Google Updates, SEO
Negative SEO: Google Ignores Negative Backlinks
By: Dileep Thekkethil
Updated On: December 14, 2022
A negative SEO attack is something that almost all SEOs are worried about. There are agencies that concentrate on building negative backlinks to competitor websites of their clients to get an undue advantage. But with Google now being sophisticated enough, will these shady practices affect a genuine site?
According to a recent Twitter interaction that John Mueller had with a confused webmaster, these practices are easily picked up by Google Algorithms and ignored.
The subject of discussion occurred when a webmaster received a threatening email that said the website will be put under a negative SEO attack if the website doesn’t buy some of the products.
The email that looks outright spammy, was asking the webmaster for confirmation on his decision on buying the product. At one point in the email, it’s written: “I’ll start building a lot of spammy backlinks to your domain to kill your website off.”
Is there any thing to worry for me? received today, I have got from an other person as well about 2 months ago.
— 90shopping Co LLC (@90shoppingco) October 13, 2019
The worried webmaster tweeted John asking whether he has to worry. “Is there anything to worry for me? received today, I have got from another person as well about 2 months ago.”
“That’s just spam — you can ignore it.” John’s initial response to this.
No. We just ignore links like that. At most, it keeps them busy doing useless things, rather than improving their business. That's good for you, too bad for them :-).
— John Mueller is mostly not here 🐀 (@JohnMu) October 13, 2019
He also tagged the twitter handle of the website that supposedly sent the email and asked them to “cut it out.”
In a latter tweet, John was asked by the Webmaster specifically whether a site will get affected by these negative SEO tactics.
“No. We just ignore links like that. At most, it keeps them busy doing useless things, rather than improving their business. That’s good for you, too bad for them :-),” John replied.
John’s reply is an indication that websites that follow such shady practices may suffer from their rankings in the future. Since a majority of such emails are marked as spam by the receiver, Google gets a clear indication of how to deal with such sites.
Also, if you feel your website has been targeted for negative SEO attack, especially using spammy backlinks, you always have an option to disavow them using your search console.
However, John has confirmed several times Google recognizes these negative backlinks, and it ignores them. In most cases, SEOs need not have to do anything.
What is Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is the process of using black hat SEO practices on target websites to get them penalized by Google. Negative SEO can be practiced to reduce or disable a website’s SEO properties. Finding negative SEO practices on a website and tackling them can be quite tricky since they aren’t easy to detect. The effects of negative SEO can only be detected when a website dips in its search ranking and organic traffic.
Types of Negative SEO
People perform negative SEO in multiple ways. Here is a look at the most common types of negative SEO out there.
Hacking a Website
Website hacking is one of the most expensive SEO tactics. However, people resort to it when they are determined to bring down a site’s ranking.
If your website is hacked, you lose control of it.
Once an attacker hijacks your website, they can do anything that affects your site’s performance. That’s a negative SEO attack.
The attack can range anywhere from spamming your site with duplicate or low-quality content to injecting toxic backlinks.
In the worst-case scenario, hackers can even modify your robots.txt file in such a way that Google bots ignore your site completely. In such a case, no crawling will happen.
Building Spammy Backlinks to Your Site
Creating low-quality, spammy backlinks pointing to your website is another common type of negative SEO.
Backlinks are a critical Google ranking factor.
While high-quality, contextual backlinks strengthen your backlink profile and help you get higher rankings, spammy backlinks from low-quality sites bring you a penalty.
A single spammy backlink to a site won’t alter its rankings much. That’s why people use link farms to create a negative SEO effect on the target site.
If Google finds out that the backlinks pointing to your site are from link farms, the search engine perceives that you participated in a link scheme.
That’s a violation of Google’s Guidelines and the search engine giant will punish you by imposing a penalty.
Penalized sites typically rank lower. Or even worse, Google will remove you from its search results so that it doesn’t show up for user queries at all.
Content scraping is a serious negative SEO tactic that can harm your website’s credibility and online discoverability.
Original content is a must-have to showcase your expertise and boost your site’s authority. But what if someone steals your originality?
That’s exactly what content scraping is about.
It involves creating copies of content on your site and publishing it on multiple sites, often PBNs.
Wait. But isn’t Google smart enough to rank the original version and ignore the rest? It is, in most cases.
However, if the original content isn’t indexed yet and Google finds one of the copies before it discovers the original version, it is likely to rank the one the crawlers locate first.
That’s why scrapers often target newly published content for duplication.
Fake Negative Reviews
Positive reviews complement your business online. On the other hand, negative reviews can hurt your online reputation.
That said, spreading fake negative reviews about your business is one of the first things your competitors are likely to do.
So, how do they execute it?
Your jealous competitors may flood your website and social media pages with fake negative reviews.
No one wants to buy products or services from sites with a majority of negative reviews, right?
That way, these fake negative reviews can affect your traffic flow and conversion rate, especially if you don’t pay timely attention to them.
But again, Google is now improving its detection of fake reviews. Recently, Google removed millions of fake reviews from Google Maps.
Fake Requests to Remove Backlinks
Industry players who intend to beat you on the grounds of backlinks will want to weaken your backlink profile.
Such people may indulge in unfair practices to remove your backlinks from external websites.
They may get in touch with webmasters in your disguise or pretend to be a representative of your agency and ask them to remove backlinks to your site.
The more the number of backlinks you lose, the weaker your backlink profile will become. This may pull your website down in SERPs ultimately.
What if I told you negative SEO could crash your website altogether?
This can happen if your site is forcefully crawled to fuel heavy server loads.
Heavy crawling can slow down your website and may result in a crash. Also, if this keeps happening, you will end up losing your credibility online.
How to Detect and Secure Your Website Against Negative SEO Attacks
Now that you know the potential ways negative SEO can hit your website, it’s time to figure out how you can detect negative SEO attacks and fortify your website against them.
Leverage the Google Search Console Email Alerts
Google can send you alerts on your website being attacked, your pages not being indexed, search engine penalties, server connectivity issues and more.
The Google Search Console is your trump card.
From the Search Console, you can manage your email notifications by clicking User Settings —> Email preferences.
This way, you can monitor your site and dodge negative SEO attacks, especially if you identify them at an early stage.
Check Your Backlink Profile
As I mentioned earlier, attackers who want to weaken your backlink profile will create toxic links pointing to your profile.
Again, Google’s John Mueller affirms that Google recognizes such malicious backlinks and ignores them.
However, doing things within your powers to eliminate toxic backlinks can help you create an extra layer of protection and maintain a healthy link profile.
So, how do you fight these spammy link attacks?
I suggest using tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer to monitor your backlinks.
If you see a big difference in your backlink pattern, a sudden spike in your backlinks, for example, take a closer look at it.
If the increase in your backlinks is the aftermath of publishing kickass content or initiating marketing campaigns, it’s good.
On the contrary, if you find malicious backlinks, create a list of those links and submit it to Google’s disavow tool.
Secure Your Admin Login
Again, hackers are another great threat to your credibility online.
But how do you prevent this havoc?
Hackers need access to some kind of admin login information to hijack your site. That said, you have to fortify your site with advanced levels of security.
This way, it will be a herculean task for scammers to hack your site and manipulate it from within.
Sometimes, website hacks may not be within the power of webmasters to stop. However, if you can spot early signs of infiltration, you can still save your site.
Perform sitewide audits from time to time to identify toxic elements and weed them out before they spread across your site.
Remove Low-Quality Backlinks
What if one of your referring domains is penalized?
Google may not find that site impressive anymore and may even have brought down its authority score considerably.
That means the quality of your backlink from that site may not be the same anymore.
When Google finds that a penalized site vouches for you, it may turn a suspicious eye toward your site too.
That’s why it is essential to audit your backlinks regularly and remove the bad ones.
Once you jot down low-quality backlinks to your site, contact corresponding webmasters and request them to remove your backlinks from their sites.
This will probably get the issue sorted out. In case you don’t see any action taken, feel free to disavow your bad backlinks.
Safeguard Against Fake Link Removal Requests
Your backlink analysis data helps you identify the number of backlinks you have lost within a specific time frame.
If you find your quality backlinks removed or see a sharp increase in the number of lost links, fake link removal requests may be the culprit.
If you suspect some shady practice is going on, get in touch with website owners who have removed your backlinks and ask why they’ve removed them.
This way, you can find out if someone has sent fake link removal requests pretending to be you.
Even if some webmasters have reasons for link removal, a genuine email pitch can help you regain your lost backlinks.
Does Negative SEO Still Happen?
Google has become a lot smarter with a lot of algorithm updates happening over the years, and it can detect negative SEO attacks.
However, negative SEO will still happen as long as there are businesses that indulge in unfair practices to crush their competitors online.
Negative SEO may not be the reason behind every time your website sees a drop in rankings. However, there’s nothing wrong with being on guard at all times.
Negative SEO can happen both internally and externally.
Doing SEO the wrong way can affect your website’s rankings and result in negative SEO. That’s how negative SEO occurs internally.
If someone works from the outside to ruin things for your site using the above mentioned tactics, that’s negative SEO happening externally.
No matter if a negative SEO attack comes from within or outside, it will affect your site’s health and its SERP positions.
That’s why you must fight against SEO attacks targeting your site.
Why Would Someone Commit Negative SEO?
Negative SEO is carried out by people with the motive to sabotage a competitor’s website, extort money illegally or just to have fun by creating trouble for them. However, there are also chances of negative SEO happening unintentionally. These cases prevail when website owners involve in black hat SEO practices to improve their website ranking quickly.
Is Google Doing Anything About Negative SEO?
As I said earlier, Google constantly keeps upgrading its algorithms to catch and prevent negative SEO attempts. However, they can’t be 100% transparent about what is happening in the backend.
Just like webmasters and professional SEOs, hackers out there will also be waiting to know that so that they can find loopholes in it to mess around with websites.
Despite maintaining secrecy, Google has made some things public to help webmasters to protect their sites from spam attacks.
The disavow links feature we discussed above is a good example.
Negative SEO is a huge threat to your website’s health. If you don’t take action at the earliest, it will eat up all your SEO efforts and pull down your website in the SERPs.
Now that you know how dangerous it is, make sure you spend some time on a regular basis to check for negative SEO on your site and resolve issues as soon as possible.
Need help optimizing your website the right way and securing it against negative SEO attacks? Connect with us.