You have probably heard of the dreaded negative SEO but if you haven’t, we’re giving you the lowdown on what it is, how it could affect your business, as well as some top tips to prevent your site from being affected by negative practices. If it’s too late and your website has fallen down at this hurdle, don’t fret,we’re here to help.

So, what is negative SEO?

Negative SEO occurs when someone makes an attempt to lower a site’s rankings in the search engine through negative practices. Yes, you guessed it, it tends to be adopted by underhand competitors looking to sabotage your site. And I know what you’re thinking - ‘isn’t Google smart enough to detect negative practices?’. The answer is yes, however, as you can expect, our friends at Google can’t be everywhere at one time. They can’t determine whether the negative practices have been implemented by you the webmaster or by a competitor looking to counter your positive efforts, therefore negative practices are picked up on and your site is likely to be penalised as a result.


We all hope that competitors realise the wider implications of positive competition and working towards a better industry, but unfortunately some people implement dirty practice and just have too much time on their hands.

Here are some of the most common negative activities to watch out for:

  • With regards to duplicate content, Google has a very low tolerance threshold. If duplicate content is identified, it will adjust the ranking of the sites involved. In some cases, the websites involved could be completely removed from Google’s index meaning they will no longer appear in search results. According to Econsultancy, low-stooping competitors have been known to copy the contents of your site and distribute it around the internet placing your website at risk.
  • As you know, building quality backlinks with authority sites is good practice for building your reputation online. However, if you are aware of it, it’s likely those involved in negative practices know about it too. As such, those involved in negative practice could assume your identity, contact the authority sites and ask for the links to be removed.
  • As well as removing quality backlinks, low-quality spam-heavy links may be pointed to your site which are of no relevance and can have detrimental effects on your site. You should always monitor your root domains and link sources, ensuring the quality you strive for is maintained.
  • When it comes to the ranking of your site and user experience, site speed is very important. Negative SEO practice can involve sending a multitude of requests to a point the server cannot handle thus, negatively affecting site speed. The most common example of this is hackers and viruses, resulting in down time on your servers.
  • Finally, your social media reputation can have a positive impact on your ranking within the popular search engines therefore negative practices can involve the setting up of false profiles to affect your ranking, trolling and identity theft.

Should you be concerned?

With all this negative activity you may be questioning whether you should be concerned. Back in 2007, Google statedthere’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index’ however in 2012, this was removed and many SEO experts have suggested that negative SEO practices are on the increase. However, despite much speculation, Google’s SEO guru Matt Cutts confirmed small businesses are not at risk of being affected and since the introduction of the Penguin algorithm back in 2012, the use of spammy and unnatural links are being picked up by Google.

Avoid being affected by negative practices

Although estimates suggest the impact of negative SEO is relatively low, you must take action to prevent it. Here are our top tips:

  • Set up Google Webmaster Tool alerts: this is the first step in taking action against negative SEO as Webmaster Tools will flag anything untoward. If your site has been hacked or if Google cannot access your site, Webmaster Tools will notify you.
  • Check for duplicate content: with duplicate content becoming more and more popular amongst those adopting negative practices, it is important to check to see if your content has been duplicated. Using a tool such as Copy Scape, you instantly see if your content has been published on other sites without your permission and can take the necessary action from there to have it removed. Remember that you may be guilty of accidently producing duplicate content, i.e. press releases, so make sure to train your staff up appropriately for writing for the web.
  • Monitor backlinks: it is essential to monitor any inbound links to your site and this can be done as often as you see fit. However, there is extra help via dedicated backlink monitoring tools, which can be used to notify you of any suspicious links.
  • Don’t allow suspicious links: so you have identified suspicious links, what next? As soon as you see anything unnatural or spammy it’s time to act and fast! You can ask for a removal or update your disavow.txt to prevent these inbound links. Following this, it is good to check your website speed as you can then identify if the suspicious have had a negative impact on your site speed (which you will then have to improve).
  • Protect your backlinks: securing quality backlinks is great, however we all know that through negative practices, these can be removed. As such, when communicating with authority sites via email, ensure this is done via an email address connected to your domain as it ensures others cannot act on your behalf to remove these links.
  • Block and remove duplicate profiles: imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, but impersonating a brand and stealing copyrighted content is against social media guidelines and these profiles will be suspended. Monitor mentions of your brand and make sure to contact the support team of any social platforms where someone is impersonating you.

Sadly, there will always be bad people out there and negative SEO practices. The best thing to do is stay on top of it by following the steps above. The best defence is a good offense and building authority for your site will help you get there. As a result, you will come out on top just by having a better website, better content and positive practices.