How to know you have been hit by negative SEO

In the past, Google have waved off the idea of negative SEO because it sounded preposterous. But over the years, there has been a couple of cases where it is obvious negative SEO was at play. Here, website owners experience a significant ranking decline due to the machinations of their competition. It is basically anything malicious a competition does in order to harm your site. This is usually carried out by hitting you with a ton of low-quality link and any other practice that makes you look bad before Google. The attacks are carried out against you till it results in Google penalizing you, which goes to significantly affect your search ranking.

The internet is like a battlefield and if you are occupying a competitive niche, chances are your competition will not be playing fair with you. Some of the negative SEO tricks include lots of fake link removal requests,  spam links, site hacking, creating bad fake reviews and so on. However, not all low page rankings are as a result of negative SEO. But knowing how to detect one is the beginning of figuring out how to get it fixed. This article focuses on discussing the methods and steps to take in order to diagnose whether you have been hit by negative SEO or not.

How to detect a negative SEO attack

There is really no known way of knowing that you are about being attacked with a negative SEO till you are already experiencing the damages. However, the ability to detect its presence makes all the difference. Here are some of the ways to know you are under an atack.

1 Sharp drop in traffic

The aim of most negative SEOs is to reduce your search traffic. If this is the case with you, then one of the major indicators is that your site would already have experienced a sharp drop in your search traffic. However, to be sure, you would have to know you haven't done anything to warrant it yourself. Also, you have to be sure that your effort over the period remained constant before the change. Once you are sure about these and your search traffic is still inexplicably low, then you are most likely being attacked.

2 Test for search engines' treatment of your site

Another way to determine whether you are under a negative SEO attack is checking how the search engines are treating you. The test is more efficient when you use both Google and Bing since the search engines behave differently. This way, any result pointing towards your suspision is most likely correct.

The first thing you do is to use site: domain.tld. Replace it with your site on say Google search console and it will throw up some of your pages in a rough order of importance. Now, if you have been hit by negative SEO, you should be missing some important pages you naturally would expect to come up. Of course, for you to be absolutely sure that is the reason, check first with the source codes of those pages to be sure they were not accidentally blocked.

Testing for how search engines are treating your site should also show you if some of your pages are being demoted by at least one of the two search engines you are testing with. Also, there would be some pages you do not recognize among those hits. They would be looking like wrong  CMS configuration settings. If so, that is a way to confirm you are being attacked by negative SEO. You can also perform some branded queries where you search some of the phrases your business is associated with. A negative SEO hit will cause you to stop ranking for some of the pages you were previously ranking with.

Manual Penalty Notification

This does not really require you to do any testing by you. When your site activities go against Google's search guidelines, there are two ways you get to know. It is either through an algorithmic change where you notice a drop in your search rankings or traffic or through a manual penalty notification. The latter is for graver offences and you will receive an email that your they have detected some of your site techniques have been against Google's Webmaster Guidelines. They will direct you to look for artificial or unnatural links to your site that are aimed at manipulating PageRank. Of course, you have the chance to make the necessary changes and submit your site to them for reconsideration. If your site use only recommended SEO practices and you receive such message from Google, it means you are experiencing a negative SEO hit.

Crawl errors and page canonization

You can check for for crawl errors through Google's Console to ascertain for any issues that may be blocking Googlebot or other search engine bots from crawling your site and indexing your pages.

Also carry out a page canonization by checking your website's rel="canonical” to be sure all their tags are pointing to the right right page. Often you get these canonical issues where every search engine is focusing all your efforts onto a single page which is often the home page. This is a result of  pointing all your pages' canonical tags to a single page. Websites use this method  to frustrate a competition's efforts.

Sudden drop in individual keyword rankings

A drop in your search traffic always spells a drop in your ranking so that once the one happens, the other is never far behind. Therefore, if you employ the necessary tools and keep track of your major keyword's performances and movements, it would be easy to detect a sudden drop which is always an indicative of a negative SEO. You can use any of the SEO ranking tools available to marketers to track any keyword you want. They usually make provisions for where you add the keyword you want to track and you get to monitor how they move up and down the SERPs.


Knowing howbyoy have been hit by negative SEO is integral to your resolving it quickly. What helps most are the various tools available for both testing and revolving. They are great since they can quickly deliver results once you apply them. Take time to research possible proactive measures you can take against being attacked by negative SEO in the future.

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