“Negative SEO” is not a recent term, but its negative effects are renewed constantly to negatively affect both websites and those who support them.
And we can say, that what was before this term is not the same as it is after it.
In the past, Google used to guarantee its users fair competition, as nothing can influence the ranking and evaluation of sites.
But things got different from its appearance.
Negative SEO has exploited the rules of SEO, misleading Google’s algorithms
and has become able to make a site’s rating very low, or perhaps delete it permanently.
What is negative SEO?
Negative SEO is a malicious, unethical practice that aims to sabotage the search rankings of competing sites
by hacking using links and texts capable of manipulating search engine results.
It includes all the convoluted ways that someone tries to reduce your site’s evaluation in Google, and it has three types, which are:
- White Hat SEO.
- Gray Hat SEO.
- Black Hat SEO.
There is no dispute that the most popular type of negative SEO is black hat SEO, which depends on the use of offensive links linked to the site, but it is not always associated with negative SEO.
Sometimes the site owner himself uses black hats to increase the evaluation of his site.
(This is a different method than the one used for negative SEO).
Negative SEO is simply done by targeting a site and referring to it
with offensive links that alert Google’s algorithms and software to this matter and lower the site’s rating in response.
An example of a negative SEO offer on a Reddit thread:
The GSA SER (GSA Search Engine Ranker) is a tool for building unwanted automatic links.
Despite the development of Google’s features and software
and the company does not provide any effort to combat these methods,
Google itself admits that negative SEO does exist, and some sites have been damaged because of it.
An example of a negative SEO display:
There are different forms of negative SEO, but here we will talk about the most common of them.
Types of negative SEO attacks:
First: Hacking a Website/ pirating a website:
It may be the most efficient and most costly practice.
By hacking a website, an attacker can direct the site’s SEO performance as they like.
And if this is the type of hack that leads to loss of search engine visibility for the site
it can be considered negative SEO (negative SEO attack).
In addition, exposure to piracy will lower your site’s ranking, because security in Google is a major feature that a well-rated site should have.
If your site was hacked, this means it is not safe, and in order to preserve user data
Google will automatically block confidence in it.
The answer was posted above in the Google Search Console Help Center.
Second: Create abusive backlinks with unwanted texts and link them with your website (Spammy Links):
We are not talking about one or two links here, but rather about a large number of offensive links and keywords that lead to unwanted sites (such as porn sites, ads sites, etc.).
Usually, this type of link has the same address, and together it forms what we call a (Farm Links), which is widely used (along with some other paid sites) to create these types of abusive links, which can range from a few hundred to thousands.
Abusive links are considered the most dangerous form of negative SEO as they end up placing the site in Google Sandbox.
Example of negative SEO attack with offensive backlinks:
Third: Create duplicate copies of the website (Scraping):
This practice relies on creating duplicate copies of websites or parts of their content, and pasting them to a large number of sites, or quickly linking them with some sites for spreading the counterfeit products (or stolen information) across the web.
Google chooses one site among sites with duplicate content to display it in the early search results and exclude the rest of the sites.
Often, this process does not produce a satisfactory result because Google is able to distinguish the original content, but it may sometimes be lost and make a mistake in choosing the original site if the new content is copied as soon as it is uploaded.
Fake accounts may also be created in your name on social media, and your website’s reputation on the Internet may be destroyed.
Example of negative SEO attack using content copying and website cloning:
Fourth: Posting false negative reviews about the site:
This approach may destroy the reputation of the website or the brand and thus may result in a decrease in the traffic.
Example of a Google Search Console Help thread about posting a suspected fake review:
Fifth: removing the best backlinks to your site by sending fake removal requests to webmasters:
Attackers may target your backlink cookie in an attempt to damage your search engine results page.
They may also pretend to be you, or an agency acting on your behalf, and contact webmasters to persuade them to remove links pointing to your site.
An example of a request to remove fake backlinks:
Some negative SEO practices also go further,
For example: submitting fake DMCA removal requests, but these cases are rare.
Sixth: Forceful Crowling:
In order for your site to get a good rating, it must be easily accessed by Google crawlers or Google bots to index it.
If someone tries to overload the server when the site is opened, it may be difficult for Google’s bot to access the site.
Repeating this failure many times will cause Google to lower your site’s rating.
Seventh: Modify your content:
This negative SEO process is usually noticeable because you know the content of your site.
However, the modification may sometimes be by adding links that appear only in HTML.
The modification can also be by trying to promote a site through your site, by publishing the links that lead to this site through the content of your site.
This process does not harm or lower your site’s rating but rather exploits your site’s popularity to gain more visitors.
Eighth: Getting the site de-indexed:
Making any change (no matter how simple) to the Robots.txt files makes it difficult for Google to reach your site.
Therefore, Google ignores the site, which leads to a poor rating.
How to detect and combat negative SEO campaigns against your site:
An attacker could combine multiple efforts to make your website drop from SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
You can also protect yourself easily by following the webmaster tools and checking the links pointing to your site from time to time.
And if you find an unnatural number of poor backlinks pointing to your site, here are some preventive measures you can do or take into consideration:
First: How to spot signs of a website attack:
The first step in protecting your website is spotting signs of an attack, such as a sudden drop in website traffic from Google, which is easy to notice if you are constantly monitoring your website stats via Google Analytics.
You can also set up an email alert for Google’s webmaster tools
which will allow Google to notify you via email if your site isn’t indexed or gets a manual penalty.
If you haven’t done anything wrong, the notification means your site is under attack.
The faster you learn, the faster you can take action and reduce damage.
Second: Protect and prevent the website from piracy:
It’s out of the question that a cyber-pirate will hijack your entire website.
Often you will still be able to access your site, while the attackers will install many spam signals that you may not discover quickly.
For example, tampering with your robots.txt file or sitemap could harm your site without you noticing any obvious change right away.
In order to discover security breaches, you can do the following:
- Set up notifications in Google Search Console.
- Perform regular site audits to fix any technical issues.
- You can also visit (https://isithacked.com/) which provides you with an overview of your site at a high level, and tells you if there are any signs indicating that your website has been hacked.
- Use the FTC Complaints Assistant to report piracy.
Third: Combating fake backlinks:
According to John Muller, using the Disavow tool might be a good thing if you think you have experienced a negative SEO attack when someone creates abusive links pointing to your site.
As shown in the comment above shared on the r / SEO subreddit, some users say disavowing is one of the things they do when tackling negative SEO.
But what are you supposed to do when someone generates thousands of toxic backlinks pointing to your site?
You will need to disavow it manually with the help of the Disavow tool, where you transfer a link to it, collect it according to the established criteria, then disavow it and get rid of the low-quality links and avoid linking your site to them so that your ranking and reputation are protected.
In addition, using the disclaimer tool tells Google that you care about the quality of the links pointing to your site, and this will be taken into account when the Google Webspam team thinks about imposing penalties on your site when it detects an influx of bad links pointing to it.
Question 1: How does the Fake Link Building work?
Here are two examples of negative SEO campaigns based on generating offensive backlinks.
Within three months (starting in October 2018) a small business faced a sudden rise in the number of backlinks pointing to its website.
The number of backlinks has grown exponentially from 275 to 341,824.
This abnormal rise resulted in punitive action by Google.
Then, the webmaster had to do an in-depth audit of backlinks and submit reconsideration requests to Google with the disclaimer files.
It took two reconsideration requests to lift the penalty, and it was removed by August 2019, nearly a year later.
Even today, work is still in progress to restore the ratings.
The second example:
Another suspected SEO attack continues to this day, targeting the SEMrush website.
Starting in November 2019, a sudden spike in offensive backlinks was detected being posted on similar websites, and the following is an example of this website:
This suspicious activity has not produced clear negative results, but it remains a little busy monitoring these unexpected backlinks, most of them target a non-existent page.
Question 2: What measures should be taken to protect a website from fake backlinks?
- Use the Backlink Audit tool to monitor your site regularly, and monitor the “Toxic Score” for any suspicious changes to your backlink profile.
- Check the value and direction of your website’s graphs and progress points, a drop in score may indicate something is wrong with your backend cookie.
- Update your disclaimer file regularly; even if you get new offensive backlinks, you will have a chance to remove them.
Fourth: Securing the login page:
One of the most important measures to secure the site
is to protect the login page from attempts to access the username and password.
Fifth: Discovering stolen content or repeated website content:
Not only does the matched content issue remove duplicate content
it can also remove the entire website, or certain pages from search results.
Hackers may duplicate your entire website, or some of its content to sabotage your search performance.
To discover abusive behavior related to copying your content or the entire website
you should check the web regularly using tools like Copyscape or Siteliner.
If you discover a fraud website that is copying your site’s content, you should do the following:
- Contact the provider where the fake website is hosted and explain why they should remove it.
- Use the Google content removal form (https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?hl=en#ts=1115655) to report it and request its removal.
- Use the FTC Complaints Assistant to report a fraudster.
Sixth: Finding and reporting fake negative reviews about your website:
The impact of posting false reviews varies by case.
Fake reviews will not ruin a large retailer’s reputation, but it can do great damage to a small business.
And according to Google: fake reviews affect and harm your SERP’s performance.
Posting negative reviews may reduce your site’s reputation and reduce your traffic.
It is true that this requires the attacker to try very hard to destroy and influence the reputation of the website, without there being any guarantee that this effort will succeed.
However, you should always look for such activity by monitoring online reviews.
If one of the comments is offensive and certainly fake
you must report it to the site administration where the comment (or review) was posted.
Seventh: Reporting requests to remove fake backlinks:
Watch out for removing your backlinks, especially your most valuable ones.
There is no guarantee that the webmaster will not follow these fraudulent requests.
And to quickly discover the disappearance of valuable links, you can set up notifications to track any lost and discovered backlinks with the SEMrush Backlink Audit.
Here’s the answer to the most common questions by experts in tackling negative SEO campaigns:
- What is the typical case for an effective negative SEO campaign? And what does it usually include?There is a few number of styles that work well and effectively.There is a few number of styles that work well and effectively.
Your site is domain.de
The domains associated with it come from .gq, .tk, .cc, etc.
“The Globe” and similar patterns (webhostlist.in) also reduce rating.
The Globe (theglobe.net) is a spam website that posts offensive links, and has been in business since 2006.
Also, content theft, and mixing of content with pornography or medical material along with body texts pointing to the original website are very typical negative SEO patterns.
However, redirects from bad websites to a very good website are also very effective.
- How often do webmasters and site owners judge that they have taken a hit from negative SEO when in fact, their ranking has decreased due to a poor backlink profile and non-optimized bad content on the website?This happens a lot.
However, we call it negative SEO when negative patterns are intentionally set up by someone.
With a quick look at all the practices associated with negative SEO that we mentioned
we will notice that generating unwanted backlinks, duplicating content, and posting fake comments have an actual and real connection with SEO.
All other practices revolve around piracy and fraud.
In general; Negative SEO can be harmful, and the scope of its consequences depends on different practices.
But the only way to protect websites against it is to take all necessary precautions to immediately respond to an attack.
And constantly check your website with the appropriate tools to be aware of potential problems that may arise at times, and to be able to solve and bypass them.