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Negative SEO

The Negative SEO is the practice of implementing SEO measures that target the devaluation of other websites by search engines like Google. In the worst case, negative SEO can lead to exclusion from the search engine index. Theoretically, it is an offense if malicious SEO is being intentionally practiced. However, the chance of identifying those responsible for negative SEO is quite low.


Negative SEO techniques include any action that violates Google's webmaster guidelines. If you were to collect a list of the opposites of each directive, you would have a complete list of negative SEO examples:

  • Spamming: Massive configuration of backlinks through link farms always using the same anchor text.
  • Causing a bad neighborhood: Links only to spam sites, such as in the area of illegal gambling, pornography or loans.
  • Creation of duplicate content: the content of a web page can be copied, multiplied to the extreme and reused on the web. This manipulative technique is also called content scraping; However, in this circumstance it is not used for the supposed improvement of its own positioning, but to directly damage another website.
  • Spamming with forum links: automated configuration of links to forums or blogs, repeatedly using the same link text, such as a keyword, over and over again.
  • Damage to fame: Manipulation of the autocomplete function by a kind of bombardment of Google that causes an increase in searches for a particular store in combination with an additional word of negative connotation like "fraud" or "prison". Fame can be further undermined by fake press releases that provide content that discredits the website in question. Site attackers can also create a lot of negative comments on commenting sites.
  • Use of the text of the link with the URL of the respective website: In this circumstance, the site could be discredited as a brand in search engines if these direct links to fraudulent websites.
  • Hacking the robots.txt file, thus preventing the crawler from visiting other content on the page. A hacker exploits the vulnerabilities of a website, such as login forms, and gains access to the backend or, worse still, directly to the server.
  • Hacking of the web page and the insertion of the metadata noindex, nofollow through the entire web.

This list does not contain instructions for negative SEO. It basically provides a summary of the possible actions. Any SEO or search engine optimizer who wants to use negative SEO to harm a competitor should be aware that negative SEO can be considered defamation and thus can be punished.

Any energy invested in negative SEO would be of much better use if it were invested in positive SEO measures for your website.

Recognize negative SEO

Even though search engine indexing speed has increased significantly, for example through Google Caffeine, SEO measures always require a certain amount of time before the effect is visible in the SERP. This fact also applies to negative SEO. For this reason, deliberate SEO damage is often detected very late. However, you can come to definitive conclusions regarding negative SEO through regular reporting of important KPIs such as visibility, domain popularity, and link profile.

Yes monitor key metrics At specific intervals, you will be able to detect changes more quickly, identify the problem accordingly and, if necessary, take corrective action. For example, a duplicate content checker can be used to detect duplicate content.

Danger potential

Newer websites can be more easily influenced by negative SEO. The reason for this is that new websites have far fewer inbound links and thus do not have the requisite trust signals compared to older, heavily linked projects. At the same time, online stores tend to be more affected than informational websites. Likewise, the most competitive sectors are more vulnerable than the niches. One might assume that wherever a lot of money can be made on the Internet with SEO, the greatest potential danger of becoming a victim of negative SEO also exists. According to Google, a site will not lose positions or be removed from the index due to negative SEO.


Even though there is a consensus in the SEO scene that negative SEO can do little harm if you do a thorough job of healthy linking, there are still some actions that can be taken if you suspect adverse SEO activities:

  • Google rejection: Google provides a tool in the Google Search Console to invalidate inbound links.
  • Contact the operators from applicable sites and require them to remove spam links.
  • Creation of trust signals through link building with quality content.
  • Preventive care for strong domain popularity, healthy link structure, and clean OnPage optimization.

Examples that have been made public

In 2011, an online wooden toy retailer was blackmailed by strangers. They used so-called "bad links" to harm the company and demanded money to stop the actions. The blackmailer linked many terms from the spam environment to the store, such as Viagra or pornography. At the same time, more than 500 user profiles of the forums were used to link from there to the store. The online store lost up to 75 percent of its revenue due to loss of visibility in the Google search engine.

In 2013, a Berlin-based online cigar store received public attention after it was discovered that many malicious links had been placed on the store's web portal. In this circumstance, the attacker apparently used the effect of the Google Penguin update to initiate negative SEO using anchor texts that contained only the keyword 'money'.

Importance for SEO

Negative SEO not only affects the victim financially and creates moral damage, but also contributes to debunk search engine optimization usually. At the same time, negative SEO exposes the vulnerability of search engine providers. Search engine operators simply want to curb spam and provide users with the best possible search results, not tampered with, through major algorithmic changes, such as Google's Penguin update. However, criminals can exploit this powerful anti-spam tool for actions in the negative SEO arena. Therefore, Google has an appropriate tool for the devaluation of backlinks, the denial tool. But it can take weeks for the devaluation of the links to have a positive effect on the positioning of a website. Meanwhile, online stores continue to lose revenue. Negative SEO illustrates once again how dependent ecommerce sites are primarily on Google and how fragile rankings can be. Webmasters should test their websites even more thoroughly to respond to possible changes immediately. Search engine providers like Yandex (according to their own statements) use special algorithms to detect negative SEOs.

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