Recovering from Negative SEO

Negative SEO is really a thing. I’ve spent a good portion of the last year helping people recover from Google penguin penalties. One person had hired a bad SEO person who built spammy links to his site. The other company was under attack from a competitor who was attempting to get them removed from the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Losing rank from the SERPs can destroy a business. And I imagine that this is what happens when someone finds out that they’re not in the SERPs anymore.

remove all the links

It’s not good.

Recovery requires a laborious process of researching links, determining what was a bad link versus a good link, contacting the site owners of the bad links, and creating both a spreadsheet to send to Google and a disavow file to upload to Google Webmaster Tools.

It’s a lot of work. More importantly, it took expertise to know which links to remove and which ones to leave alone.

The Emails

This morning, I awoke to an email from a company I had linked to on this post about resources for remineralizing teeth. They asked me to remove links to their site from mine because of a Google penalty.

I removed the link as they asked, but I had to wonder who they had hired to do this process. They lost a link from a customer, on a site that is a far cry from spammy, on a page that ranks for the problem their product solves.

This site is not a spammy site. It’s just my personal site, a site that often languishes as I work on other projects. The metrics on this site are pretty good for a site that has languished as long as it has. It has longevity and decent enough trust flow and low citation flow. I’ve never built links to this domain, and I know where every link comes from.

They lost out on something that was benefitting them, not something that was hurting them. Of course, I replied to them that they were hurting themselves. But I am sure that email will not make much sense to the person doing the link removal. She was told to “remove all the links” and wasn’t given any sort of guidance about what links to remove or which to leave alone. As such, she’s further damaging her company’s commerce website and their bottom line.

The Spreadsheet

I’ll end up as a “removed” notation in the spreadsheet that gets uploaded to Google drive. I was nice and responded. She will probably receive very little response to her email blasts to site owners, and the responses that she does receive will make Guido the loan shark seem like a nice guy. She’ll be asked for payment for link removal. If her company pays for link removal because they fear both Guido and Google, they’re making another bad decision. Never pay for link removal. But definitely make sure you keep track of the sites you contact, whether or not they respond, how they respond, and the end result of your link removal request.

Which sites do you contact? There are site research tools that will give you an overview of the link quality on each site. For the site that contacted me this morning, I linked specifically to a toothpaste that worked for Claire’s remineralization. It was a good link. Any good SEO person would have recognized that it was a good link. She was not a good SEO person.

How to tell if you have a penalty

Most companies probably don’t even know that they’ve received a Google penalty for bad links. Many don’t even know about Google Webmaster Tools. They just see that they’re out of the SERPs. Or maybe they see that their traffic is diminishing, or sales are going way down. They hire someone to figure out why.

Google Webmaster Tools tells you if you have a penalty. However, you can still have a penalty and not have it show up in GWT. The best way to tell if you have a penalty is to examine the search engine result pages yourself.

The Disavow File

The disavow file tells Google that you disavow any links from bad properties. Some people think that you can just upload a disavow file to Google Webmaster Tools and be done with your bad links. However, through my research and experience I have found that you need to show some level of attempt that you have tried to remove the bad links. You have to go through the process of bad link removal and upload a spreadsheet detailing what you’ve done to Google Drive. This spreadsheet combined with a disavow file has been proven to work. You cannot just upload a disavow file and recover your property from bad links.

The thing is, you have to ensure that you’re protecting your good links, too, unlike our friend who emailed me this morning. You have to look at the links coming into your web site and actively manage your inbound links as a part of managing the asset of your web site.

Even if you have no penalty, always manage a disavow file. Even if you are not blasted from the SERPs, you can still ask for link removal. You can still disavow links.

Penalties and Negative SEO will only grow

If you live by Google, you will die by Google. Meaning, if your business is dependent upon search traffic, when search traffic is affected you will lose your business. You have to manage your organic search traffic as an asset, protecting it from damage by anyone, including Google. How do you do this?

Monitor backlinks at all times. Use tools such as AHREFS/Majestic to see what’s pointing at your website. If you see something wonky, get rid of it before it becomes an issue.

Maintain a Google drive spreadsheet of your inbound links and any actions that you’ve taken. If you’ve contacted the site owner and they’ve asked for money for removal, if they’ve responded and removed, if they’ve not responded… just keep a record of how you’re managing your inbound link profile.

Keep a disavow file even if you don’t think you need one.

Be proactive. Penalties and negative SEO are going to be a fact of life going forward. If your web site drives your business, and organic search is a big part of where your traffic comes from, showing that you’re proactively managing your link profile can prevent being victimized by penalties.

Expand your reach beyond search. Organic search traffic is only one way to get people to visit your web site, engage, and buy. There are a lot of other ways where you’re not dependent upon Google to drive your business success. Social engagement is but one. As with living/dying by Google, you can also live and die by Facebook, Twitter, or any other traffic source. The key is to build an asset and market it in ways that leverage traffic sources but are not dependent upon it.


State of the Web 2015

I’ve been working in internet-based businesses for 20 years now. As such, I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of money. I’ve gotten burned out. And I’ve gotten re-inspired. I’ve started working with a few businesses to help them take advantage of where the internet is today. And in a recent conversation with a client, I was asked what I saw as the top trends in Internet business right now. It made sense to put everything into a blog post, but where to put it… oh yeah, here is good. Might as well start blogging again, even if it isn’t about kittens, doggies, kids, or adventures in Shasta. (But yes, things in Shasta are awesome. The kids are thriving. Mark’s business is thriving. My kittens are hilarious, Alex is awesome, and I still miss Riley.)

So, the state of the Web. Here are the trends I see.


Being mobile-ready is absolutely critical

More and more traffic to web sites is coming from non-desktop sources. Whether your traffic is coming from iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, or the plethora of me-too table computers, mobile traffic is dominating. If your web site isn’t mobile-ready or “responsive” yet, now is the time to get it responsive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business, a personal blog, or a large multi-national corporation. If you want to get found, it is critically important to have a web site that adapts to the device it’s being viewed on.

Don’t know if your site is mobile ready? Here’s a great tool from Google that gives you an idea. If you’re not sure how to get mobile ready, talk to your web developer. If your web developer downplays the importance of being mobile ready, find a new web developer.

Ensuring your site is mobile ready will even determine whether or not you rank in the SERPs (search engine result pages). If you like organic (free) traffic from Google, being mobile ready is critical for your business.

Social media marketing dominates

It’s no secret that social media is the place where people congregate online. What’s growing is how businesses engage with their customers and prospects on social media. Facebook is definitely the top dog at the moment. Untethered by Twitter’s 140-character limit, Facebook allows people — and businesses to engage at a deeper level, interacting in a way that is most comfortable to consumers. While Facebook advertising has been a point of contention for many users, it is one of the most effective and non-intrusive methods of connecting with prospects. Facebook’s depth of targeting capabilities and awesome return on investment makes it my favorite choice for growing businesses.

Of course, other social networks know this. And they’ll also allow for increased ability to target and market to consumers. Advertising is the dollar that drives the internet and makes it possible for us all to enjoy social media without paying for it. Watch for the other social networks to consistently improve and innovate in the advertising space.

Engaging your customers on social media also feeds into your search placement. So even if you’re only focused on ranking in the SERPs, your social media participation is incredibly important to your rank.

But there are still billions of searches performed each month. Search is still incredibly important, and social media involvement supports search.

Retargeting creates assets.

What is retargeting? Say for example you find some great shoes on Nordstrom’s web site. Then, you go check on Facebook and see an ad for those same shoes. Boom, you’ve been retargeted. If you do any online marketing at all, setting up retargeting is very important. It basically creates a list of people within either Google or Facebook that you know are interested in whatever you have to offer. You can set up retargeting for your site as a whole, or your can set up retargeting for each individual content area. If you do it by content area, the segment or “custom audience” becomes incredibly targeted. And it has value. It becomes a method of targeting your marketing quite effectively to each segment’s specific interest.


Email marketing is evolving.

Have you tried out Google Inbox? It’s a nifty little tool for your mobile device that segments your Gmail based on the type of mailing. If you’re an internet marketer, it might be kind of depressing to see your mail grouped in with the latest in spam-related pitches.  If you’re looking to develop a long term relationship with your customers, you’ve got to be very strategic in how you develop and manage your email list. Here are things that are out:

  • Sending out mailings pitching Clickbank garbage every single day. If you’re looking to churn through users and bleed them for cash, go right ahead.
  • Offering lightweight “bonuses” to entice people on to your list and never providing any value to your customers.
  • Using your email list to sell sell sell without ever providing any valuable content to your users.
  • Thinly veiled affiliate offers for garbage products/services (I’m looking at you, affiliate marketers pushing Hostgator accounts. Shame on you.

I’m sure you see some familiar activities that are out. These activities destroy your deliverability, destroy customer relationships, and destroy your business. Your customer’s inbox is the most important piece of internet marketing. It’s the place where you come into their experience most intimately, and it requires a level of respect that most internet marketers fail to grasp. So what’s in?

  • Creating value. Send your customers things that will genuinely help them — sporadically.
  • Respecting your customer’s inbox. Don’t inundate them with emails every day.
  • Use email to invest in your relationship with your customers and prospects.

If you’re having issues with deliverability and low open rates, look at managing your list more efficiently. If your customers don’t find value in what you send them, it has an affect on your deliverability (e.g., the big email service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. watch these things).

Manage SEO

Manage your SEO as if it were an asset.

Search placement is no longer something to take for granted. Negative SEO is definitely a real thing, and being targeted by unscrupulous competition happens. It’s going to happen more frequently. And if you shot yourself in the foot with bad link building, it is still possible to recover from negative SEO. If you’re not aware of how and why your rank is where it is, there are tools I can show you that will give you an idea of what metrics go into your search rank. If you’re not ranking at all, there are things you can do to rank again. Negative SEO and penalties are here to stay, and it’s very important to watch your rank and manage your search placement as the asset for driving business that it is.

Content marketing will continue to dominate.

Writing blog posts, creating infographics, and placing articles on web sites that also link back to your own web site will continue to create value both for search engine placement but also for engaging customers and prospects. However, there is a lot of crap out there on the internet. I hope I am guilty of very little crap content generation, but the awareness of how much crap is out there should do one thing for us: make us commit even more towards creating content of value. Make people laugh. Make people inspired. Make people feel good. All of that value does one thing: creates brand recognition and brand loyalty.