How to determine if you’ve been hit by negative SEO


Have you ever experienced a rankings decline and suspected it was due to something a competitor was doing?

For this second article, we are going to focus on the process of diagnosing whether or not you’ve been hit by negative search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

If you need a refresher or missed the first article, here it is: What Negative SEO is and is Not.

As you progress through the following steps to try and diagnose what happened, you’ll need to honestly ask yourself whether the decline you’re facing is more a result of your own actions or due to someone acting against you.

It’s an important distinction; your first inclination can be to assume someone is out to hurt you, while it might actually be something as simple as accidentally no-indexing your index, disallowing critical paths in robots.txt or having a broken WordPress plug-in that suddenly duplicates all your pages with strange query parameters and improper canonicalization.

In the first article, I segmented the majority of search signals into three buckets: links, content and user signals. In order to properly analyze these buckets, we’re going to need to be able to rely on a variety of tools.

What will you need?

  • A browser with access to Google and Bing to find content.
  • Access to your raw weblogs to review content and user signals.
  • Google Analytics to review content and user signals.
  • Google Search Console to review content, links and user signals.
  • Bing Webmaster Tools to review content, links and user signals.
  • A link analysis tool to look at internal and inbound link data.
  • A crawling and technical tool to review content and user signals.
  • A plagiarism tool to review content.

Let’s step through the different tools and scenarios to determine if you were hit by negative SEO or if it’s just a mistake.

How are Google and Bing treating my site?

One of the simplest and easiest first steps to take is to check how Google and Bing are treating your site.

I like to use both engines in every audit because they react differently, which helps me quickly diagnose a problem. What are we looking for?

  • Site:domain.tld. Replace “domain.tld” with your actual domain. Both engines will return a list of pages from your domain, in a rough order of importance.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Involved in the search industry since 1997, I’ve been fortunate enough to place in most facets of online marketing, managing many thousands of domains and clients. Currently, I am Principal of boutique search agency Digital Heretix and CEO of influencer marketing platform Intellifluence.



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