March 12, 2020

How to Detect A Negative SEO Campaign

A negative SEO campaign occurs when a malicious user attempts to negatively impact a company’s search engine rankings. These hackers are usually competing companies that are unable to rank high on their own accord. Rather than perfecting their own SEO approach, the black hats will attack competing brands in order to decrease their traffic and sales.

The key to fighting a negative SEO campaign is first determining if your website is a victim.

Warning messages from Google

Luckily, Google has preventive measures in place to identify and stop negative SEO campaigns before they cause detrimental damages. In order for websites to appear in search results, they must first meet Google’s intensive list of Quality Guidelines. If your website is utilizing techniques outside of these guidelines, the Google team will send you a warning message.

It is against Google guidelines to manipulate PageRank, the algorithm used by Google to rank websites in SERPs. This means using unnatural links, buying links, or participating in link schemes that would result in higher rankings.

If you receive a warning message from Google but have not taken any illicit actions, your company might be a victim of negative SEO campaigns.

Content plagiarism

Content scraping is one of the easiest and most common negative SEO tactics. It involves malicious users copying original content from your website and publishing it on other websites.

When done correctly, syndication can be beneficial to websites – as long as there is a link back to the original content. When used as a negative SEO attack, content scraping can be extremely detrimental. The original content that should have helped your websites rank first is now helping the hacker’s website.

A drop in individual keyword rankings

Per marketing best practices, brands should be keeping an eye on their keywords and rankings. Not only does this help companies remain as top listings, but can help identify a negative SEO campaign.

If there is a sudden decrease in a keyword’s ranking, a malicious user is likely attacking your standing in an effort to outrank you for that specific keyword.

Rapid increase or decrease in backlinks

Similar to keywords, businesses should also be monitoring backlinks for significant spikes or declines. A backlink is simply a link on another brand’s webpage that directs users back to your company’s website.

Backlinks are a completely normal occurrence – for example, they occur if your content has been referenced in someone’s blog and they want to give you credit. A steady fluctuation of backlinks is normal, but if your website gains hundreds overnight, this might be a problem. These are considered toxic backlinks and can severely damage a company’s SEO.

On the other hand, a sudden decline in the number of backlinks is just as concerning. Hackers will fake the identity of your company and ask other websites to delete the positive backlinks for your website.

If you would like more information about negative SEO campaigns, need help identifying or deterring negative SEO attacks, or other digital marketing services, please contact us at (410) 696-3305, email us at, or visit us on the web at

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