Recently, our Chicago SEO clients came to us with a new, and expected problem. Thanks to Google's desire to stop SEO spamming and farming, we now have a new problem. Negative SEO is happening and it’s something that can be used against your business at any time, no matter what industry you are in. This post will help you quickly identify if you’ve been a victim of negative SEO and provides tips on how to overcome it. O
Good SEO vs. Negative SEO
There’s good(positive) SEO and then there’s assassin (negative) SEO. Just like a good comic book character, the super power of SEO can be used for dark purposes; in the same way, negative SEO can be used nefariously and refers to the worst kind of SEO possible:
Negative SEO - The intentional act of over-optimizing or spamming a site in order to lower its rankings in search results.
Good SEO is a highly ethical practice and is based solely on hard work for a strong output. When it’s employed honestly, it helps quality sites with great content to establish well-deserved rankings through following developer best practices and Google’s quality guidelines. It’s also ethical when used to help well-intentioned sites overcome technical barriers such as unintentional duplicate content, crawlability, page speed and other issues.
How Does Negative SEO Occur?
Negative SEO is done primarily through link spamming and farming, usually through Fivrr and SEOClerks gigs. For example, someone may pay an off-shore firm to build 10,000+ links to your site using a key phrase your site is targeting. Please note: if your current agency is doing this with the belief this is going to improve rankings, cancel immediately or you may experience traffic declines similar to this:
How to Tell if You’ve Been Targeted With Negative SEO
Spotting negative SEO is fairly obvious if you’ve never intentionally built links or targeted specific keywords through spam bombing. If you have built links manually through the years using various target keywords, then it may not be as simple. Regardless of how the links have appeared in your profile, here are a handful of things you can do:
- Conduct a backlink analysis, focusing on anchor text using sites like MajesticSEO
- Look for unnatural or suspicious IPs
- Identify any unrelated anchor text (Credit Checks, Pills, Payday, etc.)
- Check Google Webmaster Tools for Manual Penalties
Always keep an eye on what anchor text is being used to link to your site? A detailed backlink analysis should be conducted to help identify which terms link to you the most. There are a number of great tools including Ahrefs, Link Detox, Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer to help you do this but pay special attention to keyword-rich anchor text. Any links that aren't simply linking with your brand or domain name raise flags and be put on the suspect list.
If your site and target markets are located entirely in the U.S. then you shouldn’t have foreign IPs or non-US TLDs pointing to your site. Tools such as Ahrefs are handy in quickly spotting TLD distributions:
Do you have any nonsense, unrelated anchor terms? This is the biggest problem in the topic and the easiest way to tank a website's SEO. Negative SEO Assassinss often take advantage of all the algorithms associated with certain industries such as PayDay Loans. If a site happens to link to yours using anchor text which includes these terms, your rankings will suffer. We have a local dentist as a client with remarkable payday-related anchor text in hisprofile:
Do you have any Manual Actions/Penalties in Google Webmaster Tools? Here’s what you’ll see if you do:
How to Recover
Future posts will delve further into the complete recovery process but where is the rough and basic path to recover from Google Penalties and the principles are the same:
- Keep in touch with webmasters and remove known bad links (yes this makes us upset too - especially if you’re not the one that built bad links – but Google still wants you to do you best to remove them)
- Use the Disavow Links tool (with extreme caution)
- Submit a reconsideration request (for manual penalties only, for some penalties, it will be difficult to even know your site has penalty)
- Contact Google through the Webmaster Tools Troubleshooter (for algorithmic penalties)
To summarize, know what links are pointing to your site and know what anchor text is being used the most. Be suspect of any anchor text that is highly optimized (focuses on your primary keywords) or especially be on the lookout for completely non-related industry terms (such as payday loans, etc.). Attempt to remove all known bad links and add all [bad domains] to your disavow file in Google Webmaster Tools. Be up front about the issue and be respectful in your communication to Google through the reconsideration request form or troubleshooter and don’t give up, even after several contact attempts.
Media and Plugin OptionsWordPress 4.0 focuses on making it easier for site admins to write content, install plugins and manage media. If you spend any time at all in your site's back end (as opposed to using a client like WordPress for iOS or Android or MarsEdit 3 for Mac), these changes will be apparent and appreciated. There are now more options for adding rich content to your posts. Have an image, video or tweet to share with your readers? Since WordPress 2.9, authors have been able to paste the link directly into the WYSYWIG editor (or by clicking "Add Media > Insert from URL") and WordPress would automatically embed the referenced media at a width appropriate to their theme -- for example, so that a YouTube video would play within a site. There's been no need to obtain separate embed code or use the HTML editor. With WordPress 4.0, that automatically embedded media can now come from any of 26 supported sites. Joining essential platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Instagram are others such as CollegeHumor, Issuu, Mixcloud and TED Talks. Also new in 4.0 is the ability to see the embedded media in the WYSYWIG editor, offering a more accurate preview of the published post. But this feature works only when pasting in URLs from the aforementioned 26 hosts. If you prefer to manually obtain, configure and insert a site's embed code in order to, say, start a video at a certain time or add captions, WordPress will not show a preview of media embedded in this fashion. This is a repost for our Chicago, Naperville and Glen Ellyn web design network team.
- Make sure your business name, address, phone number, and website are consistent, on both your website and in local listings. Things that will cause ranking problems include having your business name listed as ABC Services in one place and A.B.C. Services in another, or having your address listed as 1500 West First St. in one place and 1500 W. First Street in another, or having your website address listed as abcservices.com in one place and www.abcservices.com/index.html in another.
- Encourage (but do not incentivize, bribe, or purchase) customers to write reviews about your business on the top local directories and review sites. The more positive reviews you have, the better your business is going to rank.
- Complete each of your local listing profiles as thoroughly as possible. If you are given the option of adding additional information, social network links, photos, and videos, be sure to do so.
- Create listings on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, and Yelp.
- Search for your business name using Google and then claim and complete profiles for any of the listings that appear on the first couple of search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Use the GetListedresource pages to find the best citations for your business based on industry and city.
The Authorship markup was first unveiled by Google in June 2011 and SEO Techs everywhere rejoiced. Its roots can be traced back to the company's Agent Rank patent of 2007. Bill Slawski, an expert on Google's patents, says that the Agent Rank patent is a type of system wherein multiple pieces of content are connected with a digital signature that represents one or more "agents" (authors).
Three years after Google Authorship was launched, the company decided to discontinue the project and SEO's everywhere cried a little. The announcement came from John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools which he posted in Google+. According to Mueller, Google will stop displaying authorship in Google Search. Likewise, it will no longer track data from content with the rel=author markup in SERP rankings.
Google noticed that displaying the authorship information wasn't as useful as the company had thought it would be. At some point, it can even distract from the results. For these reasons, Google decided to axe the Authorship project.
Don't discount Author Rank as a result of this change and the reduced spinets.
According to Search Engine Land:
Google divulged that dropping Google Authorship shouldn't have an impact on how the In-depth articles section works so strong writers' SEO platforms should be intact. Google also explained that the dropping of Google Authorship won’t impact its other efforts to reward authors who perpetually make quality and engaging content. Well, if you read the above portion, you're likely scratching your heads. How is there to be author rank without authorship, when Google has also said that it’s ignoring authorship markup? The answer is that Google has other ways to the author of a quality story, if it wants. In particular, Google is likely to look for visible "bylines" and citations that often appear on news stories and blog posts. These existed before Google Authorship, and they aren't going away. One thing to keep in mind, you will want to ensure that all of your titled work is consolidated under the account name you will want tracked.
Author Rank Is Real — And Continues!
Schmidt was just speculating in his book, not describing anything that was actually happening at Google. From Google itself, there was talk several times last year of making use of Author Rank as a way to identify subject experts and somehow boost them in the search results:
- Google Authority Boost: Google’s Algorithm To Determine Which Site Is A Subject Authority, May 2013
- Google’s Matt Cutts: Someday, Perhaps Ranking Benefits From Using Rel=”Author”, June 2013
- Google Still Working On Promoting Subject-Specific Authorities In Search Results, December 2013
That was still all talk. The first real action came in March of this year. After Amit Singhal, the head of Google Search, said that Author Rank still wasn't being used, the head of Google’s web spam team gave a caveat of where Author Rank was used: for the “In-depth articles” section, when it sometimes appears, of Google’s search results.
and this is what the code looks like on your page:
You can even link it to pictures on your site. If you click the picture on this page it will input the number into your phone as well.
- Sitemap Index - a PHP virtual sitemap built upon every update.
- Google News XML Sitemap -Automatically generate an XML sitemap for inclusion to Google News 2.0
- XML Sitemap Feed - Creates a feed that complies with the XML Sitemap