Negative SEO: Can Someone Sabotage Your Website?

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Did you notice a sudden decline in your site’s traffic, yet there’s no key Google algorithm update you know of? Or you haven’t done anything major on your website? There are several reasons for that, but one thing you might want to check is negative SEO.

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Did you notice a sudden decline in your site’s traffic, yet there’s no key Google algorithm update you know of? Or you haven’t done anything major on your website? There are several reasons for that, but one thing you might want to check is negative SEO.

Effective negative SEO is relatively rare these days because of Google’s efforts to prevent other webmasters from sabotaging your ranking over the past years. However, it is still a possibility, and what better way to deflect it than understanding how it works first?

What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO, also called black hat SEO, happens when someone tries to pull down your site’s rankings in search engines. It’s unethical and illegal.

However, it’s also important to note that because of different ways to generate links today using bots and other tactics, negative SEO might also happen to you unintentionally.

The key is knowing how to detect and deflect negative SEO attacks.

Different Types of Negative SEO and How to Stay Safe From Them

Negative SEO can take different forms. Here are a few examples:

Spammy Links

Competitors might build low-quality backlinks to your site, usually from link farms. These are links from websites with low domain authority and site traffic and are irrelevant to your industry.

If you receive a sudden surge of low-quality backlinks, search engines might view it as you participating in link-buying black hat tactics. As a result, your site might be penalized with a lower ranking.

Some people might also use the over-optimized anchor text tactic. In this approach, they use lots of links with exact-match anchor text, which will give you an unnatural anchor text ratio.

Others might maliciously leave backlinks to your site in the comment section of older blogs that are irrelevant or have incredibly low traffic. This will give you lots of unnatural backlinks, which can hurt your site.


Content Scraping

Content scraping pertains to duplicating your content on other sites. They copy your content word for word and post it on another website.

Some people might do this just to get free content, unintentionally committing negative SEO. But it can affect your site because Google only chooses one version to rank. What if it didn’t choose yours, which is the original?

Now, it’s important to note that this is different from syndicated content, which is fine because it links back to your original post and is properly labeled as “canonical.”


Fake Negative Reviews

Reviews are a bit easy to manipulate, and when you receive an influx of negative ones, someone might be sabotaging you. Google tends to downgrade the rankings of businesses with negative reviews and low ratings.

Aside from search engine rankings, they’re also bad for business. Most people these days search the internet and read reviews first before they purchase a product or sign up for services.

So, it’s important to keep an eye on major review sites in your industry. If you find negative reviews that you believe are fake and manipulated, you can report them to the review sites and request to take them down.


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Fake Link Removal Requests

Fake link removal requests are among the most unethical ways others can use to sabotage your website.

They send emails to webmasters to request the removal of your backlinks, saying that “you” no longer need them for some reason. You might lose lots of your best backlinks in a snap, which will cause your ranking to plummet.


How far can jealous competitors go when they’re willing to knock you down? They can hack or launch a cyberattack against your website.

They can infect your site with malware, making you lose high-quality backlinks, create low-quality posts on your site, and even mess with crawling.

How Do You Deal With Negative SEO Attacks?

Fortunately, you can fight back against the above negative SEO strategies. Here are a few things you can do to prevent negative SEO attacks, as well as recover from them.

Check if it’s really a negative SEO attack

Google’s algorithm updates in recent years have made it harder for people to use negative SEO to sabotage their competitors. So, there may be other potential causes. Confirming that you’ve been hit with negative SEO can save you time and effort in figuring out how to solve the problems.

Request link removal

If you find spammy links, you can contact the webmaster or owner of the website in question and request for the links to be taken down. This doesn’t work all the time, but it’s still worth a try.

Note that some webmasters might ask for a fee to remove links, especially if it will take them time, such as moderating or deleting blog comments.

Disavow the links

You can submit a disavow file to Google. It’s a list of links you want Google to treat as invalid when evaluating the quality of your website.

However, be cautious when using this step—it’s irreversible. Once you disavow a domain, there’s no turning back. So, you wouldn’t want to accidentally disavow a valid and quality domain because you’ll miss out on potential excellent backlinks from it in the future.

It’s better to seek guidance from SEO professionals before you use Google’s disavow backlinks tool.

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Create more high-quality content

Perhaps one of the best ways to prevent and recover from negative SEO is to create more high-quality content as fast as possible. They can help rebuild your site’s credibility so that Google will deem your site trustworthy again and rank your page higher on SERPs.

Do link-building campaigns

Turn to high-quality link-building strategies that will give you earned media coverage and natural links. When you earn more links from authority publications in your industry, you can boost your site authority. It will also benefit your website over the long term, allowing you to build a healthy backlink profile.


Negative SEO may no longer hurt websites as much as it did in the past years, but it’s still a possible cause of a sudden decline in your site’s ranking and traffic. Knowing how it works can help you detect if a negative SEO attack has hit you so that you can respond accordingly. Likewise, creating high-quality content and using link-building strategies are some of your best defenses and tools for recovery.

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