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Magazines > Information Today > May/June 2020

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Information Today
Vol. 37 No. 4 — May/June 2020

Should We Fear Negative SEO?

by Kayla Matthews


“How to Identify a Possible Negative SEO Campaign”

“How to Protect Your Website From Negative SEO”


“Negative SEO: How to Identify and Recover From Intentional Bad Links and Spam”

“Negative SEO Is Not Your Problem”

Virtually all successful content marketers have SEO skills to rely on when preparing their content for distribution. The traditional form of SEO focuses on practical tactics to help your site rank higher in the results pages. However, marketers also have to look out for negative SEO, which happens when competitors do intentional things to harm your position in the rankings. Linking a site filled with spam, pornography, or malware to a competitor is one common method used by people employing negative SEO. Content scraping is another technique. It involves copying a competitor’s content verbatim and publishing it in numerous other places without permission. 


Dealing with the effects of what may be a negative SEO campaign starts with understanding the signs of one. According to “How to Identify a Possible Negative SEO Campaign,” by Adam Heitzman, some of the telltale signs to look for include abrupt decreases in search traffic, increases in backlinks over time, or a significant change in the quality level of backlinks. Google may even notify you that your site doesn’t abide by its Webmaster Guidelines.

However, noticing signs like these does not guarantee that someone launched a negative SEO campaign against you. An ideal approach to take is to monitor all of the metrics associated with SEO and your website. Check those statistics frequently, even if you are not actively worried about negative SEO problems. Having an ongoing familiarity with the measurements associated with your site makes you more aware of its general performance and lets you know if something is amiss. 


The threats posed by negative SEO tactics may make you feel helpless, mainly because it’s often impossible to identify the responsible parties. However, there are specific things you can do to reduce the chances of a negative SEO attack hitting your site. In “How to Protect Your Website From Negative SEO,” Neil Patel mentions that keeping track of your backlinks profile “is the most important action to take to prevent negative SEO spammers from succeeding.” Those who engage in negative SEO often hurt a site with low-quality links or redirects. Staying informed about backlink activity helps you take action before it is too late. You can also sign up to get email alerts and reports of backlink activity.

Cybersecurity is another essential aspect of prevention against negative SEO. If people have secure online infrastructures, it’s harder for hackers to embed malware on a site to aid in negative SEO efforts. If breaking into an online destination seems too time-consuming, the people involved may give up and look for easier victims. It’s also wise to check for duplicate content across the internet. Copyscape is a tool that allows users to paste URLs into a field to determine if they show up elsewhere besides on the original publisher’s site or an authorized syndication outlet. 


Now that you know about the signs and preventive efforts against SEO, you may wonder how likely it is you’ll deal with it in the future. According to WebFx’s “Negative SEO: How to Identify and Recover From Intentional Bad Links and Spam,” it’s important to keep in mind that “it takes a significant amount of time, resources, and ability to launch a negative SEO attack against another website.”

Google’s algorithms also make it difficult for negative SEO attacks to pay off for those who attempt them, Jill Kocher Brown reports in “Negative SEO Is Not Your Problem.” That’s because anyone can link to a site, even if doing so doesn’t make sense to the average person reading the content. Since Google’s system knows to overlook spammy links, it’s unlikely that a site practicing positive SEO will drop in the rankings due to negative SEO tactics. 


Negative SEO is a genuine problem, but it’s not something that should constantly occupy your mind. Knowing how to recognize and combat negative SEO is useful for defeating it. However, you should also remember that being proactive about high-quality SEO and site monitoring will help you more than any amount of worry.

Amy AffeltKAYLA MATTHEWS is a business technology and productivity writer whose work has been published on, Convince & Convert, HubSpot, and others. She’s been writing for 8 years and loves to learn new things. Matthews is also the owner and editor of Productivity Bytes ( and Productivity Theory ( To read more by Matthews, visit her blogs or follow her on Twitter (@KaylaEMatthews). Send your comments about this article to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks).