How to Recognize and Recover from Spam and Negative SEO

Spam and Negative SEO

Written by Jeremy Earle, JD

May 22, 2022

Have you ever heard of “bad SEO” stories? Maybe you’ve heard that negative SEO is a myth and that it’s impossible to carry out. Do you think an onslaught of bogus links has negatively impacted your website?

Even if you haven’t heard of bad SEO, we’ll go to great length on this page regarding this issue. Negative search engine optimization will be defined, as well as its prevalence and methods for determining whether or not you are a victim.

Continue reading and give us a call at 833-777-RANK if you have any questions. SEO in Washington, D.C. or lead generation in Columbus? We’ve got you covered with our wide range of services.

Rank Fire may assist if you’ve been affected by poor SEO.

What exactly is Negative SEO?

Attempts to impair your site’s search engine rankings are negative SEO. Defining negative SEO may be a challenge because it’s a little-discussed subject and has a large scope. We will, however, make every effort to make it as clear as possible.

Negative SEO isn’t always the consequence of your rivals seeking to outrank you in search results. Even though most people think that negative SEO occurs when a rival hits you, it may also be the product of a person with a grudge and huge SEO resources.


It is common for a competitor to target a certain term to hurt your search engine rankings. If you’ve been around for a long, or if you’re just starting, it may happen at any moment.

Is Negative SEO a common occurrence?

Google works hard to make bad SEO almost impossible. Additionally, launching a negative SEO campaign on another website requires substantial time, money, and expertise.

In this piece, Dr Pete from Moz provides a comprehensive examination of bad SEO and its possibility to happen to you. However, he has a solid point to make: assaults on your site are rare, and what many users assume is an attack is simply normal activity.

Many everyday occurrences are mistakenly interpreted as harmful SEO. In other words, if the general landscape of links heading to your site ranges from good to negative, some random connections that arise without justification might push your link profile over the breaking point and lead you to get a penalty, as Dr Pete advises. This may seem to be an assault on you, but it may result from your own mistakes.

Google also attempts to make negative SEO more difficult by ignoring “junk” links that accumulate over time. You won’t be penalized if your site receives links from unrelated sites, as Google doesn’t care whether they connect to anything for any reason at all. Google will give less weight to random connections as your site grows, so the more links you have, the less weight they will give them.

You are looking at what else can cause you to believe that your site is being targeted by a negative search engine optimization (SEO) campaign and how to rule it out.



There are a few possibilities to rule out before concluding that you’ve been subjected to bad SEO.

Let’s take a closer look at each of them to see if we can rule them out one by one.

Finding a Hacked Site

“Someone came after me!” maybe your initial response is if your site has vanished from the search engine ranks and you’ve just noticed strange connections. It’s possible, though, that you’re paying for something else entirely.

Those links may have nothing to do with your site’s current issues. You may have been hacked, and your site has been deleted from search results so that it does not accidentally affect or infect other sites.

By monitoring your Webmaster Tools, you can see whether your site has been hacked or infected with malware. In addition to information about hacking, Google provides instructions on deleting dangerous files and requesting a review of your site on this support page.


As we’ve previously established, strange connections from unfamiliar websites are a common occurrence on the Internet. As long as these links aren’t spammy in any way, shape, or form, there’s no need to be alarmed. Although you may believe they’re damaging you, they’re probably being disregarded by Google as it is already.

A disavowal option is available if you don’t feel comfortable allowing these linkages to remain in place—that is, if you’re afraid that they may become problematic in the future or are concerned that they are now creating problems. On this page, Google explains how to remove links from your website. Use caution when removing links that are beneficial to your search engine rankings since doing so might result in serious consequences for your site’s visibility and traffic.

Somebody Is “Helping” You By Building Links To Your Site

Generally speaking, this kind of incident occurs more often than the other two, and it’s typically what causes firms to believe they’re under assault from their rivals. “We didn’t ask for them!” maybe their response when they get penalized and discover a big number of low-quality links pointing to their site.

There is, however, the possibility that they did. Many people assume that building or buying links is a great way to increase a website’s search engine rankings without having to worry about any negative implications. They have no idea how dangerous these connections may be. It might take a long time for the truth to emerge since the company isn’t always aware of this.

Making the True Case of Negative Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Detecting a genuine instance of bad search engine optimization (SEO) is not always an easy process. While it’s possible that a website has been penalized or is ranked very low, and no other explanation can be discovered for an inflow of bad backlinks, negative SEO may have taken hold of the site in question.

At this point, you should not waste time pondering “why?” or “how?” but instead focus your efforts on repairing the damage done to your website. To get your traffic and Google rankings back, this is the only method to do it!



The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out which links are hurting your website. If your site has been punished or is under assault, there will likely be hundreds, if not thousands, of links pointing to it.

Many link auditing tools are available, or you may manually evaluate your incoming links in Webmaster Tools to see which ones you want to maintain or get rid of.


First, Google advises you to ask for any connections to be deleted from your site. Even if a rival or unscrupulous party intentionally places poor links on websites, you may be able to have them removed just by asking.

Email the websites where you discovered these links and urge them to delete the connections (or, at the very least, change to follow, which means they have no weight). The following should be included in your email:

Additionally, we need to know:

  • Your name, position and phone number.
  • When and where you discovered the link(s) that need to be deleted, as well as a deadline for when you need them removed.
  • Make a spreadsheet to track who you’ve contacted, when, and what type of reaction you’ve gotten from each individual. A disavow file, which we’ll discuss in the following step, may be created using this spreadsheet.

Google may dispute any link that isn’t deleted, so don’t worry about it if you are requested to pay to remove a link or if you are greeted with any type of denial or threat. To delete any links that have not been manually removed, establish a deadline and adhere to it.


If, after the date, you specified for the links you wanted to be removed, there are still links on your site, you will need to create a disavow file to remove them. However, Google cautions website owners that disavowing links might negatively affect their sites if done incorrectly.

You should only remove links from other websites if you are confident they harm yours. It’s quite OK to disavow a thousand links from a spammy gaming website. It’s not necessarily bad to get a link from a blog that isn’t in your business, even if it may appear odd. It is best to concentrate on removing the ones that seem to have been planted maliciously. You should be suspicious of a link to your site with the anchor phrase “[brand name] handbag” from a gambling site. The same can’t be said for a link that just says, “Read this.”

Make a copy of your spreadsheet’s list of links that haven’t been deleted. A text file containing the list of links (or whole domains) that you want to disavow must be created and then uploaded to Webmaster Tools. On Google’s disavowing links website, you may get step-by-step instructions on how to create and submit this file.


Google will need some time to analyze your disavow file’s links. However, once this is done, you should be ready to go to the next phase of your rehabilitation.

When a website receives a manual action (or penalty) from Google, it’s common for website owners to discover they’re dealing with negative SEO or a competitor’s poor links. Reconsideration requests must be submitted if you obtained an unnatural links penalty as part of a negative SEO assault.

Our penalty recovery guide includes step-by-step instructions on how to seek reconsideration of your site from Google, as well as a video and website on how to do so.


Even if you aren’t sure whether your site has been targeted by a negative SEO assault or has been penalized by any unnatural link penalty, Rank Fire can assist. We have a proven track record of helping clients with their search engine optimization efforts. If you have any issues with your website, no matter what the cause, we can fix them and improve your search engine rankings and website traffic.

Don’t hesitate to contact one of our web strategists if you need assistance. We’d like to learn more about how we might improve your website. Call or contact us whenever you want!

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