Negative SEO is always going to be around so long as there are people trying to scam the system. Unfortunately there are shady competitors out there who want to get ahead by bringing others down. Of course not all competitors stoop to this level (in fact most do not), so it’s not fair to assume that every poor link build back to your website is a result of negative SEO, but there are ways to make sure you know when to point fingers and take action. The sooner you can detect it the sooner you can stop it; and this is something that has transferred well into 2015.

What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO refers to when a competitor purposefully builds spammy or poor links pointing back to your website so that your SEO will suffer. In most situations this means going out and adding comments on poor quality forums or directories. In other cases, negative SEO actually comes in the form of paid SEO. Yes, you heard that right—sometimes shady competitors will pay for links on poor sites just to bring you down.

While these tactics are definitely the most popular forms of negative SEO, sometimes competitors take things one step further and can actually hack into your site and block the Google bots from indexing your content completely. It isn’t even out of the question for a competitor to create fake emails and try and get your good links taken down. Again this is rare, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

How to Detect and Remove Negative SEO

Back in 2012 Cutts created a video on negative SEO, which you can find here, where he talked about how few people succeed in negative SEO and only smaller niches need to be worried. Fast forward three years later and negative SEO is something more common. Companies have strategies in place to detect, remove, and then prevent negative SEO. It’s a part of doing business online today, so the sooner you can get any negative SEO under control the better.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Complete regular link audits.

By following the links that you build, you can identify the links that you earned naturally much easier. Technically speaking, a link that someone else builds for you, even if it was for negative SEO reasons, is a natural link. You didn’t build it, so that’s something that you’ll want to detect. I recommend visiting this article for more information about link audits.

The reason that link audits are so important is because sometimes, poor links are actually your own doing and not the doing of your competitors. You may have built a link a few years ago on a directory that used to be great but is now full of spam. It’s also possible that someone who is simply a fan of your business mentioned you on a poor website without even having any idea what negative SEO means. These are all links you want to be able to identify, and keeping a link audit will make this much easier.

  1. Talk with the editors of where you want links removed.

Once you find those poor links you’re going to want them removed. If you think that there is a chance that you are a victim of negative SEO, ask the editors when you reach out to get a link removed. Ask them if anyone reached out to them and asked to build the link or pay to have the link on their website. In many cases they’ll tell you and then you can start to form conclusions about who may be trying to bring you down.

  1. Use the Google Disavow Links Tool.

This is Google’s response to possible negative SEO, and it’s a good one. Use this tool to let Google know which links you do not want associated with your website. This helps to put the control back in your hands and decreases the effectiveness of negative SEO in general. You can find the tool here.

The Takeaway

Even in 2015 it’s not overly common that you get hit with negative SEO. This does not mean that it’s not important you be on the lookout and aware that it exists, it just means it isn’t something to stress over too much. Chances are people do not have the time to spend on negative SEO, especially thanks to the disavow tool. If you are hit by negative SEO, the great thing is that you can detect it early and pull out of the problem pretty quickly if you know what to look for (aka, the tips mentioned in this article).

Have you ever been a victim of negative SEO? Let us know your story and your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below.