5 Negative SEO Techniques That Could Hurt Your Website

By Radhika Basuthakur
5 Negative SEO Techniques That Could Hurt Your Website


If you have been in Internet marketing long enough, you know you need to understand the magic of SEO. You should at least have a working knowledge of how “doing SEO” brings traffic to your site and helps it move up in the world of rankings and relevance.

With this in mind, you have probably mapped out an SEO strategy for your site (if you haven’t you really should!). You’ve planned and executed and planned some more and then one day ... you find out you have ended up in SEO oblivion! You panic and wonder what you did that was wrong enough for Google to wipe you off the Internet ... but did you ever think that it could be someone else causing you this grief?

Welcome to the evil and sneaky world of negative SEO techniques. What’s negative SEO? You know how doing all the right things moves you up in the rankings? That is positive SEO. When someone else does all the wrong things to try to sabotage your site, that is negative SEO. 

Here are five common ways unscrupulous competitors can try to hurt your site with their completely evil negative SEO techniques.

Evil Backlinks

When someone is trying to send your site to purgatory (i.e. page 15 of Google), the first (and most common) tactic they will usually try is to send huge numbers of poor-quality links your way. True story. They will pay for hundreds of spammy links and point them to your site in an attempt to adversely affect your link profile. Then you will get a warning that looks like this:


Google unnatural links notification


How many links does it take for Google to send you a warning? I'm unsure of the exact numbers but let's just say if there Rand Fishkin - Take down SEOMozis a sudden, completely unexplained spike of links to your site, it’s likely to sound off warning bells for Google. After Rand Fishkin put out the challenge for anyone to try and take down his site, he found out that even a site as well-known as SEOMoz will get a notice from Google for poor-quality backlinks.

Google’s head of search engine spam, Matt Cutts, has said that Google is aware of this growing negative SEO trend.

Can you avoid it? While you can’t stop someone from pointing links to your site, you should definitely monitor your backlink profile actively to make sure there are no unnatural spikes. You can monitor your backlinks using the Affilorama backlink checker

If you notice unexplained growth, it may mean you’re under attack. In such a scenario, Google suggests contacting the webmaster first and asking him or her to take down the links. Should this fail, Matt Cutts suggests using Google’s Disavow Links tool to help you address the issue.

Watch Matt Cutts explain this in the video below.




Evil Content Scraping

Of course, negative SEO doesn’t just stop with backlinks alone. Duplicate content can get you severe penalties from Google. Those trying to sabotage your site can try to duplicate your content before your site is even indexed. Why? They are trying to make it look like the original site (yours) is actually the one trying to steal and duplicate the content.

How can you check if your content is being scraped? Run a quick Google search with any sentence from your site in quotes. 


content scraping


Can you prevent it? Yes. Just be sure to maintain an up-to-date sitemap, especially when you publish new content. Additionally, including the rel=canonical tag on your pages is also a good way to establish you as the authority.

Evil Hacking

If you’re really unlucky, hackers might try to take you down as well. If your site has any loopholes, hackers can try things like strategically placing a noindex tag within the code or even adding malicious links. Additionally, denial of service attacks, where your website gets overwhelmed with way more requests than it can handle, aren’t uncommon either. This makes it impossible for Google to crawl your site and could affect your rankings.

Make a habit of regularly scanning your site for any changes in code to secure it against malicious hackers.

Evil Crawlers

Website speed is an important factor in SEO as well. Saboteurs can use crawlers to continually crawl your site. This will make it slow to load and use, and it will become a poor experience for users. This in turn will not just affect your SEO; it could even affect your conversion rates.

Preventing and controlling web crawlers can be difficult, but there is some good advice here.

Evil Reviews


fake reviews


Customer reviews are valuable commodities in the SEO world these days, but if Google notices you’re making up fake reviews online, you’re likely to get punished. Competitors can do this to hurt you by making it appear these reviews are coming from you. If you start noticing a pattern on Google reviews that don’t look quite right, be sure to report the reviews to Google for review before they start affecting your search engine rankings.

Don’t panic—I don’t want to scare you off the Internet. The idea is to get you thinking and actively keeping an eye on the vulnerabilities of your site. If there are holes, you are better of plugging them before your competitors spot them. SEO can get competitive. It’s good to stay informed about what others can do to bring you down, and what you can do to prevent that from happening.

I’m interested—have you ever had your site brought down by negative SEO? Any stories to share?

P.S. If you want to build a Google-friendly affiliate site, our AffiloTheme product could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Jeff seid 11 years ago

It was such a valuable post which helped me in knowing how SEO can be misused. However I wanted to know whether there is any technique to identify those people who do negative SEO.
Thank you.
Radhika Basuthakur 11 years ago
Hi Jeff,

I'm glad you found the article useful. Unfortunately there isn't just one quick way to identify who is trying to do negative SEO on your site. With each of the negative SEO techniques I have discussed above, I've also tried to point out how you can spot when something is wrong.

For example, if someone is throwing hundreds of spammy backlinks your way, you will be able to spot a spike by monitoring your backlink profile. If you notice lots of new backlinks out of nowhere, you might need to investigate the situation further.

Exactly who is behind these sabotaging techniques can sometimes be hard to tell though. Hopefully this will change in time.

Let me know if you have any other questions!
Ryan Biddulph 11 years ago
Hi Radhika,

Ahhhhh content scraping. I have seen this happen more than a few times with my blog ;)

Karma! No matter what you will face unhappy people who try to pull you down but if you do the right thing almost all the time these people and incidents will be rare in your life.

I take a non-resistant approach. The less I fight the more power I generate and the more power I generate the less I see this stuff happen. SO tough to do at first lol....but when I saw the results and cultivated my peace of mind I decided it was the only way to live.

Thanks for sharing the great info!
Radhika Basuthakur 11 years ago
That's true Ryan. Just do the right thing :)
KjRocker 11 years ago
Hi Radhika,
I have a question i can see my content being published on content syndication sites for example kingged dot com as you can see yourself there is tons of content being shared etc , Now is it harmful for my site (keeping in mind seo prospective ?)

Raj Vasireddy 10 years ago

Content sharing doesn't impact negatively on your website.
Trevor Schain 11 years ago
Another thing to be aware of is the products and services out there and promise 10's of thousands of back-links to your site. A lot of directory sites, bottom-tier search engines, etc offer these. Hopefully people see them as "too good to be true", but it'll penalize your site when you have link-farms pointing back at your site.
Radhika Basuthakur 11 years ago
That's a really good point to remember too,Trevor. Thanks for sharing.
Anirban Pathak 10 years ago
Great Post. The less I fight the more power I generate and the more power I generate the less I see this stuff happen. SO tough to do at first lol....but when I saw the results and cultivated my peace of mind I decided it was the only way to live.
shreelatha 7 years ago
I am running an adult store. I had nearly 6K indexed pages at Google. But Google decreased the indexed pages within last few days. Now I have 3K indexed pages. In this time I notice that I got nearly 4k backlinks from two site (both are adult site). Is it a sign of negative SEO ??
Justin Golschneider 7 years ago
Hi Shreelatha! That definitely sounds like negative SEO to me. I would contact both websites and ask them to remove the links, and if they refuse (or do something like ask you to pay for it) then use the Google Disavow tool instead: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487?hl=en
7 years ago
I've been experiencing lots of 'forex trading tactics' spammy anchors over the last month or so. I had just been reviewing them manually and sending a disavow update to google.
This article helps in a big way.
Just on the point of disavowing links David, with the new 'rolling' Penguin 4.0 algorithm would you deem it good practice to update the disavow file daily?
I have read conflicting opinions on that point, and as you're my 'go-to' guy on such things, i'd very much like to hear what you have to say about it. Thoughts?
Justin Golschneider 7 years ago
Hello! Google has stated that their recommendations for disavowing links have not changed with Penguin 4.0. If you can keep up with updating your disavow file on a daily basis, then by all means do so, especially if you've had a rash of bad links from spammers. Google will theoretically sort that kind of spam out on its own, but it's always a question of how much you want to trust their algorithm to handle that.