Is Your Website Hit By Negative SEO?


There’s nothing more frustrating than experiencing a decrease in search engines rankings based on something that you suspect your competitor has done. The good news is, if you know how to diagnose whether or not you have actually been hit by negative SEO, then you’ll know what steps you need to take next. The key is to be honest with yourself. Is someone really out to get you or are there things that you need to improve on your part? Let’s examine a few scenarios to find out whether or not your site has been hit by negative SEO.

What you’ll need

For the purpose of this exercise, you’ll need access to Google’s and Bing’s browsers in order to find content. You’ll need your raw weblogs, Google Analytics, a plagiarism tool, and access to a crawling and technical tool in order to review your content and user signals. You’ll need Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools in order to review links, content, and user signals. You’ll also need to use a link analysis tool in order to get a better look at your internal and inbound link data.

How are Bing and Google responding to my site?

If you want to know whether or not your site has been affected by negative SEO, you need to consider how Google and Bing are responding to it. The advantage of using both of these search engines is that they react differently. And this will help you to diagnose the problem pretty quickly.

But what should you be looking for? Well, you should start by typing “domain.tld” into the search engine. In place of “domain” put your actual website domain. When the search results come up, there are several questions that you should ask yourself.

For instance, are their valuable pages missing? Perhaps they have been blocked by a misconfiguration. Have certain pages been demoted? Perhaps it’s simply an issue of 301 redirects and you need to look into the page itself. Are there certain pages that you don’t recognise? Maybe it’s a matter of your CMS settings being misconfigured or spammy, off-theme pages. You should also take the time to perform a few branded queries. If you can’t find them, then there may be suspicious results overtaking them.

Raw weblogs

While raw weblogs have always been considered to be a crucial part of online marketing, GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is going to make it a little more challenging to get to. Nevertheless, Singapore business owners should make sure that they access internet protocols (IPs) recorded on every page visited on their website, including those that they may not have a Google Analytics tracking code for.

Parsing logs enable you to find IPs so that you can determine if the same group of IPs has been probing into your website for configuration weakness. You can identify scrapers so that you know if someone has been trying to pull down your content en masse. You will be able to identify response issues so that you will know if you’re having server issues where you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find them. This may take some time, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

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Google Analytics

As with any analytics package, there are several things that you could focus on for Google Analytics. However, there are a few elements that hold more weight. For example, you should consider your bounce rate and if there are any outliers. You should think about your session duration and if they are becoming abbreviated. Take into account all traffic referrals and all traffic channels and if there are certain sources that are sending significantly more or less traffic in comparison to the times in which your website rankings were better. Does this traffic seem fake?

Think about your landing pages and search console and whether or not there are aberrations in which pages are currently getting the traffic or if there’s a change in the bounce and session duration. You should also think about your site speed. Is your load time increasing, specifically in chrome and for certain pages?

Google Search Console

If you want to figure out if you’ve been hit by negative SEO, then there are several things that you should be looking for in Google Search Console, or GSC. For example, you need to pay attention to your messages. Google will let you know if you’ve been hacked. Pay attention to your search analytics as it may show that there was an attempt to have an impact on your user signal or that you have a content issue. Examine the links to your site and take note of whether you have a large influx of spammy or low-quality links, especially those that are blocking AhrefsBot.

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Take a look at your internal links. You may be linking too heavily to one destination or a spammy doorway page has been injected into your CMS and you’re linking to it. Pay attention to your manual actions as these must be addressed right away, whether or not they are the result of an attack. You should also take the time to consider your crawl errors. Is your setup stable? If your server has too many responses and you’re having issues with raw weblog data, this could signal an attack.

Bing Webmaster Tools

If you want to know what’s going on with your Bing rankings visit the webmaster tools. First, check your site activity. This will give you an idea if your site is showing more or less frequently, if your click volume has changed if there have been crawling and crawl errors changes and if your pages are indexed. You should then check your inbound links.

Link analysis tool

Use your link analysis tool to investigate things like your organic keywords. Do you notice that there is a trend in the rankings? In some cases, this data will match that of Google. However, this tool will give you the ability to see it from a different angle. Investigate your new backlinks, domains, and referring IPs. If you notice that there is a significant increase in links that you did not initiate or want then there’s a good chance that you’ve been hit by negative SEO. And they may all be linking to you from the same IP address.

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Use your link analysis tool to examine lost backlinks and domains. In certain instances, your competitor may have gotten links that you’ve earned removed. So reach out to the webmaster and ask why they are no longer there. Have your links been replaced with your competitor’s? Find out if you have any broken backlinks which can occur if you have recently moved your site, made architecture changed or updated your plug-ins. These things usually result in a loss of link equity and it can be fixed by bringing back the lost page or redirecting your pages to relevant pages.

Link analysis tools can be used to examine your anchors. Has your anchor text distribution been affected by a change in links? Perhaps your commercial phrases aren’t in a healthy range. Maybe you’re being associated with a lot of undesirable phrases. This tool can also help you with your outgoing linked domains and broken links to ensure that you’re linking to your desire areas and that the URLs are still valid. Make sure you take a look at your code injections as well.

Crawling and technical tools

Use your crawling and technical tool to investigate things like site speed. Does this speed compare to what you find in Google Analytics or other Google speed tests? Is there a large resource that is attempting to slow your site down? Also, investigate your Indexation status by depth. If you are starting to duplicate or index large percentages of your pages, then this may be working against you.

Use your crawling and technical tools to investigate your redirects. Are there open redirects leaching off of your link equity? Check your crawl mapping to find out if there are any active pages you don’t want and how your internal link distribution could be having an effect on them. Are these pages embedded into the website’s navigation or are they orphaned?

One of the most important tasks your crawling and technical tools can help you with is looking into your on-page technical factors. You will be able to figure out which pages are set to nofollow or noindex. You will also be made aware if your pages are conflicted because of canonicalization problems.

Plagiarism tool

It’s important that you consider how unique your content is. While there are many plagiarism detectors that you can choose from, Copyscape is the most widely used and reliable. So check your entire website. Search for long strings of matches of those found in the Bing and Google index. If your site has been targeted with fake DMCA requests or scrapers that are an attempt to copy and outrank you on more authoritative domains, then this will definitely help you find that issue.

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You should also make sure that your website is free from internal duplication. In some cases, you may have duplicated your own content or tags. You might have even handled your URL improperly.

2 Negative SEO you should Protect Your Site Against

In the current highly competitive digital world of business, competitors can easily ruin your site ranking through negative SEO tactics. It is of paramount importance to be aware of these tactics to secure the sustainability of your business. A professional SEO company in Singapore can also work on your site to ensure that it continues to rank high on search engines.

Here are four negative SEO tactics that you should protect your site against.

Link Farms

Simply put, a link farm is a group of websites that are interconnected. That is, they link to each with the primary objective being to enhance the link popularity of each site’s pages. Private Blog Network (PBN) is a good example of a link farm that is used to increase a website’s PageRank. Most PBN use expired domains that usually have accumulated authority and numerous backlinks before they are inducted into the network.

The 2012 Google Penguin algorithm made it difficult for PBN to be effective by penalizing sites that are involved in this link scheme. A competitor can ruin your website ranking by using similar anchor text links thereby compromising the anchor text ratio. The exact-match anchor may be unrelated to your niche or may include target keywords to make your website link profile look fake or manipulated. Regularly monitoring your link profile growth using applications such as SEO SpyGlass will help you to stay safe.

Use of Scrapers

This is a black hat or negative SEO technique that entails duplicating website content. Concisely, it involves copy-pasting the main site’s content and copying it on other websites multiple times. The recent Google Panda update is designed to detect, prevent, and penalize sites that are involved in content duplication.

Over the years, Google bots have evolved and become more efficient. If they uncover duplicate content published on multiple sites, they will only select one version to rank. Woe onto you if the copied text is indexed before the original version on your site as it will be de-ranked. Copyscape is one of the tools that you can use to know if the content on your website is original.


If you want to get to the bottom of your digital marketing issues and find out if one of your competitors is trying to take you down in the search engine rankings, then there are a significant amount of tools that you need to use. The key to solving your negative SEO issues is to find and repair these things quickly. If you are still unsure about how and where to start, you can always work with a professional SEO agency like MediaOne. They can help you look at your website subjectively.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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