your competition has asked its dirty tricks department to wreak havoc on your rankings so that their own rank goes up in comparison. There are quite a number of ways in which negative SEO techniques can lower your page rank, however, not all sudden and drastic drop in rankings are attributable to unscrupulous competitors; there could be many other reasons.

Negative SEO is generally off-page, which means that there could be activities like unnatural link building, content scraping and reposting. However, in exceptional cases, there could be on-page actions like hacking and content modification to deliberately hurt your ranking. The different types of negative SEO explained:


Off-Page Negative SEO

In this type of negative SEO, the site’s rankings are disrupted without modifying its internal elements. Some common methods:

Spammy link farms: Since site rankings are not affected by a few spammy links, negative SEO assaults usually involve link farms that are essentially interconnected sites grouped together using the identical anchor text. The anchor text may be unrelated to the attacked site but often a niche keyword is inserted to make it seem like it is the owner’s manipulation. There is no way of preventing such attacks but you can keep a sharp watch on the number of links and referring domains and disavow them using the SEO SpyGlass tool if they spike suddenly.

Content scraping: Another method by which a competitor can cause your ranking to crash is by copying your content and publishing it on other sites so that Google identifies content duplication and ranks only one site. Since generally Google is able to spot the original site, scrapers move very fast to copy content and repost it. Use Copyscape to locate duplicate content across multiple sites and request the concerned webmasters to remove the copied content. However, if that doesn’t work, you should report it to Google for copyright infringement, according to a SandCrestSEO consultant.

Forceful crawling: Desperate competitors may try to forcefully crawl your site and cause such a heavy load on the server that Google bots cannot access it. If access is denied repeatedly, Google may just push your site down the ranking list. Inform your webmaster or server company if you notice your site becoming slow, unresponsive or even unavailable and find out the reason for the extra load and then take appropriate action to block the crawlers.


On-page negative SEO

While off-page negative SEO tries to create a disturbance from outside your site, on-page negative SEO is even more deadly because this involves hackers accessing your site and making changes that can result in your rank to plunge. Some common methods:

Modification of content: It is natural to think that you should be able to immediately know if someone accessed your site in an unauthorized manner and altered your content. However, changes can be very difficult to spot if the hacker merely added spammy content and hid in the HTML code so that it is not apparent unless you investigate the code. Sites with high authority may discover that their pages have been redirected to the hacker site so that it boosts that site’s rank. You can even receive a Google penalty for redirecting to a site that is malicious. Conducting site audits on a regular basis is the only way of spotting these malicious attacks. There are a number of tools available such as WebSite Auditor for auditing.

Site de-indexing: A hacker may instruct Google not to index your site by making a small alteration in the robot.txt file. Your site will disappear from the search results page and your SEO strategy and visitor traffic will go down the drain. Conducting ranking checks regularly will inform you of any site de-indexing. You can automate the monitoring with a tool like Rank Tracker and the notification can be validated with the crawl statistics from your Google Search Console following which, you can check the integrity of the robots.txt.

Hacking: If Google suspects that your site has been hacked, it may remove it from the rankings or add a warning to the search listing that will prompt users not to click on the entry.



Negative SEO can have an extremely serious impact on your rankings and reputation. The only way of staying on top of the situation is to constantly monitor your site behavior and statistics and immediately arrange to fix any aberration that is noted. It is undoubtedly arduous, however, well worth the trouble considering the enormity of the damage potential.