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How to identify a negative SEO campaign

Giorgia Schiappadori

Identifying a negative SEO campaign is not as simple as it might seem, this article will help you evaluate if your website has been affected by a negative SEO, so you can understand how to solve the problem affecting you.

In fact, the first necessary step is to understand that you have been affected by a negative SEO campaign. First, you need to fully understand what this negative SEO is.

Negative SEO refers to actions taken by third parties to adversely affect the search engine positioning of a specific URL, i.e. a specific site or page. Google claims to have security measures in place to identify and stop this type of campaign, so it assumes no responsibility for any negative tactics that could circumvent their security network, but encourage those who consider themselves victims to contact the webmaster of the site that is damaging you.

Communication is always beneficial, but even in this case?

Identifying a negative SEO campaign is possible

Negative SEO was born in 2012 with the introduction by Google of an anti spam algorithm called Penguin, which penalizes websites with many unnatural backlinks. Not only the receiving site, but also the one from which links considered unnatural started. Here are some tips to identify whether or not you are a victim of a negative campaign.

Google speaks to you, listen to him

Google is not evil, on the contrary, it does its best to keep the quality of your website high. If it sends you error messages and you’re not the one making the mistakes, then someone is probably making them intentionally.

The message box in the Google Search Console is one of the first places you will want to check if you think there is something wrong with your site. It is essential to always have control of this tool.

If you’ve had a sudden drop in traffic, investigate harder

If you have not opted for major changes in your site, the drop in traffic is probably due to external factors.

Be sure to check your site’s Analytics regularly so you can quickly identify a drop in search traffic before it gets too bad. With Google Analytics you can check for a drop right away, so always try to set it correctly and get help from someone experienced.

If the drop involves keywords

Even in the case of a drop in the main keywords there is always great attention to be paid. If one or more of your keywords have dropped significantly in the ranking, there is probably something wrong.

Use a reliable tool to keep track of keyword classification. It is not only good SEO practice, but it helps especially in case of a negative attack.

Try to get to know your site in depth. Being aware of blocked links that are not displayed is always a good move.

Some websites block tools as Moz or Ahrefs from crawling, however, relying on Google Search Console and Google Analytics may be able to identify this type of link.

In Google Search Console, there is a backlink report that provides all links to your website according to Google, the only obstacle is that you need to manually check links that look suspicious. With Google Analytics you can extrapolate the referral traffic report to see which sites might direct users to your website.

Deceptive redirects

You have a redirect when you move a web page from one domain to another. It is possible to change the domain name of a content without changing the ranking on search engines. However, there are negative examples of using this practice: for example, if a website banned for spam were redirected to your site, it could inherit their bad reputation. This penalty in SERP also occurs if a spam site mentions your site, alone or with other spam sites.

If you should notice a spike in your backlinks, or a significant change in their quality, this could be a sign of a negative SEO campaign.

Using a tool that allows you to monitor a backlink campaign is essential. Choose one with alerts to be able to quickly identify any problems. For example, if you get a notification that you’ve suddenly received hundreds of new links, they’re likely to damage your site.

If, on the other hand, there is a sharp drop in backlinks, you should pay attention. If you should notice that some valuable links you have earned are falling, it is very important to investigate and find out why. In fact, negative SEO also includes the request to remove links. If a link has been removed recently, quickly contact that website asking for a reason.

What is content scraping?

Content scraping happens when someone takes your original content and republishes it identically on another site, a method to attack you with a negative SEO. In case you notice this, you can ask the website hosting your content to add “noindex” at the page level.

Google, in fact, chooses only one version among those present to provide users in the search results, and it may not be yours, so it is necessary to avoid duplication of content.

Watch out for anchor text

Links with an anchor text (i.e. the word on which you click to get to the link) optimised on a commercial keyword are often synonymous with negative links, especially if the same commercial text is widespread on the web.


In conclusion, what we recommend is to know and learn where to find the features of your site, to keep it under control and to avoid unpleasant episodes such as negative SEO.