Negative SEO: Combating the Haters

There has been a lot of discussion about competitors unleashing negative SEO toward other sites. After penguin came out it was understood that Google couldn’t do anything against this and you were SOL if anyone sent unwanted spam links to your site.

Now, however, Google can reconsider your site and not drop your rankings if you present evidence to them that those links were not from you and were sent to sabotage your site.

I read an article on by Russ Virante that was very informative and also hilarious. It teaches us how to investigate spam links on our own to identify the source and to also submit a reconsideration request to Google with our findings. I want to relay his tips to you so you can immediately begin implementing these tactics to help you avoid a drop in your rankings.

Step one is to download all the links available to your site and any sites connected to it to make sure you cover your bases. Take a look at those to see if there are any oddities with how many exact anchor texts appear.

Here is the example Russ provided.

I love what Russ says next. “Let me go ahead and get this out – if you are thinking about doing negative SEO and are not a regular practitioner of black hat SEO, you are going to get caught. Sorry, but you just haven’t thought it through enough to cover your tracks. What follows is a perfect example of that.”

And he shows the footprints that inexperienced Black Hat SEOs leave behind.

“But something was different about these. Normally hackers hide their links in the posts with display:none tags so that the webmasters never actually see the bad links. It is a very effective strategy, but in this case they were fully exposed. So I checked another site that seemed to follow the same pattern.”

These show how you can come to determine who is trying to hurt you or the new links added to your site. Nothing is fail proof though, these are only clues that will help you guess what is going on but there are still a few things you don’t know. Like Russ said:

1. We don’t know, for certain, that either the CEO or Director of Web Marketing requested these actions be taken.

2. We don’t know, for certain, that the individual who owns the link building company was directly responsible.

3. Why did they target Distilled in the campaign? Did they assume Distilled was an SEO of record for one of their competitors?

And he also said what the evidence does tell us:

1. A negative SEO attack was launched between May 20th and May 22nd of 2012 against several bingo sites, Distilled, and a business liability insurance site.

2. The attack was likely created by an individual from India who owns a link building company.

3. We know that whoever performed the attack had direct access to websites owned by the individual from India.

4. That individual has direct connections with the CEO and Director of Web Marketing for a bingo website company.

5. The Director of Web Marketing has reciprocated communication on social media sites with the individual likely responsible for the attack.

6. The Director of Web Marketing responded with curiosity to Google’s updated notation on negative SEO.

Here are the steps you want to take if you have been affected by black haters.

Download a complete list of links to your site from Open Site Explorer. Mark any that come from a negative SEO attack. Submit these as a preemptive reconsideration request or via the feedback channel in the Google Webmaster Tools? Use Bing’s disavow tool and begin removing these links form your site; some really good tools for that are Virante’s Remove ‘Em, rMoov and Richard Baxter’s Excel Tool.

It is best to stay on top of the game and the game has shifted. Tactics to harm you and up others are on the move to try and stay ahead of the curve that Google puts up. So be quick on your toes and be in charge of what happens to your site.

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