One of the most asked questions from clients over the last few months has been “Do you think we have been hit by negative SEO?” Our standard response has always been “No” as to date we have not seen a clear example of negative SEO hitting any our client’s sites.
Whilst negative SEO has gained a lot of coverage over recent months it has mostly been from people with a bad backlink profile looking to find an excuse for their site’s poor performance.
This morning however one of our client sites received an “Unnatural Links” notification in Webmaster Tools. Given that we haven’t been link building for this client or site and we know that they haven’t then this was a bit of a surprise.
Here’s the graphs and what they show is that in the last three weeks the client has magically acquired over 150,000 new backlinks from over 500 referring domains.
If that wasn’t strange enough then a quick look at the anchor text reveals that virtually all of them include the word ‘valium’. Given that our client has nothing to do with Pharmaceuticals or medications then it’s no surprise that they received an Unnatural links warning. Add to this the fact that all the links pointed to the home page and it’s clearly a crude attack on their site.
As you can see from the graphs this site has built no links at all; ever. They managed to naturally acquire just over 200 links in the last five years before the link spike on the graph.
So we have our first clear example of negative SEO. As to who has done this there is probably no way of finding out but we do know that Google has stated that they won’t penalise sites that have been hit in this way.
This type of behaviour is rare and more often than not the client has previously engaged and SEO firm, usually the cheapest available, and they have built the links they were paid to build. These links are now coming home to roost as the short cuts that were taken, sometimes many years ago, are turning into toxic links which need removing.
Just this week we have launched our new site offering exactly this service; a manual clean up operation on the worst offending links in your profile. Matt Cutts says it is essential and we have seen first hand just how devastating this is to established site. So if you have a backlink profile that needs some help then take a look at www.linksremoval.co.uk as we may be able to help.
Meanwhile, the reconsideration request will be going in this afternoon so we will soon see if Google is true to its word that it won’t penalise sites that suffer this fate…..