[Case Study] Coping With Negative SEO - Unnatural Links, Google RR & Link Removal

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by Lilacor, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. Lilacor

    Lilacor Regular Member

    Feb 22, 2013
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    SEO expert at SeoFen.com
    Webmasters have rolled up their sleeves to do the necessary work to match Penguin?s demands. In fact, that has been an impressive amount of work since April 2012. The reason is that when websites are hit by Penguin, the traffic drops considerably, and so does business success. Business owners are at a loss about how to deal with the diminishing online findability, and fear they may have to lay off some of their staff.

    Everyone is anxious to see a solution like a light at the end of the Penguin penalty tunnel. But it should be remembered that the work to be done to rise in Penguin?s favor should be of the reactive type. That means work should be implemented to enable punished sites to recover. For the time being, not many companies realize that the proactive approach is the only solution to remedying their online findability, even before Penguin awards its harsh punishment. One such case is described below, and everyone can trace the remedying process from the accumulation of unnatural links to a rewarding online profile.

    Website Redesigns, WOT and Unnatural Links

    The project of links improvement was implemented for a business owner who was contemplating a redesign of his website. The owner had a discussion with the webmaster who was his consultant, and it was pointed out to him that from the viewpoint of search engine optimization such redesign could present formidable hazards. A year later, the owner remembered the piece of advice, and contacted the webmaster again for up to date tips on the matter of redesigning. He also emphasized that there had been signals of low reputation of his website, as pointed out from the specific web of trust. He sought advice on how to find out the reason for the sinking reputation, and on how to remedy the situation. When the analysis was initiated, it turned out that there was a lot more in addition to the low WOT score.

    Web of Trust (WOT) Explained and Human Intelligence Analyzed

    The WOT, or web of trust, is a crowd sourced system which is operated to award ratings around the web. It is a counterpart of antivirus programs, and looks for spam to warn about its existence on particular websites. The data that is collected by means of that web is obtained from human raters.

    In the case discussed here, there was the link spam warning. The association that it evoked was with unnatural links, comment spam, and of course, risk of falling out of favor with Penguin. The links issue was evident. Initially the webmaster doubted that the website owner was using comment spam, with the aim of obtaining exact match anchor text links. However, that was not very likely. The webmaster went on to explore and analyze the links profile.

    What Infiltration of Bad Links Brings?

    Google Webmaster Tools was the instrument to help to check the inbound links that had been judged by Google. But the owner of the business website did not have his own account.

    So the first lesson to be learned is that setting up the Google Webmaster Tools account is a must, and as soon as it is set up, it is mandatory to verify the website profile. Google shares a host of information with webmasters, and that information includes inbound links. The webmaster used Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer, in order to analyze the website link profile. The links amount shown was not the whole lot that the website had, but it helped to notice that a problem related to unnatural links was looming large. The webmaster spotted exact match anchor text with respect to competitive keywords that bear a relation to the business owner?s niche of activity (at the anchor text list top). The further scrutiny of the links helped to see that there were a host of Penguin like links.

    The problem was beginning to take a clearer shape, as they were the type of links that lead to the hitting of websites by Penguin. Such links included exact match anchor text links provided in blogrolls, in comment spam, directory type links, etc. It was time for Google Webmaster Tools to come to the stage. It painted an even more formidable picture, with a larger amount of links to the whole site that included more spam type links than were visible with the previous two tools used, OSE and Majestic. According to Google Webmaster Tools, the spammy links amount formed a daunting 40% of the website link profile. What was worse, there was a trend for an ascending spammy links number.

    It was time to learn the second lesson?

    The strategy of quality content development, plus the appropriate social strategy, together with the link building plan, should be high on the agenda. The importance of worthy content and the relevant well developed social strategy can form the solid basis for a natural link profile that is also well balanced. The website being analyzed did not have many natural links, which was conducive to a risky situation with Google?s Penguin.

    Finding The Very Essential Cause for the Unnatural Links

    It was time to dig into the matter and find out where the root of the problem lay. It turned out the business website owner had not implemented any SEO activities for his website in the recent past. Neither had he strived to make any link building efforts. All that the person had done was to use YouTube. The webmaster showed the business person the examples of the spammy links that had been identified. The situation was perplexing for him, and he asked how such links could have been created.

    The Culprit ? Negative SEO

    The business owner said none of his staff, and none of the vendors, had undertaken link building. Naturally the question arose of how such links had been formed. The culprit, according to the webmaster, was negative SEO. The whodunit work had to be done to find out those responsible.

    Whodunit Type Analysis

    The analysis dwelt on the pages that had spammy links leading to the website; the links had been found out with the aid of Google Webmaster Tools, Majestic, and OSE. The parties that had worked on the website in the course of the past 12 months had to be analyzed ? it was highly probable that it was there that the root of negative SEO lay. The webmaster, in conjunction with the business owner, sent emails to these parties to explain what the links situation looked like, and how that situation could prove to be rather adverse in the light of the next Penguin update judgment.

    The Email Replies, And How One of Them Provided the Response

    The replies to the email did not take long to arrive, denying any negative SEO, and it could be seen these were genuine replies. But one of them provided the response needed and helped to clarify the situation. It was a company that had done some promotion work on the business owner?s services, so last year they also built links to his website to help enhance his online findability. It was clear those links were the spammy links identified with the aid of the Webmaster tools.

    In fact, it was the work of a fourth party, as that company outsourced the link building task to some overseas consultants. Their efforts resulted in the building of exact match anchor text links within some spammy directories, as well as in blogrolls and in spammy blogs; there was also comment spam to add to the whole lot. Those links were just what Penguin needed to award penalties. Since its first hit on April 24, 2012, there have been a lot of instances like that.

    The root of the evil having been established, and the culprit having been identified, the drawing up of the remedial activities was easy. The webmaster contacted the company that had built the links, to ask for collaboration.

    Link Building Company Cooperates Promptly

    The business website owner explained how matters lay, and in his turn the webmaster explained what Penguin penalties mean when the biggest search engine discovers unnatural links. The evidence of some screenshots of how Google dealt with websites that were hit by Penguin was added to shed the final rays of light. The explanation of how adversely the business website would be hit by Penguin, or what a manual penalty would bring, was enough to get across that the links had to be removed in the nearest future possible. The webmaster also underlined the fact that the last Penguin update occurred in October 2012, so it was a matter of very little time before the next update hit the online space. The company that had built the links responded and took action quickly. That was a lucky denouement, as it is not often that link building companies react quickly and cooperatively, and in many cases they also demand payment for the links removal they have to carry out.

    It was a weekend period, but the SEO company?s vice president was at work, contacting the link builders they had used, and doing his best to have such links removed. It took just a day to notice that the action was already crowned with some success, as the removal of the links was felt very quickly. A certain amount of links were promptly removed, and the vice president presented the realistic deadlines with respect to the accomplishment of the removal project. There were also links that could not be removed, but the webmaster had his strong tool to use on them, the disavow tool.

    The Disavow Tool and the Reconsideration Request

    Just a week had passed, but the link profile had got significantly better, with a hefty percentage of the links having been removed, and more links were expected to be removed in the near future. The webmaster added the links that could not be removed to his disavow worksheet. Then he submitted the disavow file by means of Google Webmaster tools, and then it was the turn of the drawing up of a reconsideration request.

    The Reconsideration Request ? Making a Clean Breast of It

    The reconsideration request had to be a genuine description of the situation. The business owner explained the matter from the outset, since the building of the links by his vendor, and then what work had been done on their removal, as well as what had been done in terms of disavowing links that could not be removed manually. A link was provided to the spreadsheet containing the whole amount of links tackled and indicating which of them had been removed and which had been disavowed.

    Part of the reconsideration request was contributed by the vice president of the company which had built the spammy links: he explained that it was not the business owner?s fault, explained how the links had been created, and provided all his contact details and his complete signature.

    The Outcome

    In the meantime, the webmaster monitored the business owner?s website by means of Google Webmaster Tools, as well as using Google Analytics and third party link analysis tools. It was important for him to establish if there were any changes impacting the website in connection with the rankings or the traffic amount. The good news was that everything was under control, so that was a clear indication that the website was not in danger of being hit by the next Penguin update. The webmaster was confident that enough care was taken, on several layers, with the removal and disavowal activities, and with the sending of the reconsideration request whose strong point was the section contributed by the vice president of the company that had built the bad links.

    The Usefulness of the Lessons Taught by the Case Discussed

    The lessons learned in the course of the race to avoid the penalty that could be imposed by Penguin were worth the efforts. After all, that is just one of the many cases that plague unsuspecting business website owners across the globe, and those who are informed beforehand will be forearmed and knowingly approach the matter of improving their link profiles.

    - Awareness of the Work Scope.
    The awareness of the work scope is truly important when a third party is hired. It should include the information on the projects that they will be implementing. The list of projects should be obtained in writing. Receiving reports on the completed activities is another must. These are all the necessary conditions to be certain that everything is going on properly.
    - The Person Responsible for the Work.
    The fact of who should be responsible for the completion should be certified in writing. Relying on companies that outsource the work to other parties can bring unpleasant surprises, and there have been enough cases of such reliance yielding punishment by Penguin.
    - Setting Up a Google Webmaster Tools Account.
    The sooner the account is set up and the website is checked with it, the better. The account also brings a lot of data. Setting up an account for Bing Webmaster Tools is equally rewarding.
    - Analyzing the Inbound Links.
    The link profile has to be inspected as soon as possible. When the new Penguin update awards its judgment, it will be late to take action. The link analysis is important to help realize which sites provide links and in what manner the links are provided. The findings can yield useful and surprising results.
    - Take Action Instantly.
    Any problem should be remedied as soon as possible, and as thoroughly as possible. Action rather than words should be the steps to take. The thorough work should be implemented not only on link removal, but also when the reconsideration request is drawn up and submitted. The last resort, the disavow tool is also designed to be used, when nothing else can help.

    Approaching the Finish Line

    It is a tough job to maintain a level that will help to merit Penguin?s favor. The maintenance is like a race that goes on until the next Penguin update is rolled out. But it is something that has to be done, to help websites keep on a par with the requirements. In the case discussed above, it is yet to be seen how well the situation has improved ? when the next Penguin update is launched. Part of the work done to maintain a steady quality of the link profile is to keep developing a quality content plan and an adequate social strategy. In all cases such timely measures will yield rewarding results.

    Source: http://seofen.com/
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