Spotting and handling a negative SEO attack in 2017 is all about careful data analysis and a well thought out recovery strategy. We hope that this checklist will help you to see if you are being hit by a Google penalty from missing important ranking factors or are undergoing a negative SEO attack. Here are the top 5 things that we look at:

  1. Increased amount of fake social profiles, spammy links, false perametor links or links from low quality sites. (Can also be scraped content from your site)
  2. Decreased organic traffic, referrer traffic from good sites, decreased keyword rankings and indexed pages
  3. Google algorithm updates line up with organic KPI deterioration
  4. Competitors suddenly gain an advantage without much or with odd on page or off page SEO
  5. An SEO website audit reveals the website is healthy overall and ranking factor requirements are being met

What SEO Tools are Used for Discovery, Data Collection, Data Analysis and Resolving Negative SEO Attacks?

Now that you know what to look for, you will need to know what tools you can use in order to get your website back on track. Knowing how to use these SEO tools is important. There is much documentation on community websites on the web and support from websites that own these tools. If you need further help, you can contact us to gather the data you need in order to see what went awry, and when. We use the following tools while undergoing an active negative SEO investigation:

  • Google Webmster Tools
  • Google Analytics
  • Google’s Link Disavow tool
  • Google’s DMCA tool
  • Google Alerts
  • Ahrefs
  • Monitor Backlinks
  • Pingdom
  • Copyscape
  • SERPs

After Data Collection Create a Timeline of Negative Reviews and Bad Links – Match Them With Google Algorithm Updates

Once data has been collected, you can match up when links and reviews were established and align them with Google algorithm updates. If you find that they were made around update times there is a good chance someone is deliberately trying to sabotage your website and your online reputation. If you find this is not the case, and some links do not make sense or there are false negative reviews about your business they can still hurt you with a new update.

When Does Negative SEO Happen and How Can You Prevent It? – Monitor KPIs and Fix Issues Fast

Sometimes negative SEO happens well before an update, even years… sometimes it happens during or after. There is no way to predict when this could happen. The best point of defense is to always watch your links and online reviews. Make sure your content is not being copied. Swift movement to correct these issues is needed so that if rankings drop, they are recovered before they significantly affect your business. Monitoring KPIs and fixing issues quickly are the best method of preventing a disaster.

Negative SEO Recovery – Strategies for Copied Content, Bad Links, Negative Reviews, Social Mentions and Hacked Websites

Negative SEO recovery strategies are needed for each area that was hit. If your content was copied, you will need to do a number of things to fix that. If your link profile was ruined you need to take certain steps to fix that and so on. Here is a handy table of areas that can be hit and general things that you will need to do in order to fix them.

Table of Negative SEO Attacks and Fixes

Bad Links
  • Disavow bad links from:
    • Spam sites / Penguin Penalty
    • Scraper sites / Penguin Penalty
    • Sites full of links and no content  / Penguin Penalty
    • DMCA sites / Pirate Penalty
    • Adult sites
    • Pharmaceutical sites
    • Gambling sites
    • Payday loan sites
    • Low quality sites or Blackhat sites
    • Link Farms  / Penguin Penalty
    • PBNs / Private Blog Networks  / Penguin Penalty
  • Build good links on a regular basis
    • Strong editorial sites
    • Relevant blogs
    • Big social influencers
    • Media sites
    • Local directories
    • Business directories
    • Video, text and image links with balanced anchor text comparable to a natural link profile like Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc

Pro Tips:

  1. Don’t over-optimize or over-use keywords in your anchor text and vary the URL, but have most links pointing to your homepage
  2. Usually the same pages will be targeted and they are almost always the highest traffic, best performing pages on a website. This can cause a dramatic loss in keyword rankings
  3. Watch for a dramatic increase in links that do not fit your regular pattern of new links
  4. Watch for good sites that are no longer linking to you – a competitor may have emailed the websites and have gotten the links removed
Copied or Scraped Content
  • Request content to be removed (usually the same pages will be targeted – high traffic, best performing pages of a website) 🙁
  • Create new content targeting keywords that have slipped or pages that have dropped in traffic or popularity
  • Make sure you are using canonical links that point your content to your site as the owner of the content
  • Watch for your content copied, canonicalled to the scraped site and redirected to a new URL or website of the copier’s choice, resulting in slipping rankings as competitor’s sites begin to rank for it
Negative Reviews
  • Request content to be removed; competitors can pay for others to leave fake negative reviews about your business
  • Build legitimate positive reviews
  • Advertise on review websites
  • Populate your profile on review sites with positive information about your business
  • Get people participating and adding good content to your profile
  • Create content on the web targeting popular search terms people use when they are looking for reviews about your business so that good content shows up and the negative reviews are buried
Negative Social Mentions or Fake Profiles
  • Request content to be removed
  • Create positive social mentions to strengthen your brand
  • Get people sharing, liking and commenting on your posts
  • Get people talking about you
  • Get people using your hashtags
  • If you see fake social profiles, request to get them removed
Click Fraud
  • Report to Google Adwords you are receiving fake traffic / if bots are clicking your ads – website visits are not getting the usual conversions
Robots.txt or Google Webmaster Tools Tampering
  • Watch for a disallow in your robots.txt file – this can cause your website to be de-indexed in search engines if a competitor gains access!
  • Watch for a domain change of address – this can cause your current domain to have SEO equity moved over to another domain (of your competitor’s choice) if they gain access to your account
Bad Bots AKA Crawlers
  • Block unnecessary crawlers or bad bots from crawling your website – this can cause slow loading times resulting in 4xx and 5xx errors so that your website may be too busy to even load to a visitor or search engine. This is a similar result to a DDoS attack, but simpler to pull off
Hacked Websites
  • Remove access from attackers
  • Remove any malicious code placed
  • Request Google to reinstate your websites in their SERPs
  • Request blacklist removal from Spam Tools
  • Request removal from antivirus companies to stop flagging your website
  • Install and configure a website firewall and an application firewall
  • DDoS attacks are also a common way that attackers will sabotage your website; you need to set up a network defense system to prevent these attacks. Outages during Google crawls can be discouraging to bots and visitors won’t find your website 🙁
  • Look for modified redirects – these will need to be corrected so you can get your rankings back

What Does Google Have to Say About Negative SEO / Google Bowling?

Search engines like Google try their best to not penalize websites that are in good standing from negative SEO. Every now and then though, their algorithms don’t work as expected and good websites are punished when negative SEO attacks / Google bowling attacks happen. So Google does make every effort, but Google is not perfect. Every website is at risk of a negative SEO attack and needs to be mindful of the things that competitors do to gain an unfair edge.Matt Cutts from Google says:

“We try to be mindful of when a technique can be abused and make our algorithm robust against it,” he says. “I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s impossible. But Google bowling is much more inviting as an idea than it is in practice.”

Contact Us for Help Dealing With a Negative SEO Attack – Get Immediate Assistance with an SEO Emergency

We are an SEO company in Vancouver and are ready to help you if you have been hit by or suspect you have been hit by a negative SEO attack. We can set you up with a strategy and begin fixing your rankings right away. We understand the urgency of SEO emergencies. We can be reached via email or you can call us toll free in Canada at 1-844-736-0031.

About the Author

SEO Candyland

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