Protecting Yourself Against Negative SEO: An Interview with Bob Rains

SMS Text
bob rains interview

As part of our SEJ interview series I recently caught up with Bob Rains from CBS Interactive to discuss negative SEO and black hat SEO.

In the video below, Bob gives an overview of what’s going on in the world of negative SEO and what we can do to protect ourselves against it.

Here are some key takeaways from the video:

  • One of the misconceptions out there about negative SEO is that it’s purely a links game. One thing that SEOs aren’t necessarily watching is manipulation of page speed and other technical factors that could adversely affect a site’s SEO.
  • A lot of today’s negative SEO attacks involve attacking a site’s page speed to try to slow it down. Some of the heavy malicious stuff involves using injectable headers that can either break your page or make your page look like malware so no one would want to visit it.
  • The reality is, Bob explains, that SEO isn’t purely a link game, so why should negative SEO be purely a link game?
  • How do you protect yourself from negative SEO attacks? Bob says staying on top of negative SEO is a lot like how you would monitor your inbound links and looking for spammy pages. Monitor your pages by looking at the code and seeing if there have been any recent updates to the code.
  • One of the biggest ways of finding out if someone has put something malicious into your site is spotting an update to the code that has no traces in your log files. Look for things that are outside of regular protocol, and investigate any changes in site speed.

For more video interviews please visit SEJ’s YouTube page.

John Rampton
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, full-time computer nerd, and PPC expert. Founder at payments company I enjoy helping people and am always online to chat +/@johnrampton
John Rampton
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Nick Stamoulis

    It’s unfortunate that site owners have to be wary of negative SEO. I used to think that surely Google, with all its might and power and powers of investigation, would be able to recognize that a site with a good history would not be responsible for those spammy links, and therefore shouldn’t be penalized for it. But too many times I have seen it happen and it really isn’t fair!

    • John Rampton

      I 100% agreed, Google can’t catch everything despite how much they try. It’s cool if you’re paying attention how much you can capture and smack down before it hurts you!

  • Chris Szepanski

    Hey John,
    cool short interview with the mainfacts regarding one intensive part in negative SEO. I’d like to give a little quicktipp from our daily work:

    Bob said that SEO isn’t only a linkgame anymore and he’s so right with that, but if website owners ask theirselfs how to manage some linkattack on sites after the domain itself, like linkspam to for example there is an easy way to implement some kind of “payback-time” as Kaspar (Xoogler) called this idea. Put the content to a new URL and redirect the old URL via 302 to the site the most spammy links come from. So you gonna hurt the spammer with it’s own weapons … ūüėČ

    All the best,

    • Bob Rains


      Xoogler, Kaspar ( if this is the one you are talking about, is crazy smart. I look up to him professionally a great deal, and consider him a friend. I don’t however think he would recommend trying to “attack back” as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd step to combating a real world Negative SEO attack.
      Negative SEO is tricky, and the laws surrounding it are still developing, defending it is one thing, trying to perpetrate it on others as a response to a perceived attack is and should be considered very high risk, and could potentially end up in court.


      • Chris Szepanski

        Hi Bob,

        please don’t missunderstand me ad excuse the possible missunderstanding I put here. He just called my idea that in a funny way. I didn’t wrote that he recommend it. Please don’t get this wrong, because I love that guy!

        All the best,

      • Chris Szepanski

        … and of course: this tech is to be used very carefully. If spammers hack grand sites for their linkspam, choose a different way.

    • Carl Pantaleon

      Hi Chris,

      This is really interesting. If you say 302? then it would be a temporary redirection. So you mean you would leave all your link juices then.
      And the URL that gets more affected is the spam links.

      • Chris Szepanski

        Hey Carl,

        yes. If you got an URL in the downtree that is defently effected by linkspam, the good linkjuice of it and all it’s rankings are allready anyhow infected. So why not sort it out, place it new, buld it up and pay back ūüôā … I would just say that this might be a last way out to stop that spam to that sepcific URL. Most af the spammers automate their linkspams and will realize the change later. The effect for you is that the rankings for that piece of content will return and the spam to that specific URL will stop. BTW this will not work with the domain …

  • Rank Watch

    Recently, I came across a site wherein negative SEO was clearly visible. I would not like to point out the domain name but I did contact its webmaster and he said he had not built any links. You won’t believe it’s backlink graph chart has hit sky rocket levels within a week’s time as per Ahrefs.

  • Preben Sangvik

    Thank you for this angle on negative SEO. The method of using malicious injections is new to me. I would like to know if anyone had ever used an Automatic software or service that detects changes in a specific site’s Source code?

    I’ve looked at such software before, just to be sure that my sites are not beeing hacked, but they might be Perfect for this kind of work too. It is a hassle going through many sites’ Source code and trying to compare With log files…

  • James Joseph

    Thanks for sharing nice tips as well as Search Engine Journal to provide video interviews.

  • Joseph Asamoah

    That’s interesting…I have always thought that an alternative to link spam was setting up mass duplicate contents sites and making sure that the domain profile is set to private.This way Panda hits the competitor and your site ofcourse but who cares the most?

  • motupally

    Dear John ,

    This is pavan from india , i have one doubt . Please help me to come out of this.

    How can i remove negative branding content which is coming in google top searches . with the content link of is their any possibility to remove content in or else how can we dip down the negative content url from search results for my search terms ?

    please help me on this ? i am not finding any clue or link on the www any where which is related with content removal tips?

  • Fernando Biz

    Great ideas but would have been better if it was explained in details through the video. negative SEO haave started to really haunt some of our client sites during the past couple of months and bad links were the main causes.