We Were Victimized by Negative SEO

We’d worked on the BinaryBiz site for about two months. It represented about 250 man hours, and I was satisfied with the results. Apparently the SERP’s were too. The site quickly moved up from more than page ten to page one in Google and Bing US.

Sadly, it was a short lived victory.

The domain ranked well for two very competitive keywords, and as a result long tail and other primary keywords also began to improve. It was really exciting as well as validating the work we’d done to improve the quality of the site. We’d done a complete redesign of the site, added affiliate programs, new content, and structure. It had been a couple month effort, but it was paying off, and we were proud of it.

Not long after achieving this success the site began to drop. First one keyword, then the other. Within a few days, the site no longer ranked for the keywords. Within a month the site could not even be found in the first 100 results (disclaimer: this is our domain. Our clients receive priority attention and our stuff comes last).

Finally getting around to seeing what was happening, I logged in to my account at ahrefs. Using the ‘new back links’ feature there, I was able to quickly determine the reason for the dramatic and sudden drop in the domain ranking.

Apparently a competitor didn’t like the idea of our site being page one.

So they set about to destroy our ranking by posting tens of thousands of back links at discussion forums and website directories. It worked.

In the image you can see that the scumbag posting to the directories and forums used the same urls to back link to repeatedly. You can also identify the forums by the “.php?” in the URL.
Fortunately they used the same footprint repeatedly (as you can see) of back linking to the root/sub domain as well as the main two keywords that were beneficial to our site.

I downloaded the list of back links (45,000 were added in less than two weeks alone) from ahrefs, used notepad++ and excel to search and find the urls (using the search tool,  for forum posting where the url string almost always contains .php?)

When done I had a list of 31,118 toxic domains

These are being used against me that I would use to disavow over at Google Webmaster Tools. Because the file size exceeded GWT  2mb upload limit and my file size exceeded 5mb I was forced to break them in to smaller sizes. Did that, and uploaded for both the root and sub-domain editions of the site.

I’m not sure if GWT aggregates submissions or takes only the last one. I hope it’s the former and not the latter, especially when I have so many sites and urls to disavow, and more are being created daily. If anyone has an idea about this, please chime in.

The entire ordeal took over 5 hours. I’m obviously unhappy that Google allows unethical SEO agencies to be successful with such a thing.

Google should rethink how they react to bad or toxic links

Instead of punishing a domain perhaps they can just ignore the link completely. If the link has no positive value then Google has done their job. The site does not benefit from the link. But to punish a site, destroy it’s ranking, for links that a domain owner typically has no control over or worse, by an unscrupulous unethical person or agency because they posted toxic back links to the domain is just unfair.

Not only have we lost sales and income, we lose credibility and are forced to invest hours of time to find the problem, produce the disavow and now monitor the site back links daily. To say this is frustrating is an understatement. Agencies / Individuals (aka “asshats”) who practice negative SEO due to their jealousy that another product may compete with them should be castrated so the Family Tree of toxic SEO is pruned forever.

If you’re the victim of a negative SEO campaign, you can follow these steps to create your own disavow list:

  1. Download a list of your backlinking urls. Pick your favorite tool. Mine is ahrefs.
  2. Search for the “?” character in the URLs and copy them to a new text list (make sure it is UTF8 formatted). Theose URLS with ? in them are usually spammy forum profiles. Can anyone say ‘Xrumer’?
  3. Take the remaining domains in the list and compare it’s metrics. I use Dometrics for this (disclaimer: this is our product). It extract the metrics of domains and alexa and it detect the sites with no traffic and adds them to the bad list. In my case there was about 600 porn/viagra related urls backlinking to my domain. Fun times.
  4. Move ALL the domains that have no traffic, and no metrics, to the list you started for the forum links.
  5. Login to Google Web Master Tools. If you don’t have an account, make one. There are plenty of articles on how to do it.
  6. Upload your list.

We offer this service as well, if you don’t have the time or stomach to do this yourself. You can simply contact us to get started.

Despite the fact that we weren’t behind any of these bad back links Google has still punished us. We have a good product with quality back links earned by unquestionable tactics and ranked well, and our competition knows it. It’s unbelievable that we’re forced to take time to quash these bad links instead of producing quality content and product that Google would be proud to show their customers. To say I’m indignant about it all is an understatement. I think it’s irresponsible for Google to acknowledge toxic links and it only emboldens the people behind them.

I’d like to think that Google is aware of this and taking steps to fix it. However, when a site can’t rank for a keyword organically then the fallback “solution” for web presence is Google AdWords. Maybe this is the desired result Google wants after all …