Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is negative SEO and how can you protect against it?

30 November 2018 Eugénie Delhaye

While more and more companies are concentrating their efforts to try and appear in the top 3 positions in Google search results, others prefer to go to war directly with their competition. Indeed, nothing is more frustrating than seeing our sworn enemy in the first position on Google when we type “Best Italian restaurant in town” (But my restaurant is the best Italian restaurant in town! :evil: ).

To try and win first place (and especially to not lose to their competitors), many companies don’t hesitate to set up a negative SEO strategy to harm competition. You will discover in this article how to protect yourself against such bad SEO practices.

What is negative SEO?

Negative SEO is the set of techniques put in place to deliberately harm the referencing of a website. Since Google declared war on ‘black hats’ that use artificial techniques to improve their SEO, some have seen this as an excellent opportunity to penalize their competitors. In the same way that some companies concentrate a part of their efforts to improve their own positioning in the search results, they also take advantage of Google and put in place all the negative SEO practices targeting their competitors’ websites, hoping that Google will penalize the targeted sites (which can work!). There are many ways to set up a negative SEO strategy. Here are some examples:

● Posting fake comments in another company’s name to blatantly highlight and flag a blog or brand. Internet users will think that these messages were written by people working at the company and this will undermine the brand’s image.

● Belittling competition by posing as an unhappy customer. This practice does not directly affect SEO but it undermines the reputation of the company on the web. However, the reputation of a brand will influence the visits to its site and thus its SEO.

● Posting a competitor’s link on poor quality directories monitored by Google: XXX site directories, online games, drug sales, etc.

● Purchasing a large amount of poor quality inbound links for a limited period of time. This practice is well known by Google and will harm the SEO of those who use it.

Google’s advice regarding negative SEO

If the actions put in place by your competitors are a success (each one’s vision of things), you will definitely get a Google post that looks like this:

Google Webmaster Tools has noticed artificial links referring to http: // Dear site owner or Webmaster of We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support. Sincerely, the Google Search Quality Team.

If you receive this message, you must absolutely get rid of these toxic links in order to improve your indexation on Google search results. As you can see, being suspicious is enough for Google to find you guilty and it’s up to you to “clean up” the actions of your competitors. I advise you all the same to raise a white flag and follow the advice of Google. Once you’ve done everything you can to remove the links found to be toxic, tell Google they’re not yours. This will not change their decision but will show your good faith and allow you to better defend yourself if these practices were to repeat themselves.

Use Google Webmaster tools to clean up your links

It is important to take precautions before using this tool because misuse can severely damage your SEO.


To disown a site link, you must be the site owner. Simply accessing your Google Webmaster Tools profile will not be enough. Once you have access, Google will ask you to import a text file with the list of URLs to be excluded. If you find that a lot of links have been posted on pages belonging to the same site, enter the following command to exclude them without listing them one by one: domain:

Be aware that even if your website is the best in terms of SEO, Google will probably take several weeks to take your request into account and even reserves the right not to take it into account if it does not consider it to be legitimate (Google is your friend :)) . Also, make sure to save a copy of your text file in case you need to add new negative URLs to your list. Because each list overwrites the previous one, Google will not take your old URLs into account if they are no longer in your new file (Google is a needy friend).


The list of links to your site should be monitored regularly and their quality should also be assessed. Negative SEO is a practice used increasingly by frustrated businesses that see their competitors better position themselves in search results. Just like controlling your reputation on the Internet, you must keep an eye on the “sites that want to help you”.

Do not hesitate to contact us at 514 572 7758 or via our contact form if you wish to speak with an expert who will answer all your questions.

Eugénie Delhaye
Cofondatrice et Spécialiste Marketing Internet et Référencement Naturel (SEO) Ma maîtrise des techniques de référencement, combinée à une analyse minutieuse des tendances du marché, me permet de créer des stratégies SEO sur mesure, efficaces et durables.
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