How to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO

The entire SEO industry experienced a major transformation over the past two years. As a result, many online marketers have dramatically changed their strategies. Ranking high in Google for competitive keywords is not as easy as it was three years ago.

Because black hat SEO is harder and harder to execute, and less and less likely to deliver results, a new type of SEO has emerged called “negative SEO.”

This is a guide that will help you understand what negative SEO is and how you can protect your business from becoming a victim. If you are serious about building your brand online and keeping it safe, this is something you should not ignore.

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO refers to the practice of using black hat and unethical techniques to sabotage a competitor’s rankings in search engines. Negative SEO attacks can take a number of different forms:

  • Hacking your website
  • Building hundreds or thousands of spammy links to your website
  • Copying your content and distributing it all over the internet
  • Pointing links to your website using keywords like Viagra, poker online, and many others
  • Creating fake social profiles and ruining your reputation online
  • Removing the best backlinks your website has

Is Negative SEO a Real Threat?

Yes, no doubt about that. Negative SEO is real, and numerous websites have had to deal with this problem. Preventing it is much easier than fixing it.

negative seo advertisement

If you conduct a search on Fiverr for “negative SEO,” you will find over 15,000 people willing to do the work for only $5.

Also, black hat forums are full of stories from people who have succeeded with this technique.

Google has released the Disavow Tool to help webmasters deal with this problem, but the tool should be used with caution and only as a last resort.

Check out Matt Cutts’s answer to negative SEO:

It usually takes 2-4 weeks for the tool to work. Can you afford to have your website penalized for 1 month? No one can! I will show you how you can prevent these attacks and keep your business safe.

How to Prevent Negative SEO Attacks

1. Set up Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts

Google can send you email alerts when:

  • Your website is being attacked by malware
  • Your pages are not indexed
  • You have server connectivity problems
  • You get a manual penalty from Google

If you haven’t already, connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools.

Log in to your account and click “Webmaster Tools Preferences.”

webmaster tools preferences

Enable email notifications and choose to receive alerts for all types of issues. Click “Save.”

This is just the first step. Now, let’s move to the important one, monitoring your backlinks profile.

2. Keep Track of Your Backlinks Profile

This is the most important action to take to prevent spammers from succeeding. Most often, they will perform negative SEO against your website by building low quality links or redirects. It is vitally important to know when someone is creating links or redirects to your website.

You can use tools like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer, from time to time, to manually check if someone is building links to your website, but the one I recommend you use is MonitorBacklinks.com. It’s one of the best and easiest tools that can send you email alerts when your website gains or loses important backlinks.

Instead of having to manually check your backlinks every morning, Monitor Backlinks sends everything you need to know to your inbox. Here’s how you can use it:

Once you have created your account, it will require you to add your domain and connect it with your Google Analytics account.

seo auto discover

It usually shows your backlinks immediately, but sometimes it can take a few minutes. By default, your settings are set to send you email notifications when your website receives new backlinks. This is what an email alert looks like:

monitor backlinks

3. Protect Your Best Backlinks

Very often, spammers will try to remove your best backlinks. They usually contact the website owner of the link, using your name, and they request the webmaster to remove your backlink.

To prevent this from happening, you can do two things:

  • When you communicate with webmasters, always use an email address from your domain, instead of using Gmail or Yahoo. This way, you will prove that you work for the website and that it’s not someone else pretending to be you. Your email should look like this: yourname@yourdomain.com.
  • Keep track of your best backlinks. For this, you can use Monitor Backlinks again. Go to your list of backlinks and sort them by Page Rank or social activity.

7-report

Add tags to the backlinks you value the most so you can verify if any of them get removed.

Select your backlink and click “edit.”

8-edit-refresh-delete

Add your tag, so you can later filter and find these backlinks easily.

9-submit-tags

After you have created your list, filter them by your tags, and monitor if their status changes. If any of these links are removed, you should contact the webmaster and ask why they removed your link.

10-add-new-links

4. Secure Your Website from Malware and Hackers

Security is extremely important. The last thing you want is spam on your website without you even knowing about it. There are several things you can do to secure your website:

  • If you are using WordPress, install the Google Authenticator Plugin and create a 2-step verification password. Each time you log in to your WordPress website, you will be required to add a code generated by Google Authenticator on your smartphone (available on iOS and Android).
  • 11-login

  • Create a strong password with numbers and special characters.
  • Create backups of your files and database on a regular basis.
  • If your website lets users upload files, talk to your hosting company and ask them how you can install antivirus to prevent malware.

5. Check for Duplicate Content

One of the most common techniques spammers use is content duplication. They copy your website content and post it everywhere they can. If most of your content is duplicated, there’s a big possibility that your website will be penalized and lose rankings.

You can check if your website has duplicate pages on the internet using Copyscape.com. Simply add your website, or the body of the article you want to verify, and it will show you if your content is being published somewhere else, without your permission.

copyscape

6. Monitor Your Social Media Mentions

Sometimes, spammers will create fake accounts on social media using your company or website name. Try to remove these profiles by reporting them as spam before they start to get followers.

To find out who is using your brand name, you can use tools like Mention.net.

As soon as someone mentions your name on any social media or website, you will be informed, and you can decide whether you should take action.

Create an account and click “Create alert.” Name your alert, and add the keywords you want to be alerted about. You can use multiple languages, too. Click “Next step.”

Select the sources you want Mention.net to look for, and add the domains you want to be ignored. Click “Create my alert,” and you will receive alerts every time your keyword (company name) is mentioned on social media, blogs, forums, and news.

create my alert

7. Watch Your Website Speed

If your website suddenly has a very high loading time, make sure it’s not because someone is sending thousands of requests per second to your server. If you don’t act fast to stop this, spammers may put down your server.

A great tool that can help you monitor your server uptime and loading time is Pingdom.com.

pingdom

Create an account and activate “email alerts,” so you will know when your website is down. If your site is being attacked, contact your hosting company and ask for support as soon as possible.

8. Don’t be a Victim of Your Own SEO Strategies

Make sure you are not hurting your website rankings by using techniques that are not acceptable to Google. These are some of the things you should not do:

  • Don’t link to penalized websites.
  • Don’t buy links from blog networks, and don’t buy links at all for SEO.
  • Don’t publish a massive number of low quality guest posts.
  • Don’t build too many backlinks to your website using “money keywords.” At least 60% of your anchor texts should use your website name.
  • Don’t sell links on your website without using the “nofollow” attribute.

9. Don’t Make Enemies Online

There is no reason to create enemies. Don’t ever argue with clients because you never know who you are dealing with. There are three types of spammers and reasons why they spam:

  • For fun
  • For revenge
  • To outrank competition in search engines

How to Combat Negative SEO Against Your Website

If you notice that someone has started a negative SEO campaign against your company, here’s what you can do:

1. Create a List with the Backlinks You Should Remove

Check the links to your website that were recently created, and choose the bad ones, so you can try to remove them. Add tags to your bad links. Check these manually and decide which ones are hurting your rankings, and try to remove them.

Create this list as soon as you receive email alerts with new backlinks you are not aware of, if they look like spam.

2. Try to Remove the Bad Links

After identifying the backlinks you should remove, contact the webmaster of the website and request that your link be removed. If you can’t find any contact page, use Whois.com/whois to find a contact email address.

who is lookup

Add the root domain of the website you are trying to contact and look for “Registrant email.”

If your link is not removed and you don’t get an answer, either, you can contact the company that’s hosting the website and ask them to remove the spammy links. Most hosting companies will help you and remove the links.

Check who is hosting the website on WhoIsHostingThis.com.

discover who is hosting

3. Create a Disavow List

You can use the Google Disavow Tool if you have received a manual penalty. So, if none of the above methods worked, create a disavow list that you can later submit to Google Webmaster Tools.

You can easily create this list on your MonitorBacklinks.com account here:

18-add-new-link

Conclusion

Website security and search engine impressions are extremely important for any website that wants to succeed. This is a summary of the things you can do to prevent negative SEO:

What other methods are you using to prevent negative SEO? Have you experienced such attacks? What other tools are you using?

About the Author: Felix Tarcomnicu is an Internet marketer with a strong passion for SEO and social media. You can follow him on or Twitter @FelixTarcomnicu for similar articles.

  1. Great list, thanks for sharing. I didn’t know you could use Google Authentication with WordPress. This is very helpful!

    One piece of information I’d disagree with is the threat of duplicate content. Matt Cutts has said on numerous occasions that duplicate content can never penalize a website in the SERPs.

    If your website is credited with publishing the content first, then Google will see it as the “canonical” source of that content, and give you credit. This means that even if 1,000 other websites exactly copy and publish your content, they are only harming themselves on Google, because Google won’t rank them higher than you (unless, of course, the website that copies your content is The Huffington Post, but that’s a whole other issue).

    Publishers need only worry about duplicate content if they are the ones doing the duplicating, and only because their efforts are wasted–it won’t rank well. Duplicate content, however, can never be used as an NSEO tactic, as it just won’t work.

    Anyway, thanks for the excellent article!

    • Hey Brandon,

      I think you forgot one scenario. What if you write an article, and Google crawls it after one week? In this case, spammers can take credit for the article, before you do.

    • Great steps to identify issues with negative SEO!! It’s a shame when it happens and it can take so long to bring a website back up. How long does the Disavow take to get rid of all the unwanted links?

  2. Awesome blog, monitorbacklinks cool tool :)

    thanks for the share

  3. You know what? this is an amazing post about stopping bad links to our sites.. thumbs up!!

  4. Another way to prevent from being hacked can be constantly diversifying your website and upgrading your CMS when new updates are pushed. Removing old or outdated plugins would also help. Good Post by the way :)

  5. wow guess you learn new things everyday. Relationship building is key with other players online and to make you monitor all websites footprient. Awesome post really helpfull

  6. I was thinking whether or not I should make my niche site project public due to negative SEO.

    This article was pretty useful

  7. Google has motivated Black hat SEOs to do negative SEO by penalizing website for bad backlinks, instead of discounting them.

    I am unsure on why Google took this step. It was a good move by Google in past to discount backlinks. But now they are penalizing website. This has increase negative SEO threat to successful website owners.

    Your points are very sensible but it’s too tough and costly to implement… This has been an additional cost to website owners :(

  8. I really appreciate your efforts in giving us such valuable information. It really helps me in knowing some unknown facts.

    Can you please let me know how to avoid such situations. If a spammer is spamming my website then I would be knowing about the unnatural link building by the virtue of this software, but if the spammer goes on doing it continuously then is it possible to track down every day for a single project. My only concern is that How can we avoid the spammer’s activity???

    A reply will be highly appreciated!

    Many Thanks
    Amit

  9. A lot of great tools to help and build your website, will defo link to this page and share it with all my clients.

    Many Thanks
    Ajay

  10. Thanks for the post! I use http://www.linkody.com/ to monitor backlinks, I think it’s a great tool too.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts Felix!

  11. Thanks a lot for contributing such a good article in this competitive world. I really love your article. We should care for negative SEO, But I don’t want it open to all. If rivals use it as a weapon, it’ll be harmful.

  12. Now a days Google taking direct action on blogs doing negative seo. This article is really so informative i learnt a lot from here. Thanks admin for such a nice info.

  13. Negative SEO sucks! Most of the times your enemies target the site. Thanks a lot for this guide.

  14. More overblown hype about the negative SEO boogieman, really?!

    Just because people buy and sell such junk on Fiverr, and some black hats were able to take out other black hats – does NOT mean that it works on sites that have not already done enough of their own link spamming.

    If you already have a bunch of paid links and overused your keywords in other crappy links – then, yeah, you should worry. But you did it to yourself.

    Every “example” of negative SEO that I have seen turned out to be a site that already had a lot of other things going on before the so-called attack. Unless you have found a verifiable case study of a “clean” site that was actually knocked down by negative SEO, this is just more fear mongering. It is also irresponsible as it gives less informed consumers a completely wrong idea about what SEO is, and can do.

    Pardon the link drop, but if you want to see what really happens when tens of thousands of spam links are pointed at a site for well over a year (and still going): http://kercommunications.com/seo/negative-seo-reality-check/

    • Hey Nick,

      I have read the article you shared, and I would like to ask you a question. You claim that negative SEO is not real….but, why would Google release a disavow tool if that’s just a overblown hype?

      Yes, it didn’t worked in your case…and that should be good news for you.

      • According to the text in the Disavow Tool itself, it is for disavowing any links you believe are causing harm, but you can not control – meaning you are unable to remove them yourself.

        I know that many of the Negative SEO doomsayers claim that Google made the disavow tool specifically for negative SEO, but that is not the case. And that is a very good reason to check with Google FIRST, before you believe all the scary things on some forum or blog.

        From Google’s support page about the disavow tool at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487 :
        “In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google’s opinion of a page or site. For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO) you’ve hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines.”

  15. The best way to fight web spam is to build credibility and trust that no search engine can ignore.”I’m not saying it’s impossible for an unscrupulous competitor to undermine your website, but if you have been doing everything “right” since the beginning it’s not going to be an easy job for them. Established sites that put out a lot of great content, are active in social media and have built up their authority aren’t going to be ruined by a handful of links generated by a spammer.

  16. I have heard a rumor that Google may be coming out with something similar to the Bing disavow link tool within the next few months? This will obviously be a big help for people trying desperately to clean up their back link profiles and get back on Google’s good side. It could also mean spammers have another tool at their disposal to further assist them, another double edged sword I suppose.

  17. Yes negative seo can and does work. In our case it happened co-incidentally in the month after I came back to my former employer and pushed for the seo company to be sacked. I chose to analyse every single back link and disavow. Very time consuming but it worked for us. No mamual penalty but huge drops in ranking for most commercial keywords.

  18. This is awesome guide with which I can prevent my webiste being penalized because of negative seo.

    Thanks for sharing useful info. :)

  19. This article is outstanding. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am visiting this blog on a daily basis and I am finding

    extremely helpful article each time. Keep working on this and thank you once again.

  20. Awesome list with some great actionable tips!

    I must say that some of these tips are not practical for larger sites. The Monitor backlinks email alerts for example. I work with a site that gets anywhere between 8K and 20K new backlinks a day, so I don’t want to know how the email would look like in my inbox. :)

    Great post though, really enjoyed the read.

    Tom

  21. Wow, I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now and not a little bit frightened! It’s good to know, though. It’s easy to forget about all the things that can have a negative effect your website.

  22. Negative SEO can come from competitors, but most of the time it comes from within. It is important to set up Google Alerts for your business name and track where youare getting backlinks from.

  23. This is just awesome.

    With the help of this , I can easily protect my website from negative seo techniques

    Very thankful

  24. Nice post! Besides Disavowing how about changing the URL in the 1st place? Then all those bad links will be broken links right?

  25. your post is really awesome . Information about what is Negative SEO and How prevent from it? And best part of Article is the snap shot you have shared for readers are really very good.

  26. Hi Felix,
    Great post.Thanks for sharing such a great video of Matt Cutt.And yes negative seo can harm a site in many ways,specially by hacking a site.And from this wonderful I get an idea of stopping bad links to our site.

  27. Great post. I just launched our new website a few weeks back using a wordpress theme. I do blog on my site quite often and post to social media networks. I am using a site called webmeup to monitor my sites health as well as back link strategy. Your post is very informative especially post penguin Google. Thanks for the good read.

  28. Trying your suggestions to see what backlinks there are. Cheers!

  29. Are you sure,GWT sends indexing notifications also?
    I can’t find about Indexing notifications anywhere.

  30. HAHA! And who is responsible for this new Negative SEO??

    Not your competitors, it’s Google!!!!

    Why do Google alows Negative SEO?

  31. Maria Gonzales Mar 09, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    No guys, we should not clean up back link profiles and get back on Google’s good side. Google should repair the search engine algorithm.

    What a shame, the “best search engine in world Google” make it possible for negative SEO to work.

  32. Richard D. Howe Mar 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Sure it’s Google’s fault if someone can get your site down from the index. Anyway, I don’t use Google for over 2 years since they spy anywhere and everywhere and I don’t trust them. Using Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo is much better and secure for me and my familly.

  33. Google is now no long a search engine – Google is an advertising company which only the money is important. Google has a real dangerous monopoly and Google is much more dangerous than Microsoft ever was. Most webmaster started to hate Google.

    The search giant promotes its own Google Products pushing other businesses down on its page. This forces businesses & competitors to pay Google for his AdWord ($35 billion in 2011 revenue).

    More and more small business websites will get punished by Google (no matter whether your websites has excellent content or not) and will be forced to use Google’s Adwords.

  34. Douglas Brown Mar 12, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    The point is that Google are becoming the Internet Police.

    I had a legitimate web business destroyed by Google one year ago for no other reason than what it considers ‘black hat seo’ which I had no clue about nor any involvement with. Google acted as judge and jury. Google being able to indiscriminately penalise SME’s without proper due diligence.

    Remember, Google have the content of the ENTIRE internet and power full link- and relation computation at their disposal.
    They use whois info, cookies, domain owner info, links, logged history, refferer data, e-mail, profile names, website titles etc. to look at relations between links.

    Douglas M. Brown
    Walpole, MA 02081

  35. Thanks for this post, I was looking for a good explanation of Negative SEO to show to a client who I now believe is under attack. Everything was here and you reiterated what I said to my client: “Prevention is much easier than cure!”.

  36. Everything in life has a system, and every system can be beat. We had a legitimate website destroyed by Google for no other reason. Google acted as judge and jury to discriminating without proper due diligence.

  37. Hi Felix,

    I have read entire blog post and come to know about few solution which may help me to save my website during Negative SEO. Here, I want to share my experience and live data regarding Negative SEO.

    Someone is creating bad inbound linkd to my website. And, I come to know about it via Google webmaster tools.

    Honestly, We have implemented certain solutions like Google disavow tool, contact to certain websites and many more.

    But, I can see certain impact on organic visits. Organic visits are going down since last two months.

    And, I am thinking, These bad inbound links are behind it.

    You can visit following URLs to know more about it. Can you please share your experience on it? How can we save my website from Negative SEO?

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxyEDFdgDN-iR0xMd2FHeVlzYVU/edit

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxyEDFdgDN-iMEtneXU1YmhWX2s/edit?usp=sharing

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxyEDFdgDN-iSzNXdEJRdVJJVGM/edit?usp=sharing

  38. As matt cutts explained that there will not be much importance given to guest post links, so is that negative SEO thing still gonna work? I guess there will be some impact of this agorithm on negative seo also.

  39. Yes, thanks for explaining about negative SEO. What if my competitor does negative SEO on my website? Is there any way that I can hide my backlinks from my competitor?

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