Podcast #6: How To Deal With Negative SEO Attacks (And How We’re Handling One On One Of Our Sites)

What you will learn in this episode

  • What is negative SEO.
  • How to recognise negative SEO attempts.
  • How to prevent negative SEO attacks from being successful.
  • Our first hand experience on being negative SEOed.
  • How to turn a negative SEO into a positive thing.
  • More...

What is negative SEO ?

Negative SEO is the act of willingly trying to lower a site or page's ranking on Google. This is usually achieved by trying to trigger link level penalties for the targeted page by pointing a high number of low quality/irrelevant/spammy links to it.

Here is what happened to us...

When it comes to running authority sites, we really focus on relationship building through content. So as part as our monthly check up for our sites one thing we do is we use ahrefs to see who is linking to us this month and drop a little thank you email.

​As I put our url in the search tool of ahrefs (read the review), the following graph showed up:

Obviously something was wrong. I first thought that this was a bug from ahrefs but digging into the new links I saw over 1000 spammy links pointing to a tiny product review that didn't move the needle much for us.

I stopped for a second and wondered: "Is this really happening, I thought negative SEO was kind of a myth (and a waste of time)". ​

I then connected the whole thing with the recent huge waves of comment spam we've been ​receiving to the exact same page:

What is weird is that negative SEO is more usually seen on very competitive search result pages. This specific page and targeted keyword get close to no searches and traffic due to a lack of popularity of the product. That page makes close to no money and is very uncompetitive.

Here is the traffic we get sitting at #3 for its main keyword on Google:​

However, considering the fact that we give the product a pretty bad name (because it's a terrible ebook) We're suspecting the product owners to be behind the attack but we have absolutely no proof of anything.

Anyway, the page is still ranking and receiving its regular traffic (and so is the rest of the site) but we decided to take some pre emptive actions to prevent a link penalty from happening.​

What to do if you find yourself in this situation

Until the penguin update back in April 2012, low quality links could not really harm your rankings. But since that update, things are different. A large number of low quality links could have a devastating effect on your rankings.

But there is a way to prevent penalties using Google's disavow tool. This tool basically allows you to tell Google "Please ignore these links, I don't want them to be counted at all". This tool is primarily made to remove penalties from sites but it can also be used to prevent one.​

Here is the ​step by step process we used and you should use if you happen to be the victim of a negative SEO attack:

  1. ​Log in to webmaster tools (register and verify your site if you're not in yet)
  2. Click on the "Search Traffic" menu item on the left.
  3. Select "Links To Your Site" in the sub menu
  4. Go in the "Your most linked content" section and find the page(s) spammed
  5. Download the entire table if there was no known links to the page(s) or alternatively download the latest links. If you are getting real quality links to the page at the same time as you're getting spammed, you will have to remove these quality links from the downloaded list.
  6. Use this spreadsheet (make a copy of it) to concatenate "Domain:" with the domain names
  7. Copy  the concatenated lines in a fresh text file and save it
  8. Select your domain in the disavow tool and upload the text file.

Additional notes

This is the free and easy solution. However, webmaster tools despite of being Google's tool does not necessarily do a good job at reporting all the spammy links pointing to your site.

In our case for example, Ahrefs reports 900 spammy domains while webmaster tools only reports 580.

​One thing to consider as well is that even if Google does not report all the links, they may be penalising you for links they are not reporting in webmaster tools and this is a huge issue.

If you are truly getting spam links built in large quantities to your site, we highly recommend you buy at least 1 month of Ahrefs professional as it will do a much better job at giving you the list of spammy domains than Webmaster tools does.​

Additional links on negative SEO reports and prevention

Gael Breton

Hey I'm Gael, one of the guys behind Authority Hacker. I make a living working from my laptop in various places in the world and I will use this website to teach you how you could do the same.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
Baseem Najjar - September 1, 2014

Great stuff buddy.

Filip - September 1, 2014

Negative SEO is definitely not a myth.

Thank you for the short and neat post, and amazing podcast on this topic. Really needed as I experienced this recently on one of my fitness sites and I couldn’t find a checklist for using the disavow tool. (Great use of content upgrade here :P)

Keep up the great work guys, I’m a fan from day one!

    Gael Breton - September 1, 2014

    Argh, I thought people would like the spreadsheet more than our own list but I’ll email it to you and add it to the email. Thanks for dropping by Filip, we really appreciate the support :).

Tess from Go Viral Now - September 26, 2014

Great post. I had just been thinking about checking out the disavowel too. I have also seen some negative SEO (luckily not on my site but on clients’ sites).

This is a really useful and timely article. I’m also going to check out your course.

Cheers :)

    Gael Breton - September 26, 2014

    Hey Tess,

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by. Glad you found the post/podcast useful! I highly recommend you disavow toxic links even if you’re not penalised yet. These things can accumulate to the point where they’d trigger a penalty at a random penguin rollout.

    Let me know what you think of the course when you’ve been through it !



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