Negative SEO


What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO or Google Bowling is the practice of employing black hat SEO techniques against other websites, in an effort to get them penalised and lower their ranking in SERPs.

Why Should You Be Aware of It?

Negative SEO can have an incredibly detrimental effect on a website and undo all your hard work.

When hit with negative SEO, a site will either be penalised with a manual penalty or an algorithmic penalty (either Penguin or Panda).

Both of these penalties result in a drop in SERP ranking, meaning less site traffic, fewer conversions and less revenue.

This is obviously very bad, and in some cases, it can be very difficult or impossible to recover the domain.

Although, you can take a deep breath and relax because Google says that negative SEO is pretty rare, and very difficult to do.

Types of Negative SEO

There are different types of negative SEO. We will discuss the most common tactics associated with negative SEO.

1. Toxic PBN Links

Black Hat competitors might build toxic backlinks originating from a Private Blog Network (PBN) to your domain to increase the risk of your domain receiving a Google penalty.

Black Hat SEOs use Private Blog Networks (PBNs) that are either obviously spam or already penalized to damage your SERP rankings. Because of the hidden nature of such backlinks, you aren't able to find them with your usual SEO tools. Linxact is your best option since it's built for uncovering hidden PBN backlinks, whether positive or toxic ones.

2. Link Farms

A link farm is a form of spam and can be described as a group of websites created to interconnect to each other. They link out to other websites without their permission. If you get caught in this link web, you will be penalised.

3. Content Scraping

This is when bots sweep your website for its content, and then steal it and publish it elsewhere. This can lead to penalisation for duplicated content.

4. Fake Reviews

Fake reviews can be incredibly detrimental to a website, company or organisation, but especially to smaller businesses.

This occurs when users/competitors review your site without having had experience with it.

Fake accounts can be created in order to do this, and sometimes infiltrate your social media accounts in order to undermine you and weaken your reputation.

5. Malware Attacks and Malicious Crawlers

While Google crawlers are a good thing and help to raise your website’s profile if you’ve been working hard on your SEO, other websites can attack you with malicious crawlers in an attempt to slow down your website.

6. Changing robot.txt

For this negative SEO tactic, attackers will hack your robot.txt and tell crawlers to ignore vital pages on your website (the worst attacks see whole websites not indexed because of this).

How To Recover From Negative SEO

While it may seem like an impossible task to come back from a negative SEO attack, there are ways to combat them.

  • You can manually locate any bad backlinks that have been attached to your site, get in touch with the Webmaster and request that they remove them. If this doesn’t work, you can use the disavow tool to disavow any residual bad links
  • Preemptively secure your administrative login with extra levels of security, which will help to prevent hackers changing robot.txt, altering files and redirecting
  • Report it. Contact the Webmaster if content has been duplicated and ask them to take it down. If this doesn’t work, you can file for copyright infringement
  • Keep a close eye on your social media platforms and reviews. If something doesn’t look right, you can report it through ‘Google My Business’
  • Regularly review the traffic to your website. If you notice a change in speed, and identify that it is due to bad bots, block these pesky crawlers with robots.txt and .htaccess

Tools to Help You Deal With Negative SEO

Don’t think you’re on your own in this. There are some great tools to help you discover if you have been hit and to help you cope with it.


  • Monitor Backlinks
  • Authority Labs
  • Cognitive SEO
  • CopyScape
  • Cyfe
  • Fruition

How Can We Help?

Are you being attacked with negative SEO and desperately need help? Contact us today and we’ll get a team to take a close look at what’s going wrong.

Meanwhile, if you want tips on how to bounce back from a negative SEO attack, you can sign up for our training courses where we spill the beans on all our SEO practises that are tried and tested.