One of my clients just got hit with negative SEO. Best/quickest way to recover?

by SEO4hire 20 replies
Hello all. It has been one of those days. Woke up this morning to find that one of my clients had dropped significantly for several keywords. I then checked a few sites (Mozcast, Search Engine Land, etc.) to see if there was some sort of update, but found nothing. I then did a little research on ahrefs, and found the problem: A BIG surge in backlinks over the last week, and some very suspect anchor text making up 6% of the total. Apparently my client has a competitor that isn't very happy with the progress we have been making.

This is new to me, so I am a bit unsure about the best way to attack this. I read a few articles that mentioned contacting the website owner and requesting that they are removed, but there are hundreds of them, and and they are coming from really spammy Russian sites. Do I submit all of them using the disavow tool? I would really appreciate input from anyone that has successfully recovered from a negative SEO attack.
#search engine optimization #best or quickest #clients #hit #negative #recover #seo
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  • Profile picture of the author Lynker
    Few thing you can do includes clean up backlinks. There are various services available to do this. If those bad quality sites don't respond then disavow them however I don't think many people had success with it. Lastly submit a reconsideration request by explaining your situation. We'd love to hear your experience.
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  • Profile picture of the author FranksToys
    The only thing you can do is be proactive and start attacking it head on, my site was hacked by hackers a few months back because of a Wordpress vulnerability.

    I wasn't paying attention to my analytics or inbound links on that site and it wasn't until my hosting company shut down my hosting because of abusing resources did I see that I had been hacked, they injected sales pages on my site and send hundreds of thousands of links to my site. Which is essentially just like a negative SEO campaign.

    My rankings plummeted for all of my main keywords and it wasn't until I removed links that I started to recover. I just wish I was paying more attention sooner! I used a link removal service called linkdelete but you can manage the campaign yourself if you have the time and resources.

    Don't waste time though, if the person that is doing negative SEO is smart they can really screw things up for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Anton
    You can write them a thank you note because if you weren't manually penalized you can actually use this negative attack to benefit you.

    a) You can disavow the links (time consuming and might not find them all)
    b) Build even more links, diluting the anchor text back down to 1%

    Option b allows you to aggressively build links, diversifying your anchor text, negating their negative seo attack. I would also ensure to get social network signals from major networks and social bookmarks as well during your new link building phase (helps mitigate against penalties).

    You will most likely come back even stronger in the rankings once you dilute the anchor text backlinks. I had a website with 40%, and got it down to 6%. Just takes persistance and a game plan.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by Matthew Anton View Post

      a) You can disavow the links (time consuming and might not find them all)
      b) Build even more links, diluting the anchor text back down to 1%

      Anchor percentage is not the problem. The problem is crappy backlinks. Piling more crappy backlinks on top of that to push the anchor percentage to some artificial number is not the ideal solution.

      OP, investigate where the links are coming from? Is it just a few sites? A lot of sites? Is there a recognizable pattern. If you can, try to contact webmasters to do something about it, but that is likely to not get you very far. If they have been doing this on a large scale, they are probably using sites that nobody is paying attention to. You won't get a response. You should still try though.

      Then send the links into the DisAvow Tool with all the details you can include. Include the dates and methods you used to try to contact the webmasters. Include the information about suspecting this being done by a competitor and any other info you can supply.

      You should keep trying to acquire quality links in the meantime, but you need to address these toxic links and not just ignore them.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Anton
    Mike, I didn't say it has to be "crappy" links. You can be aggressive and still go after quality links. Thank you for assuming

    If your anchor text is dangerously high, north of 25% for one of the negative seo terms the priority is to get that lowered.

    Contacting the webmasters where he placed the links? That's going to result in spinning your wheels. Contact someone on some random link farm from fiverr as if they care, it's not going to happen, or a low quality social bookmarking site, or the Xrumer forum profile links he got you, which are probably the types of links built for this negative seo attack.

    The best defense for negative seo is a good offense. Become an authority website. You need to build more links, quality when possible, but most importantly get that anchor text diluted asap. Even "crappy" link profiles with low anchor text out perform obvious SEO'ed campaigns with high anchor text.

    Contacting webmasters is going to result in 10 hours wasted, unless you think it got posted without their knowledge?...don't see how that is going to happen.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by Matthew Anton View Post

      If your anchor text is dangerously high, north of 25% for one of the negative seo terms the priority is to get that lowered.
      25% is not dangerously high. I'm ranking terms that are at 75%, in highly competitive niches. And if you include the very closely related anchors, it would be 95%.

      Besides, he said his is only at 6%, so once again, anchor percentage is likely not the problem. The problem is toxic links.

      Originally Posted by Matthew Anton View Post

      The best defense for negative seo is a good offense. Become an authority website. You need to build more links, quality when possible, but most importantly get that anchor text diluted asap. Even "crappy" link profiles with low anchor text out perform obvious SEO'ed campaigns with high anchor text.
      I'm sorry, but I have yet to see a site with loads of crappy links that is still ranking well just because their anchor percentages are really low. Outside of PayDay Loans, which is nothing but a giant crapfest anyhow.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
      Originally Posted by Matthew Anton View Post

      Mike, I didn't say it has to be "crappy" links. You can be aggressive and still go after quality links. Thank you for assuming

      .
      Its a very natural assumption and I would think almost a certainty. If you are getting hammered by a competitor in a negative SEO attack there are hundreds of links coming in. Who has good link resources in that quantity if the goal is just to lower the anchor text percentages. I would think you would have to resort to crappy links (bookmarks, web2.0,comments etc.) .
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  • Profile picture of the author HammerNiko
    Call the police

    Call Google.

    Explore the links and try to remove. If not possible build better links with focus on the main keyword so you get diversity.

    You can use bulk SEO links providers.
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  • Profile picture of the author SEODollz
    Here is my litmus test for whether I need to worry about cleanup and disavow:

    Did you take a hit in rankings/traffic? In your case yes, but it's only been one day. I'd leave it for a few days to make sure it's not just a temporary shift on that SERP. Don't panic yet and start making hasty decisions. We all pay when people start disavowing willy nilly.

    If it is a noticeable, ongoing drop then is there anything else that could account for the change other than those links? Causation vs correlation. We all get antsy about links but there are lots of other things that could be to blame, make sure you are looking at the big picture.

    Did Google try and tell you via WMT? This is an obvious thing but super important so I'm including it.

    If you are reasonably sure it has to do with the links try this first:

    Build a few really good links, like really good ones. Make sure they are indexed and watch your rankings. It could be a case where you had some links devalued and things just happened to hit you at the same time (seriously.) If you see upward movement then I wouldn't be quick to ditch those links just yet. Let it play out for a week or two, of course nobody wants those kinds of links sitting in their profile but it's important to figure out how urgent getting them removed actually is right now. I think disavow is serious business, removal is best even though time consuming.

    If you decide to go the removal route you can scrape the who is info from the linking pages and send out a form email. Make it sound ike serious business. Tell them you are going to disavow and that can hurt their network. It's worth a shot. I usually do two rounds at least of these emails before throwing in the towel and deciding whether to disavow. Keep track of your efforts so you can include a list of your actions in your disavow report.

    Anyways that is how I see it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
      Originally Posted by SEODollz View Post

      t

      If you are reasonably sure it has to do with the links try this first:

      Build a few really good links, like really good ones.
      Outside of reporting this is the only real way I know of to offset an attack.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Anton
    75%! yikes. I guess there are always exceptions to the rule.

    yes, reread and 6% does seem low so it might be a toxic link issue. If OP can chime in we wouldn't have to play the role of Miss Cleo and guess everything

    I could pm you some examples of toxic links ranking for competitive phrases but don't want to let the genie out of the bottle (tests on random domains, not clients). Btw, I enjoyed your video on Scrapebox local citations.
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  • Profile picture of the author SEO4hire
    Thanks for all of the input and recommendations. My apologies - it looks like I excluded some valuable info. Here is a more complete summary of the situation:
    - I have been using extremely white hat links the whole time - nothing spammy
    - Up until this morning, the website has been ranking well and steadily moving up in the serps
    - Over the last 30 days, I have personally created less than 50 baclinks to the site, yet ahrefs shows over 950 links added over the last week.
    - Here is an example (hxxp://body-forming.ru/forum/posting.php?mode=reply&f=4&t=15951) of one of the spammy sites pointed at my client's site. There are several others like this that use an anchor text that is 10 random letters long (example - mneuttmmrg)
    - The links using this 10 letter anchor make up 6% of the overall anchor text. Previously, over 50% of the anchor text was just the brand, the 3 main keywords that I am targeting, and the URL.
    - These sites are total spam farms, and their associations with viagra, payday loans, etc. are probably the reason I dropped.
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    What kind of drop are you talking about? From #3 to page 10? From #3 to #8? One keyword or all of the keywords?
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  • Profile picture of the author SEO4hire
    Severe. Here are some examples:
    - #11 to NTH (not top 100)
    - #13 to NTH
    - #40 to NTH
    - #8 to #86
    - #14 to NTH
    - #5 to #32
    - #5 to #88

    ...and that is just a handful of them. There were 4 pages ranking, and based on the drops in ranking 3 of them were affected. The rankings for one page is still intact.
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  • Profile picture of the author SEO4hire
    Oddly, only the home page got hit with the bad links, but it looks like it has affected the rankings of the home page and 2 others
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    • Profile picture of the author multiplecloud
      Originally Posted by SEO4hire View Post

      Oddly, only the home page got hit with the bad links, but it looks like it has affected the rankings of the home page and 2 others
      This is very common behavior. Once Homepage got hit and there are significant correlation for the other page as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author SEODollz
    I'd give it a week and watch for movement, then if the rest of the links are foreign language spam trash like the one you posted I'd send one round of emails just to have something to show to Google and then Disavow the whole lot. It's not an overnight recovery either. (just so you know)

    In the meantime, you might try to figure out why the other two pages are being affected when the other one isn't. If it's because you are linking to those pages from the homepage you might remove the links temporarily (of course don't leave them orphans set something else up)
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  • Profile picture of the author sunnyatseoforums
    Boss,

    You are at a very early stage so it would be easier for you to do the mitigation.

    Its a simple 4 step process

    1. See if there is any penalty alert in your webmaster tools
    2. Clean up as many bad links as possible. Get data from all sources (Webmasters, moz, ahrefs, majestic)
    3. Disavow the bad links
    4. File a reconsideration request (in a timeframe of 2 weeks after completing the above steps) telling Google the detailed action you took to get rid of bad links and why they should reconsider you.

    If still you face any problems, contact me
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  • Profile picture of the author towels
    Search Engine Land linked up a fairly long complete guide to manual link clean up - you might want to start there it's a pretty in depth process though so for some people it's easier to start again with a new domain -- SearchCap: The Day In Search, February 17, 2014
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    While your trying to clean up the junk links (good luck) start working on getting a 2nd page ranked for the same keyword. Assumes the site still has indexed pages & no WMT warning.

    If the original page bounces back to it's previously ranked position you'll be stronger in the SERPs with that 2nd ranked page, If not, at least you'll have the new page ranked.

    Another idea to consider If all else fails:
    Here's how to swap out ranked pages on Google SERPs
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