Living in the World of Negative SEO – Mike Litson in Print

Article In Print In IGB Affiliate July Issue

Since the recent blog network nuking handed down by Google and the WMT (webmaster tools) warnings that many affiliates will have received we have seen undisputed proof that being linked to from the wrong areas can get you a penalty. The real issue is what if you’re innocent? You’ve built great content, you’ve interacted with the community and built a website to be proud of, only to have a competitor throw a load of spammy network blogroll links amongst other filth to your site and you’ve been slapped, what now?
Submit a re-inclusion to Google

Well in all honesty with this approach you may as well go outside put on a headdress and dance around a fire wielding a pointy stick for all the good it will do. Google gets thousands of these every hour, if they ever see yours the fact that you’re in gambling will probably go against you anyway. I’ve tried this with some of the world’s biggest brands (inherited issues) and that was with the added fact that we’d cleaned up an awful lot of the rubbish. The response was still something of a disappointment.

The 301 Quick Fix

This is not always an awful idea assuming that you can get away with it in terms of branding. A lot of businesses are unwilling to take this approach, but if you’ve picked up a penalty and lost your traffic what do you have to lose. It should be noted that this will probably not work if you are switching from example.com to example.net, but changing from example.com to examplepro.com works most of the time. Don’t just take my word for it.

“I’ve seen a bunch of these and weirdly, the 301s do seem to (often) remove the penalty in cases where it’s a true penalty.” Rand Fishkin – SEOmoz
The Google WMT Warning Mail

Ignore it! If you do anything about it Google knows that you have been building links, by admitting to this you are guaranteeing your penalty, if you ignore it, play dumb or blame it on an SEO company then you are far more likely to survive this than if overnight all the dodgy links disappear. Added to which you may take out links that are helping you. If you still get slapped anyway then react, send a mail asking for help as you don’t know what you’ve done then act. Following that try asking nicely to be re-included, but as per my previous statement it may not have a quickest solution.

Pre-empting the Penalty

Pre-empting the penalty is the best course of action; a lot of affiliates ask me what they can do to stop competitors from negatively attacking their site. Unfortunately the answer is nothing, other than not appearing on their radar which means not ranking rendering the whole point moot. But, there are several steps you can take to make yourself a less appealing target.

Stop Buying Rubbish Links

One of the key issues is that you bought rubbish links to begin with. Tipping someone over the edge is a lot easier than killing somebody who already has a clean profile. Pre-empting a manual penalty is a lot more likely to be successful than trying to get out of one after you have received a warning.

But, you need to keep buying links right? Well maybe, but, if you are going to do it you need to be a lot more careful than you used to be. Make sure you time your link building efforts together with your social media and you need to take a lot more metrics into account than you used to. Think about Deep Link Ratios, Brand v Non Brand anchor split, TLD type, IP Location, Theme, Image Link Proportion and Quality split (SEOmoz’s authority is a reasonable indicator) and remember the quality of the content the link is in is paramount. Be smart, check out a site which hasn’t been overly SEO’d to compare against your own efforts and see what’s natural.

Clean up the Bad Links

Start working on this now, you will see the benefits later, this can be something of a daunting task and you may have to be prepared to shell out some cash in “admin fees” to the more unscrupulous webmasters out there. There is no quick fix with this, best just analyse your link profile, sort all the bad and get contacting the webmasters. But, this will again make you a less appealing target.

Social is the Way Forward

Whilst gambling might not be the easiest of products to get people talking about, it certainly isn’t the hardest, remember that Google knows when your links went live(ish) so if you got a huge amount of links, but nobody mentioned anything socially what sort of message does that send out, probably that you bought them. After all if people aren’t even willing to tweet about something, why would they link to you? Fact is that they wouldn’t, so you need to tie link building in off the back of social boom, the easiest way to do this is by incentivising it. So think competitions where you enter by tweeting, or articles where you’ve asked for input from relevant people in the niche, promoting deep page content and building your links to that will do you more far more favours. And remember a good social profile covers a multitude of sins.

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