How to recover from a negative SEO attack

Welcome to the next-to-the-last article in our six-part series on negative SEO. If you’ve been following along, you understand what negative SEO is. You’ve audited your situation to know whether or not you were hit, and you know how to reduce your likelihood of being a target in the future. You even know how to try and defend yourself from an ongoing negative SEO campaign. Now, it is time to clean up the mess.

This article is meant to serve as a companion piece to the previous articles in the series. As such, we will once again segment the recovery process into three main areas: links, content and user signals. The good news is that you can recover from attacks in any of those areas; the bad news is that, depending on what type of negative activity you’re attempting to recover from, it could be a lengthy process.

Inbound links

The first step is to build a disavow file of the most toxic links you have identified in your analysis of the attack. You can find more about how to structure the actual file here. While the article is informative, I believe, for psychological reasons, a bigger file looks better, so I recommend listing complete URLs rather than root domains.

Next, you’ll want to craft a reconsideration request if the negative SEO attack resulted in a manual action. Be honest and explain how you found out about the attack; provide any proof you can provide in terms of screen shots that show it was a third party placing these links and not you; and explain what you’ve done to try and clean up the situation, including disavowing.

Should you get resistance from Google denying your reconsideration requests, you’ll need to show multiple attempts to contact the webmasters hosting the “bad” links pointing to your web pages. In the proof submitted to these webmasters (which you will also submit to Google), explain that the links are hurting your reputation and you did not request them.

If the penalty you’ve been assessed is algorithmic in nature, you may simply need to wait until Google processes the disavow file and decides to fold the data back into its calculations. To speed things up, once you have disavowed the URLs, you may choose to accelerate Google’s crawl of those URLs. While there are multiple ways to do this, my favorite involves creating an RSS file with the undesired URLs and submitting the file to multiple RSS aggregation sites.

Negative SEO

Injected content and links

Before you read on, I encourage you to refer back to our article on proactive prevention, as the cleanup of most hacks involves updating security via patching your server and/or moving to a dedicated host.

Similarly, update your robots.txt to ensure you index only the sections of your site you want to be indexed. I also strongly recommend turning off comments if you don’t absolutely need comments on your site.

If you were hacked — which shows up as either a manual action in the form of a link penalty (see above) or a security issue — you’ll need to notify Google of your efforts to fix the hack. Thankfully, Google is responsive when it comes to resolving hacked site notifications and usually will reset the penalty flag.

Unfortunately, being labeled a hacked result means you’ll have more cleanup to do since it will have negatively impacted your user signals. Most sites hacked for search purposes also end up acting as parasitic landing pages for the hackers, so you will need to treat the situation as a link penalty issue as well.

User signals

Cleaning up user signal issues once an attack has stopped is a relatively easy process to conceptualize. To fix artificially poor click-through rates (CTRs) and bounce rates, you need to attract more clicks with a longer dwell time.

How do you do this?

  1. Consider running a contest on your social channels. Require entrants of the contest to perform some nominal actions like navigating to your site and filling out a form. This equates to a brand query in Google, followed by a click, then followed by a form completion.
  2. Go on a positive public relations campaign for something unrelated to the attack. Give to your favorite charities, announce a new product, promote an employee — anything positive you can offer influencers and local media who will help promote the cause. These efforts provide some positive value back to your site.
  3. Fix poor user signals and improve your site. Granted, this will take longer, but it will help improve your overall content and linking strategy.

No matter the specific type of attack used against a site, what I like to recommend post-cleanup is to push forward with an updated content marketing strategy. As you might recall from one of my earlier articles, which recommended making changes to your site to reduce attack vectors, the stronger and more authoritative a site is, the more difficult it is to damage it from a search perspective.

Then why deploy a new content marketing strategy at this point? A winning content marketing plan results in the creation of value-added content which is designed to build a brand and attract users and links. A post-cleanup content marketing strategy will also mitigate risk from future attacks by improving a site’s inbound link profile, indexable content and user signals.

A negative SEO content strategy method

Here is the process we use at Digital Heretix (my company) to mitigate risk and our recovery process.

  • Identify the top three to 10  competitors for your website. We’ll call this group of sites, (including your own) “competitors.”
  • Pull ranking data to determine which search phrases your competitors rank for.
  • Pull your competitors’ search phrases and calculate value from a PPC perspective using Google Ads tools to determine potential user worth.
  • Look at the backlinks for each page of your competitor’s site that ranks in the top 100 in Google.
  • Group the competitor’s keywords and phrases logically, so you can create your own authoritative content comprised of the same/similar phrases.
  • Rank the content development priorities by determining the highest value keywords/phrases and lowest competition. Use data from Google Ads to help determine keyword value. Even if you don’t participate in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you can benefit from PPC data, as it allows you to determine the highest commercial value of a phrase.

After conducting competitive research and performing your analytics, if you determine some content on your site is out of date or not converting, you can update the link references to a better page and modify the content to satisfy your content initiative.  You can also consolidate all content from the non-converting pages to a single authoritative page and permanently 301 redirect the non-converting pages to a new, authoritative page.

If you feel you have content that’s not worth saving, and there are no inbound links to it, use a 410 error code to show the page has been permanently closed and remove all internal navigation.

One last scenario to consider: If the content on your site is relevant and the topics are being used by your competitors, expand the content on your site. Set up a content calendar for the creation of new content assets and stick to a publishing schedule.

If this strategy seems too laborious or confusing, you can skip all of the aforementioned steps by using Keywordjuicer.com.  It is the only tool I’m aware of that automates the entire negative SEO content strategy method outlined in this section.

Content cannot live in a vacuum; acquiring links and social mentions are needed to promote and give credibility to content.

In our next and final installment of the Negative SEO series, we’ll look into the future of negative SEO and what you might expect to encounter with Google’s ever-evolving algorithms.


Did you miss the first four installments? Here they are:

Part 1: What negative SEO is and is not
Part 2: How to determine if you’ve been hit by negative SEO
Part 3: How to be proactive and prevent a negative SEO campaign
Part 4: How to defend yourself against an ongoing negative SEO campaign


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Google Recommends SEO Noobs Join Help Forums To Gain Experience

Google’s John Mueller Recommends SEO Noobs Join Help Forums To Gain Experience

Aug 24, 2018 • | (0)by Barry Schwartz | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

    Prev Story

    John Mueller of Google answered a question in a Reddit thread about advice on how an SEO noob, a person who is inexperienced in SEO, learn and get good at SEO. John said you should gain experience with the help of webmaster help forums and communities.

    I know I’m biased, but for learning technical issues, there’s not much that beats getting experience. One great way to get experience for cheap is to be active in any of the webmaster help forums / communities (Google has one, but there are others too). After a while, you can spot the common issues quickly: “page isn’t indexed” -> “check meta tags, robots.txt, rel-canonical, etc.”. Getting practice with other people’s sites, even if you never post in the threads, helps you to be secure when a client comes to you with the same issue. When it comes to debugging issues, keep https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor in mind — it’s almost always like that :).

    There is nothing like experience and often when you are new to something, hearing from those who have gone through things many times that you are for the first time experiencing is helpful. So many help forums can be, um, helpful. Of course, some people on forums can be pretty rough but still, sharing and learning online is a beautiful thing.

    The thread is pretty nice to read so check it out.

    The pulse of the search community

    Search buzz Video

    10 Things You MUST Know About Social Media Marketing with Your Pet

    There’s no shortage of animals who have become stars on social media. From Grumpy Cat to doggo memes, people love looking at pictures of cute pets on Instagram and similar platforms. Some businesses have even begun to leverage the popularity of pet accounts for marketing purposes.

    Small Business Trends recently discussed this trend with Richard Wong, the VP Marketing and Creator Relations of #paid, an influencer and content marketing platform that works with brands and influencers — including pet social media stars.



    Social Media Marketing with Pets

    Whether you’re interested in making your own pet into a social media star or leveraging the power of other animal influencers for your brand, here are some tips for creating compelling social media campaigns that revolve around popular animals.

    Go for Mass Appeal

    Normally, marketing a business requires you to speak to a very specific niche. But pets have pretty universal appeal. So using your own pet in marketing materials or working with other cute animals can help you make your brand more appealing to people in general, which can be beneficial when included with the rest of your marketing strategy that is more carefully niched.

    Post Content Regularly

    As with any other social media strategy, creating an account for your pet requires you to post and create content regularly. Wong suggests getting on a regular schedule so that people know when to expect new posts from your account.

    Provide Inspiration or Escape

    Within that content that you’re creating regularly, it’s also a good idea to think about what it actually provides to improve the lives of your followers. In most cases, this should be some type of inspiration or escape from the normal day-to-day.



    Wong said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “People go to social media primarily to get inspiration or take them to new places, and what better way to do that than with amazingly cute photos of animals.”

    Keep It Social

    Another similar facet of running an account for a pet social media star is interacting with followers. Just because the account might revolve around your pet, who in all likelihood can’t respond to Instagram comments, doesn’t mean you can just post something and forget about it. You or another rep from your business should regularly respond to questions and interact with others on the platforms that you use.

    Integrate Brands Seamlessly

    For those who are interested in creating pet influencer accounts that can actually earn an income by working with outside brands, which could be a nice side hustle for an existing business owner, it’s important to demonstrate to brands how you can integrate posts about them into your content.

    Wong says, “A great way to do this is to recommend different brands that you work with on an organic basis in a seamless and natural way with your followers.”

    Research Outside Influencers Carefully

    On the other hand, if you’re interested in working with other pet influencers to market your business, you need to carefully vet those accounts before investing any time and money on the project. Specifically, pet influencer accounts can purchase followers or bots just like any other influencers. So dig deeper by looking at engagement numbers, likes and comments or work with an influencer marketing agency that vets its users.



    Partner with Other Social Stars

    In order to grow your pet social media account, it can help to find partners with similar audiences. If you have an account where you share photos of the dog at your family farm, maybe you could partner with a cat from another local business for some cross-promotional opportunities.

    Create Authentic Partnerships

    Whether you’re partnering with another social media pet personality or paying for an influencer marketing campaign, it’s important that you content comes off as authentic. Make sure you find partners that are knowledgeable about your industry or target customers. If they’re representing your business in any way, they should able to answer questions about your business or the campaign that you’re promoting.

    Consider Your Target Audience

    Another thing to consider in any partnership opportunity is to carefully research the target audience of the account you want to work with. If you have a business that only sells products locally, then it wouldn’t make much sense for you to work with accounts with global audiences. If you target young people, then make sure the pet stars you want to work with are popular with that particular age group.

    Get Creative with Campaigns

    However, that doesn’t mean that you can only use pet influencer marketing if you have a pet centric business. Since these animal accounts have the potential for mass appeal, you can connect with popular accounts or create your own to promote basically any type of business.



    Wong says, “People always think of pet food companies or pet stores, but we’ve seen some brands do some really creative things.”

    He says that #paid has seen everyone from musical acts to paper towel manufacturers make use of pet influencers. Basically, you just need to be creative and do all the prep work involved in launching a successful marketing campaign and you can leverage the power of cute animal pictures to increase your reach even more.

    Photo via Shutterstock

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    Park Sweeps Freestyle, Seo Yeong Blasts World #1 200 IM

    2018 KOREAN NATIONALS

    Heading into the recently-concluded 2018 Korean Nationals, Olympian Park Tae Hwan told the press that he wasn’t near peak form as of yet in his bid to make his 4th Asian Games roster.

    “Since I got a late start, I should work that much harder for the Asian Games,” he told reporters at Incheon International Airport last week. “I am not getting any younger, and I’ve been trying hard to improve my conditioning and stamina. I’d like to prove that I am still a competitive swimmer this year.”

    As such, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400m freestyle still swept his 4 individual events in Gwangju, the site of the 2019 World Championships, albeit in non-eye-popping efforts. In the men’s 100m free, Park’s weakest of the freestyle events, the 28-year-old clocked a winning time of 49.27. That’s a solid time for the man who has only been under the 49-second threshold 6 times in his career, including most recently in Atlanta with his 48.62 at last year’s Pro Swim.

    In the 200m free in Gwangju, Park produced a very respectable 1:46.63 to win by almost 2 solid seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. That mark falls within half a second of 2017 fastest time of 1:46.28 and positions the Incheon Metropolitan City swimmer just outside the world’s top 10 this season.

    A time of 3:46.50 clinched the 400m freestyle title for Park, while his mark of 15:14.99 captured the 1500m title to give him is 4th gold over the span of the meet. His 400m freestyle effort now checks-in as the 7th fastest this season and 2nd fastest Asian only behind world leader Sun Yang of China.

    2017-2018 LCM MEN 400 FREE

    2 Mack
    HORTON
    AUS 3.43.76 04/05
    3 Jack
    McLOUGHLIN
    AUS 3.45.21 04/05
    4 James
    GUY
    GBR 3.45.32 04/05
    5 Alexander
    KRASNYKH
    RUS 3.45.84 04/20
    6 Domenico
    ACCERENZA
    ITA 3.46.27 04/10
    7 Naito
    EHARA
    JPN 3.46.64 04/03

    View Top 27»

    In terms of national records, both the men’s and women’s boards saw new marks entered when all was said and done in Gwangju. Kang Ji Seok took the men’s 50m backstroke in a new national record-setting time of 24.93, while Lee Ju Ho set new national standards in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

    Lee punched a time of 54.17 for the 100m and 1:57.67 in the 200m to enter new times into the Korean swimming books.

    For the women, Kim Hye Jin earned a new national mark in the 100m breaststroke, stopping the clock at 1:07.44, while Kim Seo Yeong established a new national time in the 200m IM with her winning effort of 2:08.61.

    Seo Yeong’s time beats out Asian rival Yui Ohashi to take over the top spot in the world in the 200m IM event, sans Hungary’s Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu’s competing this year thus far.

    2017-2018 LCM WOMEN 200 IM

    2 Siobhan-Marie
    O’CONNOR
    GBR 2.09.80 04/08
    3 Madison
    COX
    USA 2.09.82 03/03
    4 Sydney
    PICKREM
    CAN 2.09.92 01/12
    5 Miho
    TERAMURA
    JPN 2.10.21 04/06

    View Top 26»

    Seo Yeong’s 2:08.61 clocking crushed her own pervious personal best of 2:09.86 set in the semi-finals of the 2017 World Championships. She wound up finishing 6th overall in that competition’s final (2:10.40), but her new sub-2:09 national record would have given her the bronze medal in Budapest.

    Best Practices: Content Marketing for Driving Quality SEO and Inbound Customers

    Alon Alroy, Co-Founder & CMO at Bizzabo shares key tactics to develop a content marketing program that drives results for your business 

    Content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked. Content marketing is what fuels a company’s SEO efforts and inbound lead generation channel. At Bizzabo, we’ve seen this principle in action and, by investing in the creation of high-quality content, we’ve seen substantive improvements in both our organic search rankings and the quality of our inbound customer requests. There’s value to building a site that has an SEO-friendly structure, and to putting technical optimizations in place, but neither of these things will do enough to impact visibility in the long run if deep, meaningful, quality content isn’t also present.

    Further, creating high-quality content – whether it be informative, educational, inspirational, or even just entertaining – attracts link backs. Quality inbound links is a key factor in SEO ranking and can also drive in volumes of new traffic to your site.

    Here are key tactics to develop a content marketing program that drives results for your business:

    Set Your Targets: Keywords, Customers, Topics

    It’s important to do some effective keyword research because, at its core, keywords reflect the voices of your audience. Each search query is your audience looking for more content about a specific topic.

    To get started with developing your keyword strategy, take a look at tools like BuzzSumo and Moz, which will streamline your research and help you prioritize which keywords to include in your content and how well your pages are ranked with those keywords implemented.

    Hand in hand with keyword research, you’ll want to have your customer profiles developed and ready to leverage. Who are your buyers? What role do they play in their company, and where are they in the buying journey? Are they looking for market research, case studies, or are they ready to buy and need a product feature comparison sheet? Your customer profiles will help set the stage for both your keywords as well as your content topics.

    Start identifying content topics by brainstorming all the different content marketing ideas that relate to your specific business niche. If you’re in a niche market, you may find that a higher volume and frequency of content that you publish on your niche topic areas is helpful to gaining traction. If you’re in a crowded market, you may want to focus more on original and unique topics with a thoughtful approach, publishing less often.

    Design with User Experience in Mind

    When it comes to how you publish content on your website and company blog, you’ll want it to feel intuitive for the user to read and to navigate. Review the hierarchy of your articles and consider numbered lists and bullets to highlight important points in your articles and a bulleted conclusion with the most important takeaways.

    Additionally, having mobile-ready content is the new norm in 2018. There are upwards of 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide today, and the world is migrating to mobile web and apps to access information and complete tasks all day, every day. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat are the leaders in social media with the majority of their users accessing channels through their mobile devices.

    Mobile-ready content is at an all-time high, so regardless of your industry and company size, what products and services you sell, always keep in mind ensuring that your content is ready for mobile consumption.

    Content Industry Trends: Multimedia

    Content marketing is moving beyond text on a blog. In addition to designing for mobile experiences, the challenge for marketers moving forward is customizing content for audiences and adapting to new formats that customers prefer. Just writing text isn’t going to appeal to all audiences anymore. Your content marketing team will need to consist of video and audio editors as well as graphic designers. Audiences are being drawn to more interactive, visual and auditory content across PCs and mobile devices (even assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa) for consumption.

    At Bizzabo, we’ve embraced video to announce ebooks, give product overviews and showcase our company culture.

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    Building Trust Through Influencers

    Buyers are increasingly turning to influencers and trusted sources for recommendations, more than traditional ads and brand sponsorships. The reason being that the level of authenticity of peers, thought leaders and influencers seem higher than typical branded advertising. Going forward, marketers should focus more on transparency and engaging other industry thought leaders to build relationships with customers. For instance, leveraging guest experts to participate in webinars, white papers or blog content can leverage not only an authentic source for voicing their opinions on key topics for your audience, you can also potentially leverage the reach of influencer followers to share your content.

    We regularly feature industry thought leaders on the Bizzabo blog. First and foremost, these thought leaders bring valuable insights to the table. Second, they share these posts with their networks, which helps us break into new audiences. For instance, in one post we asked social media experts for event marketing advice. We still receive regular shares from this post to this day.

    Content Promotion and Syndication

    There are more ways than ever to get your content in front of prospective customers, and this year, smart marketers will be investing more in content distribution to more effectively develop multi-channel and social syndication plans. At the same time, the lines between owned, earned, and paid content have begun to blur with increasing content marketing.

    Marketers should work with their content teams on the distribution strategy – sharing content through channels most relevant for your audience – and increase content promotion, especially paid promotion to boost its engagement.

    While there are many content marketing trends on the rise in 2018, it’s still important to research which tactics are relevant for your audience and that can improve your own content marketing strategy over the next year. Rather than chase trends, lean towards research first. Keep an eye on top performers in your industry and leverage data with experimentation to fuel your strategy in 2018.