Search Engine Deoptimization and Negative SEO:
How It Works

Search Engine Deoptimization and Negative SEO: How It Works
SEO has evolved dramatically to become one of the most powerful tools to launch and grow a brand

Over the years, search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved dramatically to become one of the most powerful tools to launch and grow a brand. Every good marketer and business owner has SEO in their toolkit. There is no single strategy that guarantees a 100% success rate in SEO. Hence, it is a combination of proven techniques that will propel your brand on top of the search results.

It’s not easy to climb up to Google. Hence, many gamble on more improper methods to be on the top. They undertake strategies that would damage another website or its competitor. Call it the push and shove tactic. If you ever find yourself in this dilemma, then you are most likely a victim of negative SEO.

What is Negative SEO a.k.a. Search Engine Deoptimization?

Negative SEO is using techniques that are against search engine guidelines. It aims to destroy a competitor’s website rankings in the search results. These practices are unethical and can come in many forms:

Hacking your website

Hacking your website

Building thousands of spammy links to your website

Building thousands of spammy links to your website

Copying your content and distributing it all over the internet

Copying your content and distributing it all over the internet

Pointing links to your site using keywords like Viagra, poker online, and many others

Pointing links to your site using keywords like Viagra, poker online, and many others

Creating fake social profiles and ruining your reputation online

Creating fake social profiles and ruining your reputation online

Removing the best backlinks your site has

Removing the best backlinks your site has

How Negative Off-Page
SEO works

Negative Off-Page SEO targets the site without interfering with it in any way. Most commonly, it implies manipulating the site's backlinks or externally duplicating its content.

Link farms - Generally, a single spammy link, even if it's sitewide, wouldn't be able to shatter a site's rankings. This is regardless of how many quality links it held before. That's why negative SEO involves links from a group of sites or link farms. A link farm is a hub of interconnected websites. Starting as somewhat of a Grey Hat technique, nowadays almost only Black Hat. These sites used to link to each other to increase the link popularity of each site's pages.

Scrapers - Falsifying duplicate content. It involves scraping your site's content and then copying it to other websites. Sometimes, even as part of the link farms discussed above.

Fake reviews - Like good quality links, good reviews mean a lot. An influx of negative ones isn't just bad for local search engine rankings; it's bad for business. You see. reviews are relatively easy to manipulate, and they may be the first thing a jealous competitor will try to do.

Heavy crawling - This Black Hat SEO trick involves forcefully crawling the site which results in heavy server load. It may slow down the site or even crash it altogether. If search engines can't access a website when it's down, you'll lose some crawl budget there. If this happens a few times in a row, you might get de-ranked.

Click fraud - Clicks are a controversial signal in the SEO spot. Some real-life experiments show that a high click rate on a link can boost rankings. On the flip side, a low CTR will get a site de-ranked.

Altering your content

This tactic can be very subtle and difficult to spot. It involves adding spammy content (and links) to a website.

Getting the site de-indexed

A change in robots.txt is a straightforward alteration that could wreak havoc on your entire SEO strategy. A disallow rule is all it takes to signal Google to completely ignore your essential pages or even the whole website.

Modifying Redirects

- A possible adverse SEO scenario is someone changing your pages to redirect to theirs. It doesn't pose a threat to most small businesses. But, if your site enjoys high authority and link popularity, then it could be someone's sneaky way to increase their own site's PageRank. They simply redirect visitors to their website when they try to access yours.

Hacking your site (In general)

- Even if the attacker has no negative SEO in mind, a hacker attack per se can hurt your SEO. Google wants to protect its users and will take a dim view of any site which is hosting malware (or linking to sites which do). That's why if they suspect hacking on a website, they may de-rank your site, or at the very least, add a "this site may be hacked" line to your search listings.

Negative SEO attacks, in essence, do not affect how a website looks. Instead, it affects a website’s performance and how the search engine sees it based on its algorithm. Dealing with negative SEO is tricky because some techniques are just hard to detect — some spiral out of control.

Negative SEO Vendors

An entire industry has spawned around negative SEO. Based on the top search results for entities that promote negative SEO, here’s a look at some of the most popular negative SEO vendors:

Buy Negative SEO

BNS is a small team of professionals dedicated to helping clients achieve results online. They provide on-demand negative SEO packages for those seeking a large number of low-quality backlinks.

They offer on-demand positive SEO packages that are available for instant order. More so, BNS provides an online reputation management service that deals with realized threats and potential online risks.

Negative SEO Expert

The team offers services ranging from White Hat SEO to Black Hat SEO. No specific prices are visible on the webpage. Rather, it highlights ways on how to contact the vendor for any requests you may have on SEO.

Negative SEO Services

The website promotes different Fiverr users who have a reputation in providing thousands of SEO backlinks.

Generating several backlinks for a website in a quick time will negatively affect the site’s ranking. It summarizes the details of each user, their experiences, specifications of the services they offer and where to reach them.

eSEO Marketplace

This website doesn’t say much except for the offer of providing GSA Backlinks for a specific amount. This depends on the number of backlinks you prefer to deliver to the competitor that you want to be de-ranked.

The two prices are $29.00 and $97.00 for 100k and 1M backlinks generated in the promised timeline of 5-7 calendar days

Negative SEO Guy

The platform claims to employ a number of tactics that involve some serious linking strategies. With cutting-edge methodologies, their clients are their priority, and their results are incredible.

They provide customized services on positive SEO, reputation management, negative SEO services, or recovery from negative SEO services.

The Most Famous Negative SEO
Case Studies

A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO

The case study follows the experience of the Author (Yonatan Dotan), head of SEO at yellowHEAD, an online marketing agency. One of their clients is a company called Ginger Software. Ginger has a set of context-sensitive grammar and spell-check tools integrated with e-mails, browsers, Microsoft Office, and more.

When they began working with Ginger, they were in an excellent state from an SEO perspective. In fact, their site has an Alexa ranking of around 7,000. He then received an email with a notice from Google that had a site-wide manual penalty for unnatural inbound links.

Organic traffic dropped by a whopping 94% and was dreadful for a website that gets 66% of its traffic from Google-based organic search. When analyzing Ginger’s backlinks, they got to see the kinds of links created because of this strategy.

It turns out that it’s a page on a fishing forum about Zebra Mussels. Someone got confused and called them Zebra Muscles. A veteran user corrected them by linking to Ginger’s page about muscle vs. mussel. As they dug deeper into Ginger’s backlinks, they quickly began to find the problem.

Ginger had recently accrued a large number of extremely spammy links. linked to from random pages on dozens of different websites in clearly spun articles about pornography, pharmaceuticals, gambling, and more.

Spammers created these articles using programs that automatically build links. Ginger was not the victim of negative SEO but caught in the crossfire of some spammers trying to promote their websites

Case Study: Negative SEO Recovery

After years of robust, steady growth, search traffic dropped abruptly by roughly 70%. Assuming this was due to a technical issue, we performed a variety of diagnostics to no avail.

It wasn’t until we checked the site’s backlink profile on Majestic that we discovered a massive influx of links from irrelevant and low-quality sites that come from China and Russia. According to Majestic, the links started appearing roughly six weeks before the drop in traffic.

This pattern is the hallmark of a negative SEO attack. This happens when an evil competitor deliberately directs a large volume of extremely low-quality links at a website for the sole purpose of invoking a Google penalty.

A Negative SEO Case Study: How To Spot An Attack & Fix It

Jellyfish’s search rankings about several comparative SEO agencies were trending in 2014. The decline occurred following Google's Penguin 3.0 update. This sought to penalize low-quality backlinks.

A closer analysis of the company’s backlink profile reveals that there was a sudden spike of links in October and then again in November. Data pulled from Cognitive SEO shows that from the beginning of August to October, there was hardly any suspect link activity.

Still, in October, there was a sudden spike with more than 1,700 new links identified as unnatural or suspect. Analysis of the suspect links showed that these comments appear in thousands of websites.

It's a tactic known as ‘comment spamming,’ whereby the guilty party uses spamming software to quickly repost thousands of links in the comments section on different blogging sites. Cognitive SEO’s backlink tool showed that the attack targeted Jellyfish’s SEO training page.

Jellyfish had to upload them to the Google Disavow tool. All the dodgy links are now removed or disavowed, but the recovery process isn’t a quick fix.

Though the attack was quickly identified and fixed on the spot, Verrall said he would need to wait until the next Penguin update to check the site's recovery status.

Search Engine Optimization—Black and White Hat Approaches

Today, the first stop for many people who are looking for information or shopping online are the major search engines. So, appearing on top of the search results has become increasingly important.

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves the manipulation of website characteristics and incoming links to improve a site's ranking in the search engines for specific search terms.

SEO methods that stay within the guidelines laid out by the major search engines are “white hat,” while those that violate the guidelines are “black hat.” Black hat sites may face penalties or banned by the search engines.

However, many of the tools and techniques used by “black hat” optimizers may also be helpful in “white hat” SEO campaigns. Black hat SEO approaches are examined and compared with white hat methods.

Negative SEO Case Study: Process Of Recognition And Recovery

We never had a case of negative SEO before. So, we didn’t know that this client was a victim of it when we began to work on his project.

Maybe that’s the reason why it was so successful – we treated it like any project before. We are prospecting backlinks from different sources like Google, Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic, and LinkDetox. A variety of tools promises us that we’ll get all links.

After we collect links, we sort them out to get unique ones. For this project, we found 370 backlinks. I was looking for links and noticed a considerable number of low quality, spammy comments.

There were 112 of them or 30% of all backlinks, to be exact. We found four different anchor texts for those comments. Most of the authoritative, high-quality blogs issue warnings on visitors on their privacy policies to not use ‘payday loan’ keyword on their sites.

Also, in 2014, Google released Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0, and the goal was to target some of the most spammy keywords, and one of them was, you are guessing, ‘payday loan.’

Even if the anchor text was different, those comments could cause a penalty due to spamming. Not only are those kinds of links/comments wrong but this also goes to sites that allow that kind of spamming. Disavowing them is the only logical option.

Negative SEO with No Backlinks? (A Case Study)

After Penguin, SEOs have become more focused on building links. Apart from that, they work double-time in protecting clients from dangerous links.

Now, they will have to be even more vigilant. Linkless Negative SEO is hazardous. This has the potential of becoming one of the worst things that could happen to the industry.

Negative SEO used to be firing up xRumer and shooting bad links to sites. It was a lousy way of doing business, but it was easy to spot and clear how to combat it. I am still disavowing thousands of links per week for some of my customers.

Finding and disavowing bad links is time-consuming. Call it a necessary evil. Yet, fixing all these user experience issues is much more complicated. Plus, it’s virtually undetectable. Unless you know what to look for, most people would never know what was happening.

In the face of this new threat, SEOs need to be more proactive. They need to be on full alert when checking for Linkless Negative SEO if they want to thrive online.

How Does Negative SEO work
with Local SEO?

How Does Negative SEO work with Local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of improving online presence when users search in a particular area. It aims to attract more users to your website from relevant local searches. Google is the most popular search engine people use. But, some also use Bing, Yelp, and Apple Maps.

Local SEO is an effective way to advertise your business. Compared to ranking for general terms such as ‘how to fix a broken cabinet,’ local SEO works on user intent. In using search terms ‘near me’ or ‘location,’ search engines like Google would understand that the user is looking for suggestions based on location. It comes up in the search engine results pages - ideas or lists based on a user’s location. Some businesses use local SEO together with standard SEO.

Four out of five consumers use search engines to find local information using their smartphones and computers. If you want your business to stay relevant to searchers, do not ignore local SEO. Optimize your business for local search to avoid missing out on potential customers.

Localize your SEO by adding local information on the pages of your website. Use keywords that have geo-specific information on your website. Take advantage of Google Search Console by adding the country or region you want to target. By geo-targeting, there are higher chances of ranking on Google.

When optimizing your website, apply SEO best practices and avoid black hat techniques. Black hat SEO does not provide any value both for you and your customers. It can damage your website and cause it to get deindexed by search engines. Google has refined its algorithm and can now recognize unethical SEO tactics. As a result, Google can penalize your website. If you fail to take action to address this, it will remove your site from its index. Users will be unable to search for your website on Google.

Black Hat or unethical SEO practices can lead to a lower SERP ranking on your website or even de-listing it. In this case, the website remains searchable but suffers in search ranking relevance.

Fighting Against Negative SEO with Reputation Management

How do business owners or webmasters fight against negative SEO, then? Through online SEO reputation management.

Online Reputation Management (ORM) tracks search engine result pages (SERPs) and online mentions. This is in line with managing customer perceptions. It is a field of SEO that handles the restoration of the reputation of people and businesses online.

Managing your online reputation doesn’t rely on one tactic. It is a combination of preparation, prevention, and correct strategy to make an impact. According to Hilary Thompson, there are nine powerful tactics in reputation management SEO.


Craft unique content in-house

Time and again, creating unique and evergreen content has a significant impact on a website’s SEO. It is then important to write content pieces that are unique, data- or research-driven, and informative. Never settle for less, as this may cause a more negative impact on your website.


Personalize your brand

Leverage your brand by adding a personal touch to it. Services or products that are uncommon in your niche can help with your branding.


Respond to reviews

Be responsive to reviews, no matter how bad they are. Be grateful for good reviews as they are able to create an impact on your website. Clarify misinformation in reports politely so readers will get acquainted. Do apologize for bad reviews from valid customers who had a bad experience.


Concentrate on customer satisfaction

A customer is the driving force of any business. Therefore, customer satisfaction directly impacts your reputation and your website ranking. If a user spends a lot of time on your website, then Google sees this as a signal that your website delivers as promised. The result? Good reputation and higher ranking.


Conduct online PR

You can do online PR by pitching stories and distributing press releases. It builds your brand and increases your website’s quality backlinks. Remember to optimize the content you put out there for SEO.


Deal with copyright issues

To simply put it, Google removes search results because of copyright infringement. When you receive a DMCA notice, respond to it immediately to avoid any copyright infringement penalty.


Brand advertising

Organic SEO is a long-time investment, while paid advertising gives you immediate gains. Brand advertising puts you almost everywhere on the web, increasing your brand awareness.


Monitoring brand activities

Check and respond right away to your brand mentions. Boost your connections and improve user engagement by responding to positive mentions. But, you should also resolve negative mentions as soon as you can to prevent it from escalating.


Dealing with negative SEO attacks by competitors

How would you know you are dealing with negative SEO attacks? Red flags include a sudden drop in rankings, an influx of low-quality spammy links, or an unexpected manual penalty notice from Google. To counteract the effect, you will have to use Google’s disavow tool to disown the bad links.

Reputation management companies help businesses safeguard their reputation and fix the negative ones. A good online reputation can land you more customers. But, having a bad reputation can drive potential customers away. As a business owner, your online reputation will either make or break you. Some of the platforms that offer reputation management services are WebiMax for small business, for individuals, and Podium for review management.

Negative SEO via Backlinks Won't Work Forever: How to Use the Disavow Tool (Image source and Google Disavow Tool Link:

Negative SEO via Backlinks Won't Work Forever:
How to Use the Disavow Tool

Introduced in October of 2012, the disavow tool is Google's way of allowing you to ask Google not to count certain links that point to your site. You can find the tool here.

Disavow backlinks

If you have a manual action or could get one against your site for unnatural links, or if you think you're about to get such a manual action(because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try remove those links from the other site. If you can't get these links removed, then you should disavow those links to your website.

Google ensures that actions on third-party sites do not impact a website in a negative way. In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google’s opinion of a page or section. For example,you or a search engine optimizer(SEO) you've hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or pther link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. First and foremost, we recommend that your remove as many spammy or low-quality links from the web as possible.

Using the disavow tool incorrectly can hurt you. You should only be disavowing links that you know were made to manipulate Google's results.

Here are the steps on how to disavow backlinks based on
Google’s support site:

Step 0 Decide if this is necessary.

In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without extra guidance. So, most sites will not need to use this tool. You should disavow backlinks only if:

1. You have a large number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site
2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual operation on your website.

Step 1 Create a list of links to disavow.

You need to assemble your list of links to deny in a text file that you will upload to Google.

    Link file format:
  • • Specify one URL or domain to disavow per line. You cannot deny an entire subpath, such as
  • • To disavow a domain (or subdomain) prefix it with "domain:" such as
  • • The file must be a text file encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII
  • • The file name must end in .txt
  • • You can include comments for yourself by starting a line with a # mark. Google will ignore any lines that begin with #.
  • • To disavow sites in links report, click on the Export button to download data from the Links report. Be sure to remove any URLs from the downloaded file that you don't want to disavow.

Step 2 Upload your list.

  • • Go to the disavow links tool page.
  • • Select your website.
  • • Click Disavow links.
  • • Click Choose file and choose the file you created.
  • • It can take a few weeks for Google to process the information that you upload. Your list will integrate into our index as we recrawl the web and reprocess the pages that we see. (Disavowed links are in the Links report.)

Karma and Lost Productivity

Karma and Lost Productivity

If you're a small business owner who thinks Black Hat SEO is a goldmine - then you're wasting time.

In SEO, as in life, do unto others as you would want it done to you. Nothing good can come from shady business practices. You may be able to find short-term success through Black Hat techniques. But, the long-term value would always come from good SEO.

Even if negative SEO were valid, it wouldn’t be as effective as building positive links to your site. There are tons of ethical and intuitive strategies you can build upon to support your rank. Cost-effective strategies that are effective and would allow you to outrank the competition.

Black hat SEO tactics may bring quick results, but don’t aren't long-term. Google algorithms are more sophisticated now than ever. In fact, Google can punish you for your overuse of keywords and duplicable content. That’s why the best choice for your SEO strategy is white hat tactics. Even though it may take longer to see results, you’ll be able to improve on your page ranking. White hat SEO allows you to align your techniques to Google’s guidelines and best practices.

Black Hat SEO might help ramp up your site in less than a month. A lot of small business owners fall into this trap. Although black hat SEO marketers aren't scammers. They use illegitimate tactics to improve their site rankings - which is unethical. If for any reason, Google finds out that you use black hat SEO, it could ban or blacklist your site altogether.

Black Hat SEO is unethical and illegal. The search engine bans websites caught using black hat SEO strategies. More so, as there is no proper regulation in place, websites are prone to hacking. Online chatter involving negative opinions of the site wreaks havoc to website reputation.

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