How Can You Tell If You’ve Got Negative SEO?

In any field, there will be unscrupulous people who use underhanded tactics to get ahead. The web is no different, especially where search engine optimization is concerned. There exists a ton of black hat SEO tactics that people try to use to get ahead.

Most of them don’t work.

See, even if Google isn’t keen on sharing exactly how their algorithms work, they’ve made no secret of the fact that they’re committed to stamping out spam wherever it surfaces. Updates such as the one made to the Penguin algorithm in 2012 were specifically aimed at penalizing sites that engaged in strategies like manipulative link building.

Moreover, Google itself has said in the past that there’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm someone’s SEO.

So…that’s it, right? Google said you’re safe, so there’s nothing to worry about? Not exactly.

Even though negative SEO is incredibly rare, it is still something you should pay attention to. Left unchecked, it can do some serious damage to your PageRank. The good news is that it’s quite easy to defend against the most common tactics.


  • Pay attention to where your traffic is coming from. Use a tool like SEO Spyglass to check for links that come from spammy sites such as link farms. When you find bad links use the Google Disavow Tool to ensure they don’t harm your ranking.
  • Use spam protection on comments. Although the relationship between comments and SEO is still somewhat up in the air, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A tool like Akismet can, if you’ve enabled comments, ensure you avoid the lion’s share of spambots and malicious individuals.
  • Ensure you’ve got a strong username and password combination. Use a password strength checker to determine how easily-hackable your password might be, and make sure your username for your site is neither the default nor your display name. This will protect you against the vast majority of on-page negative SEO, all of which require someone to obtain unauthorized access to your site’s backend.  
  • Monitor your site. Are you experiencing performance issues? Unusual network traffic? Sign-in difficulties? These could all be signs your site’s been compromised.


Negative SEO might not be the boogeyman some make it out to be, but it does exist. There are plenty of people out there who’ll try anything to get ahead – including using such underhanded tactics. Fortunately, so long as you’re aware of the most common negative SEO strategies, you can rather easily defend yourself against them.

Either way, you probably shouldn’t lose much sleep over the matter – just focus on building a great website, and you’ll be just fine.