Sep 09 2019

How To Detect And Avoid Negative SEO

Posted by Kate Santos , ,

The search engine optimisation (SEO) industry has had a significant transformation in recent years, particularly when Google released the Penguin Algorithm Update. Along with this update were severe penalties for websites that use black hat SEO strategies to rank. This was a great move by Google to get troublemaking outsource search engine optimization agencies in line. However, what if a malicious party starts implementing those strategies on other websites to try and get them penalised? They are practising what is commonly referred to as negative SEO.


What is negative SEO?

Simply put, negative search engine optimisation is the act of utilising black hat SEO on other websites in a malicious attempt to get penalised by Google, harm your rankings, and altering or disabling a site’s SEO priorities to reduce its effectiveness. Unlike common hacking practices that aim to shut a website down or at least deface it, negative SEO is not easily noticeable as it doesn’t affect a site’s look and feel.

Negative SEO can manifest in different forms:

    • Removing your website’s most effective backlinks.
    • Making copies of your content and spreading it all over the internet.
    • Creating fake social accounts/profiles and using them to ruin your online reputation.
    • Creating numerous spammy links to your website.
    • Pointing links to websites using keywords that are considered taboo in the SEO world.

These can significantly disrupt your digital marketing efforts and render certain SEO services in Singapore ineffective. And just like normal SEO, negative SEO has an on-page and off-page aspect to it as well.


What are the types of negative SEO attack?

There are two types of negative SEO attacks that can either directly mess with your website or apply negative practices to get your website into trouble with Google:

Negative Off-Page SEO. This type of attack is done without internally altering your website. It revolves mostly around utilising negative SEO link building techniques and black hat SEO and directs them to the target sites. Malicious parties would make obvious link farms and massively connect it to the website they are targeting. Since it’s difficult for Google to detect the responsible party for the links, it will penalise the target site as a result. Aside from this, these parties may also cause your page to be removed by posting fraudulent copyright complaints. Finally, they can falsify duplicate content all over the internet which can get a website penalised as well.

Negative On-Page SEO. This attack focuses generally on getting into a website and altering the setup, disrupting its coding, introducing viruses, and basically just wreaking havoc on everything. This can also include negatively changing SEO properties, altering the Robots.txt, and modifying redirects.


How to spot a negative SEO attack?

There are several signs that suggest you may be a victim of a successful SEO attack. Some of these are:

Penalty notification. Website owners can receive two types of notification : either a message from Google informing the webmaster that it has taken action against the website or through algorithmic penalty which will only be spotted when there is a drop in traffic or rankings.

Swift drop in search traffic. If there is a sudden and negative change in a website’s traffic, assuming it has not done anything wrong, then there is a high probability that it is being attacked using negative SEO.
Individual keyword rankings drop. A drop in search traffic would usually mean the same for a website’s rankings. An SEO company in Singapore commonly uses tools like Ahref’s Rank Tracker to keep a lookout on the movements of priority keywords.

A drop in website speed. Another sign that a website is being affected by negative SEO is a change in its site’s speed. This may be caused by various other factors but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Fake link removal requests. This attack aims to rid a website of its quality links by sending sneaky link removal requests and it is becoming quite common.


How to avoid being a victim of negative SEO attacks?

The factors indicated above are signs of a successful negative SEO attack on a website. Unfortunately, not even the best SEO company Singapore has to offer can really stop malicious parties from attacking a website. However, there are some steps that may be taken in order to deflect negative SEO and limit its damage on a website:

Performing regular link audits.
Doing this constantly and consistently is probably the best way to stay safe and identify malicious activities before they can cause real damage to websites. Monitoring a company’s link profile growth can help discover suspicious link activity before it causes more harm. Furthermore, a sudden change in this, even though the company has not worked on any link building campaigns, would also be an indication of a potential attack.

Set up email alerts.
Google Search Console can be utilised to update webmasters concerning a particular website’s health. Emails can pop up whenever a page(s) are indexed on search engines, malware or spyware is attacking a site, the server has problems, and a site has been penalised by Google.

Protect your best-performing backlinks.
Malicious parties would try to trick website owners into pulling their best performing backlinks by using the website name and owner’s name to request webmasters to remove the backlink. To prevent this, it is advisable to always use a single email to communicate with webmasters hosting the backlinks.

Avoid content scraping.
One of the most common negative SEO is duplicating content and distributing it all over the internet and this is called content scraping. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, one can use plagiarism tools to find out if content has been lifted/copied.


In general, negative SEO can take a lot of effort, it’s costly, and highly risky. On the other hand, the return is not even guaranteed and even though it works, it is relatively easy to repair once the target figures out what’s happening. The most common websites that are targeted are those in high-money and highly competitive fields and sites that are in calmer niches are less likely to be hit.

In any case, businesses should always be on the lookout for these attacks as it can happen at any time and for any number of reasons.


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