Hey everyone, I hope this post finds you well. Unfortunately, I came across something today that has put a bad taste in my mouth for the remainder of the day. I’m sure you’ve all read the recent spiels on negative SEO, and possibly the posts on SEOmoz in regards to it.
Well as of today, all that reading about negative SEO finally hit home on a personal level. A website of mine that has been stable at page 1 for multiple keywords for about a month now had started acting a bit off yesterday. Generally when you check a SERP multiple times in a 24 period, you’ll find that the site has flucatuated a bit, this is normal.
However, what’s not normal is to see the days fluctuation go haywire when compared to your sites usual 24 hour period movement. Now at first I thought ok, maybe the site was hit by this new Penguin update, but digging a bit deeper with tools such as Ahrefs reveals a much different story…
What Happened To My Site
No the site i’m referring to is not TPL, it is another authority site that I own in which I have invested a relatively substantial amount of money in high quality content such as infographics, detailed posts and conducted all white hat back linking strategies.
Anyways, into what has happened. Well as I mentioned as of yesterday things were moving around a bit more than usual, I tried to dismiss it, however I checked on it today to find something startling. 4 out of 5 main keywords that I target were down between 9 and 68 spots. In other words, between approximately 1-7 pages. If you know anything about the usual amount of pages a search engine user goes through, you’ll know that that is a detrimental blow to your daily user base (if you’ve not built an interactive community or subscriber list).
So once I saw this drop, a red flag immediately went up. At this point I knew it was not the recent Penguin update that had hit me because previously in the day Matt Cutts had tweeted that the update was completely live (and I had actually moved up several spots because of it). At this point in time I dove into researching the link profile of my site with a tool that I HIGHLY recommend called Ahrefs.com which can be used to identify back link URLs, back link velocity trends, anchor texts, and ranking positioning.
…Negative SEO is very real, and if you don’t believe it this is proof…
What I found was that Ahrefs.com had picked up a 38 backlink spike over the past 24 hours. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but that is certainly NOT natural, and was not done by me as that would be considered web spam (which I avoided with said site). After I noticed the backlink spike, I immediately started digging around to find the URLs that Ahrefs.com had picked up my site on. It was URLs with hundreds upon hundreds of comments. I thought “hmm that’s odd I don’t do comment spamming”, however I used the handy dandy keyboard short cut CNTRL F, and typed in the anchor text that Ahrefs.com said had been used. Sure enough, it was a spammy looking blog comment with my primary target keyword (which gets over 3 million local exact searches per month) as the anchor text. As soon as I saw this I became very upset, so I checked another link, and another, and another… all pulled up as comment spam with that exact same anchor text.
What I Plan To Do To Recover The Site
Well, first things first. I am busy researching all the comment spam, emailing the webmasters of those websites to try and get the IP that posted on their site and get the spam links removed. I’m going to use the IP to try and find the spammers contact information, however I don’t expect to have any luck because more than likely they’re either behind a proxy or on what’s known as a “black hat VPS”.
At this time I’ve tweeted out to Matt Cutts to try and get his attention drawn to the issue, and that something needs to get done about this. A competitor has just killed a large chunk of my business with some simple spam comments… that’s just not right. Now, moving forward I will also be emailing Google and posting on their support forum to try and get to the bottom of this and hope to get these backlinks removed, devalued, or something. I and my current writers will continue providing high quality content to our readers in hopes of our rankings being restored, however it’s really out of our control from here.
What I’ve Learned From This Experience
First off, I’m a person of optimism, so I prefer to look at the positive outcomes for every single situation I am dealt. After all life is much easier if you carry a solid head on your shoulders, right? I’d like to think so. So let’s touch base on a couple things I’ve learned from this…
1) If you are relying on a single site for your income that is largely SEO and organic traffic driven YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE
2) Negative SEO is very possible, I’ve just witnessed it first hand, and have the evidence in my opinion to support it
3) You can be as White Hat as you want, but you’re not safe from others. You can do everything just as Google says, but all it takes is for one person to come in and possibly ruin your whole business
4) Google’s algorithm is not perfect. It cannot detect every time someone is sabotaging search results.
5) To not sit here and mourn about losing a site, but to get back up rebuild, restructure, and move on!
Well TPL’ers what’s your opinions on negative SEO? What would you do if you were in my situation? I’d love to hear! All comments on this matter are appreciate, and I’ll personally go through and acknowledge everyone responses.