The rise of negative SEO

In this episode Alex explains what negative SEO is, why it’s a real concern, and what you can do to protect yourself against it.


Hi, my name’s Alex Cleanthous, chief strategist at Web Profits, and today, I’ll be talking about the rise of negative SEO.

Now for those of you who don’t know me, I have a stutter and it comes out when I get excited… and this stuff is exciting. So let’s get into it.

Negative SEO is the practice of negatively affecting the rankings of a competitor’s website by building thousands of the most unnatural links you can think of to their site.

Negative SEO practitioners use software tools to submit (with the click of a button) tens of thousands of links to forums, blogs and wikis. Not every link will go live, but thousands will. They can use exact match anchor text to affect your SEO rankings for a particular keyword, or they can use well-known link spam anchor text like gambling or pornography to affect your entire site’s rankings. These are just a few examples of what they can do – there’s a lot more.

Negative SEO has been around for as long as link building, but it has only become a real concern since Google launched its Penguin algorithm update.


Because in the past, links either counted towards your SEO rankings, or made no difference at all. Only in the most extreme cases could bad links hurt your rankings. But since Penguin, most forms of unnatural links actually hurt your rankings… especially if they’re done at scale, which is how it’s done with negative SEO.

Google says that it works hard to prevent negative SEO, but we’ve seen it in action. In this example, tens of thousands of spammy forum links were directed at a site, causing that site to lose all of its rankings.

So how do you protect yourself from negative SEO?

The only way to protect yourself is to establish your website as the authority in your industry. You need so many high-quality incoming links to your site, and an authority so powerful, that an extra 20,000 spammy links pointed at your website will make no difference at all to your rankings. That’s what high quality SEO is all about.

Aside from that, it will be hard to prevent a negative SEO attack. It’s more likely that you’ll need to respond to one.

So what can you do to reduce the impact of a negative SEO campaign against your website?

You need to stay on top of your backlink profile. You need to subscribe to all of the top backlink services – Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer, and Google Webmaster Tools – make sure to review your backlinks on a monthly basis, find any unnatural ones, and proactively disavow them.

We review our clients’ backlinks every month to ensure they stay as healthy as possible. Doing this isn’t just good SEO practice, it also means that you’ll be aware of any negative SEO as soon as it happens, so you can respond immediately and reduce its potential impact.

At Web Profits we want to change the way business is done online. To find out more or to get in touch, simply visit

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Web Profits TV and I look forward to speaking with you in the next video.

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits

Alex Cleanthous is Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in online marketing, Alex is always on the lookout for smarter, faster and more scalable ways to achieve maximum growth with minimum spend.