Black hat SEO is when a company uses SEO tactics that hurt the company’s rankings with search engines. The penalties for black hat SEO can be incurred because of deliberate actions or inadvertent ones. How can you prevent negative SEO?

A Compromised Website

It isn’t your fault your website was hacked unless you failed to implement basic IT security. What will hurt your search engine results is the infection of your site. The site may be labeled with a warning that the site is hacked by Google itself as part of the description, or the visitors will click on the link and quickly bounce away because the browser gives a warning that the site may be compromised. When people quickly leave the site, the search engine downgrades its status as the best result for that query.

Pages That Are Not Indexed

If you are old enough to remember card catalogs, each book had a card in the card catalogue referencing it by title, genre, author and key search terms. If the card wasn’t in the catalogue, someone could only find it by browsing the shelves, whereas searchers were more likely to move on to the next card in the catalog. Search engines use robots to crawl the entire web except for the dark web it can’t see and pages that someone requests not to be indexed. The crawlers don’t index all domains at the same interval, so while a site like Wikipedia may be indexed several times a day, smaller sites may not be re-indexed for weeks.

If your webpages are not indexed, the pages won’t be visible to users unless they click some other link to it. This is fine if the link sharing is through social media or internal links on your website, but link spamming to promote a page that isn’t in the search engine index is dangerous. You can reduce this risk by having your site crawled more often or submitting the websites to the search engine yourself.

One cautionary note – if your site seems to grow too fast between visits by the spiders that index the content, this can get your site flagged as suspicious. So add content slowly and consistently instead of suddenly adding 100 new subdomains over a long weekend and hoping it helps.


If your website is constantly down, it can’t get crawled or visited. Visitors will see the notices that your site isn’t working and visit the competition instead. A five minute outage for maintenance or occasional overnight shut down won’t destroy your SEO, but a website that is down too often will hurt your SEO.

Check Your Backlinks Profile

A bad backlinks profile created by a deliberate spam campaign or peppering unrelated comments sections with links to your content will hurt your site’s SEO when the search engine catches on. The painful reality is that your rival could issue such a campaign specifically to hurt you, so you need to look out for it. It could be inadvertent like a social media intern posting links to your content all over the internet, content scrapers including your website link in the copied content or a marketing intern thinking that sending the press release to an article directory posting service with back links to your home page is a good idea.

You should also make sure spammers aren’t trying to remove your best backlinks, the ones that improve your domain authority. You can do this by monitoring their page rank and social activity and noticing when they drop off. You may want to add tags to the highest quality back links or notifications in a variety of tools for exactly this purpose so that you know when your backlinks are under attack.

How to Prevent Negative SEO