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.
- 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.
- As you transition from your old website to a new SEO targeted Website, you can maintain the link equity in which you have invested in already. This is vital for getting your new website to rank quickly. The most effective way to achieve this would be to leave your URLs untouched. However, this is not always possible y if you make an attempt to improve your URL structure or moving to a new domain. Often, updating to a strong Database Built Web Design will result in some changes to link mapping.
- Images are ideal to make your new website engaging and attractive. Unfortunately, search engines have not reached a point yet where they can decode content that is image-based. The use of alt tags can enable search engines to comprehend the meaning of images; this can also be valuable for those who are visually impaired. Alt tags should be vivid and entail the same keywords for which your page aims to rank.
- External links can enable link authority to your website, while internal links can distribute that particular authority across your website pages. In page cross-linking, there are opportunities for appropriate referrals to additional pages with relevant data; they are typically unheeded during a redesign. Page copy can be an ideal place to link to deeper website pages with anchor text to point to long-tail keywords.
- Local results have taken a greater standing in the SERPs. Naturally, it depends on your brand; so, local can be your strategy instead of a small portion of your overall plan. Keep in mind, locally focused works only if your business model is only focused locally. There are several locally relevant recommendations to consider in combination with your fresh new website launch, but most importantly, your maps should always be the focus of local SEO. Our Naperville Web Design and SEO Team targets citation listings (map directories) and locally relevant review sites to ensure for a cohesive and universal set of data descriptions.
- A new Google search feature in authorship is expected to increase in relevance over time. Author-Ranking is the future of authorship where pages are ranked based on the authority of the writer, as opposed to the authority of the page/website. An investment in authorship can help you not only in the short term, but the long term as well. We suggest that your content creators work on and off of your sites to develop a stronger authorship ranking.
- It is a Massive Equation. The last best estimate assumes over 250 separate and distinguished parameters involved in the monstrous equation. It's simply inconceivable that any lone person can at any time make the calculations needed to outsmart a constantly evolving AI.
- It is an AI. While there is a dedicated team of engineers who devote their entire careers to this Algorithm, Google Bot and the Database behind it is running more of itself than external control. With this scenario in place, there's no way that any SEO expert, in Naperville or anywhere else in the world, could conceptualize every move this AI will move to next.
- While we know some of Basic Criteria that are factored into the ranking system of the Google Algorithm, SEO in any form is limited by the fact that some of it will always be a misnomer. Certain Criteria are known, but their weight can change on a very(and sometimes daily) basis.
- SEO for Google can be a daily event. Google's Algorithm has been known to change variables more than once within the same day. While major updates usually happen every 1-3 months, the system is making constant small adjustments. It's not feasible to collate that much data and determine ranking to the most finite detail.
- Domain- Domain naming and SEO through domain have a direct influence on what page you will come up if they match the specific keywords being searched for. This is the "No-Brainer" of SEO. Last week I noticed we did not have the number 1 slot in Google for the keyword "Naperville SEO". The reason is that someone had set up a site with the matching url while I missed my chance to purchase it. In passing up this option, the Google Algorithm immediately launched them to the top slot. This will not complete the puzzle for him though. While simple changes such as Domain and Url manipulation can help with a giant and almost immediate boost, they have no chance without durable SEO work to back them up. I have no doubt that we will again take the first slot for the search terms "Naperville SEO" because he has done nothing more to improve the site.
- Linking- Inbound links from established and reputable sites is a necessity for anyone wishing to improve their site recognition, traffic, and if it matters to you, Page Rank. Page Rank is not exactly something I care about, but what it symbolizes is. The placement of quality links on informative sites will mean more traffic to your site. The Page Rank is just an added bonus that can only be seen in the rear view. Having links from high Page Rank sites will improve your ranking to an extent, but having many, many links from across many, many spectrum of the internet, will heighten the chances that visitors will find your site. Ultimately, why are your links out there? Do you wish to have a vanity trophy of Page Rank, or are you more concerned with building quality traffic and elevation in the SERPS?
- Content- If you aren't giving quality time and effort to your written content, you are not going to receive the ranking you could from the search engines. There are many services now that will even write your content for you. Here in Naperville, and throughout the entire Chicago are, there are businesses of writers that do nothing but write content for Website SEO. This is becoming a highly specialized career field and is one of the few areas of job growth for good and thoughtful writers.
- Have Fun- If you are working your own SEO, have fun with it. If you've taken on the task of maintaining your own SEO, enjoy the experience. The good and the bad moments can be entertaining, but if it becomes a beast of burden, turn it over to someone that can take on the challenge. Ensure that they know what they are doing as well.
- Will I provide the best quality service to a long term and valued client, or will I grab a mass of clients I don't care about and give them sub-par results?