SEO Articles

What is SEO split testing?

What is SEO split testing?

Last week I tweeted an explanation of how we know that an increase or decrease in SEO performance was caused by a change that we made or by an external factor like seasonality, competitors, Google updates etc. People found it helpful and it generated a lot of questions so I thought it would be useful to post a more detailed explanation on what exactly SEO split-testing is as there seems to be a lot of confusion/misunderstanding.

One quick thing: This is deliberately a simple example with a basic explanation of the maths that we use. In reality, the maths is a lot more complicated and based on this research by Google: Inferring causal impact using Bayesian structural time series.

The purpose of this presentation isn’t to teach or explain the maths behind the ODN, it’s to, hopefully, explain the core concepts in a simple way, that allows you to imagine applying this methodology to websites with a lot more than 4 sub-category pages 🙂

If you want to dig into the testing methodology in detail, then you can visit: https://odn.distilled.net/learn-more/faqs/

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Imagine a basic website

The site below has two simple categories, animals and countries. It has 8 sub-category pages (cats, dogs, Scotland etc.)

All of the animals sub-category pages use the same template
All of the countries sub-category pages use another template

This is critical to understand because SEO split testing is predicated on the concept of testing changes to page templates. A group of pages that share the same template can be used for SEO split-testing.

In the animals sub-category example above you can see that although the content of each page is different, they all follow the same template.

They have:

An H1 at the top of the page
A block of intro copy
A featured image

We could create an animal template test:

Or a countries template test:

But you can’t mix templates:

An example experiment

Imagine that we wanted to test a new Animal page template by replacing the image with a video and removing the intro copy from the animals sub-category template.

For the test to be a valid experiment, we need a set of pages to remain un-changed (the control group) and a set of pages to have the new proposed design (the variant).

Distilled’s ODN platform uses advanced maths to decide which URLs should remain on the control template and which should get the variant template.

For simplicity in this example, you can think of this as selecting URLs at random to be on each template.

In this example, the test is on 50% of pages, but you could do this on a smaller or more significant percentage of pages. During the experiment, the site would look like this:

Notice that the /cats and /badgers pages now have the new template and the /dogs and /unicorns pages remain unchanged and have the same design they have always had.

The results

The graph below shows the organic performance of the cats and badgers pages versus the dogs and unicorns pages.

Notice that just after the test started, there was no change in the difference in organic performance. That’s because Google needs to crawl the pages. Depending on the number of pages that are being tested, the amount of time that this takes can vary.

Over time we notice that the variant pages start to outperform the control pages. Once the test reaches statistical significance, we can declare the test a success and recommend that the changes be rolled out to 100% of pages instead of just 50%.

How do you know it wasn’t just seasonality?

This is a common question and you can replace seasonality with pretty much anything you like:

Seasonality
Google rolled out an update
Competitors’ performance decreases
Backlinks to your site
TV campaigns
Branding/direct traffic
Other macro factors

By having a control group of pages that have the same intent/theme/template we can exclude external factors like seasonality because the control group of pages would also be impacted.

The analysis isn’t looking at the trend of the traffic; it’s looking at the difference in performance between the control group and the variant.

In other words, if it was seasonality, for example, Christmas, there’s no reason why /cats and /badgers would be impacted but not /dogs and /unicorns. The same would apply for something like a Google update.

Seasonality would look like this:

Although there is an upward trend, the difference in performance between the control pages and the variant pages is the same as before the test began. This example experiment would be declared as a neutral test despite that after the change was made, organic traffic went up significantly.

I hope this makes SEO split-testing easier to understand.

If you want to know more or are interested in doing SEO split-testing, the ODN is a piece of software that lets you do that. Find out more at https://odn.distilled.net/ or click the button below to contact us so I can set up a call to show you a demo of the software.

BOOK AN ODN DEMO

Read More

How to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI

How to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI

Every business owner’s dream is to have consistent business growth. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. In fact, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and only 30% of businesses make it past the 10-year mark.

Therefore, SEO is a key component of inbound sales strategy, where new customers can come to you. The aim is to have a steady and consistent flow of new business each month. If you can maximize return on investment (ROI) from your SEO, then you can continue to invest to generate more earnings and growth.

Monthly recurring traffic

Monthly recurring traffic is stable and consistent. Every day, week, month, and year, you have reliable traffic and new sales that you can count on. These can comprise both qualified and targeted prospects. This type of traffic is predictable and easier to scale, which is one of the benefits of SEO.


An example of monthly recurring traffic from a website (LifeCoachSpotter.com) that has had SEO input. Monthly recurring traffic is the primary driver of your most important business metrics:

MRR (monthly recurring revenue)
MRR growth (monthly recurring revenue growth).

If enough new visitors are coming to your website daily, then you will have consistent new one-time sales. If you have a subscriber/SaaS business model, you will consistently grow your MRR. Monthly recurring traffic creates consistent business growth.

Where we fail

There is a significant potential for a high ROI from SEO. This does not deter from the fact that SEO can be difficult. A beginner may thinks: “If I want to grow my business, I will grow my traffic, and to grow my traffic I will ‘optimize’ my website for SEO.” Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I call this “The Fatal Assumption”:

Anyone who has been practicing SEO for a long period of time knows the work that goes into it.

Why SEO is difficult

Google’s algorithm

We will never “see under the hood” of Google’s algorithm. The closest we can get is correlations and more complicated ways of unraveling it.

Black hat SEO is used to try and increase a website rankings illegitimately, and as a result, search engines’ algorithms are constantly evolving to combat manipulative tactics.

There are 200+ ranking factors

If there are more than 200 ranking factors, which do you focus on?

With so many factors being considered to determine your website’s ranking, it’s impossible to focus on them all. Thankfully though, Cyrus Shepard recently published Zyppy and I’ve tried to simplify it even further here. There are also many published findings to help SEOs focus on the most heavily-weighted ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

What works today may not work tomorrow

Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving, which means that website optimization needs to be continuous.

Measuring ROI is hard

Since the customer journey is non-linear, it’s not possible attribute leads or purchases to one channel alone. By using multi-channel attribution, you can see SEO is part of a more holistic marketing endeavor.

Experiments have long life cycles

If you are split-testing a landing page and have 1000 visitors per week, you can quickly see what is working. With SEO, initiatives take time to plan, execute, and measure. The cycle of testing, measuring, and repeating is slow owingto the inherent long-term nature of SEO.

Isolating variables is near-impossible

SEOs are typically implementing multiple initiatives simultaneously. This makes it difficult to isolate which variable or factor may have led to an increase in ranking or traffic. In a scientific lab, you can isolate one variable at a time and compare it to a ‘control’ group. With SEO, we don’t have controlled environments to work in.

SEO is a zero-sum game

For any ‘money keywords’ that your business can capitalize on, there can only be one search result in position 1 and one search result in position 2. If your competitor wins the first position, then you will lose it.

The right thinking

The best approach to planning an SEO strategy depends on having the right mindset.

Begin with the end in mind

By setting clear goals and KPIs, you can reverse engineer. Holding yourself or your provider accountable in reaching those goals is also key.

Think long-term

SEO is an investment-based marketing channel. It is important to think of long-term as a period of years as opposed to months.

The fund manager’s budget allocation

SEO investment needs to be thought of as a fund manager, which includes considering budget allocation. Should link building be 20% of the overall investment or 60%? Should content be 30% or 70%? Without a proper allocation of investment into SEO initiatives, you can focus too little or too many resources in the wrong areas.

Among the 200+ ranking factors that Google may be using, you want to focus on the top 2–6 factors that will drive results for your business. It’s not about how good your idea is, but the degree to which it drives impact for your KPIs.

So where should you focus your efforts?

Every website and situation is unique. General principles from search engines and thought leaders may not always apply to you. I recommend trusting practitioner experiments and data over best practices alone. From my experience, the factors that are the most heavily weighted by Google’s ranking algorithm are:

Authoritative Backlinks
Content (Helpful, Long-Form, High-Quality, etc)
Optimization (Keyword Clustering)
User Experience and Satisfying User Intent
Technical Factors (Page Load Speed, Architecture, etc).

Align with Google

It is important to remember that it is not Google’s goal to send traffic to a website. The more you align with Google’s mission, the more you will naturally succeed.

Every SEO must remember Google’s goal and the value proposition to their users:

Help Google’s users find what they are looking for and have a great user experience.

By adopting this user-focused mindset, you will be more likely to rank higher and get more organic traffic, while future-proofing yourself to algorithm updates. If you aim to help Google’s users, you’ll naturally see a rise in your results and ROI over time.

Measuring your ROI on SEO

How do you determine whether your efforts are having an impact on your revenue, and whether the tactics you chose to invest in were the right ones for your business?

First, track your conversions diligently. If you’re not tracking sales or important metrics, you won’t be able to attribute the sales that came from SEO. Looking at multi-channel attribution is key to get a sense of the real customer journey. This also fuels your understanding for how SEO works in parallel with other avenues like retargeting, brand awareness, and direct visits.

Second, understand the customer journey. Find out how consumers learned about your business, how long it took until they purchased from you, and what channel they used to purchase. All of these are important factors for measuring long-term ROI.

Finally, look through the sales funnel. If you are getting leads that don’t convert, they are not providing a good ROI. If there are specific keywords or pages that result in higher conversions or bigger sales deals, you will want to focus on those areas.

Closing thoughts

To summarize, to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI:

Focus on the long-term
Focus on budget allocation
Trust battle-tested practitioner experience over conventional advice.

Investing in SEO takes time, patience, and a healthy bit of trust in the person managing your initiatives. Above all, remember to ensure that your SEO budget is properly allocated.

With the right allocation and long-term thinking, your SEO strategy should be future-proof to algorithm updates. While there’s always some uncertainty in the outcome of any investment, you want to mitigate your risk by strategically allocating your budget based on real-world testing, experiments, and working with experienced professionals.

 

Read More

Ways to improve your link building

With the right strategy in place, link building can be a hugely effective way of building strong authority to increase longer term, sustainable organic visibility. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to find yourself returning to old, outdated methods. With so many different approaches to link building, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to make the greatest impact.

There are a variety of link building tactics that don’t require a huge amount of resource or expense, so whether you’re working for an agency or in-house, dust away the cobwebs that are plaguing your strategy and step up. Below are just a few ways you can improve your approach to link building.

Don’t forget the basics

The first step is not to forget the basics, it’s so easy to forget these – particularly when you’re constantly being served with ‘inspirational content’ that promises to be the best and only method you’ll ever need. Revisiting old, unlinked brand mentions and fixing broken links can have a huge impact, particularly when from a strong authority site.

Immerse yourself in the brand

If you are working with an agency, having a ‘brand immersion’ or ‘discovery day’ can be incredibly useful if you approach it correctly. Start out with a full list of everything you’d want to know about a client, their product or brand – and pretty much interrogate them.

A client of ours recently said he’d been running his business for so long he assumed everyone knew everything he did about their business and products, when in fact they were probably only conveying 10% of their USPs digitally. If a client holds their cards close to their chest, a brand immersion day is an opportunity to get a grasp on who they are as a brand and how they work.

Even better, this is a chance to meet with their PR representatives and see how you can work together to make the best of each other’s work. There may be things you uncover that can be used as an asset, things that they would never consider telling you proactively. For example, new product launches or an existing relationship with a site that you’ve been trying to crack for months.

Future-proof your strategy

If only one thing is certain in life, it’s that Google will continually change its algorithm. Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future and may spend a long time securing a link, only for it to suddenly have no value.

Bend fate in your favor by thinking about the bigger picture, and developing strategies that are built solely on authenticity. Build good solid links from authoritative websites. Be real and genuine, provide value in your content and insights. Always drawback to why you’re building links, whether it’s for the brand awareness they could build, to the referrals they could bring.

Monitor your own backlink profile

Monitoring your own backlink profile is a vital part of growing it, and is surprisingly something a lot of link-builders put to the bottom of their to-do list. It’s essential to see which new sites are linking to you, so you can build that relationship and contribute more great content or insights.

Second to this, a lot of sites will link to you but won’t tell you, so it’s crucial to keep on top of this. It’s also vital to see which sites stop linking to you, as there will be opportunity to try and get that link back, or try and build a relationship with that site.

Relationships over anything else

Having a good relationship with a site or influencer is almost as important as how good a piece of content is. Follow them on Twitter, comment on their activity, be a familiar face and a name that is regularly in touch with pitches and ideas. You will find that they start coming directly to you for content and ideas – instead of the other way round.

Keep a close eye on the competition

Monitoring your competitors’ activity is a very cost and time-effective way of identifying new sites to contact, new content opportunities and outreach methods to use. Using competitor links for your own gains are always fruitful and don’t require a lot of time or creativity

To make things even easier, it’s something you can automate by setting up Google Alerts or backlink alerts and reports on tools like SEMRush. Competitors are always acquiring new links, so this is something that should be continually monitored.

Don’t be afraid of a nofollow link

As mentioned above, we should be focused on the bigger picture and future-proofing link building strategies. Sometimes this means getting a nofollow link or an unlinked citation now and again. Some sites have a policy, some sites do nofollow links automatically. If a citation is genuinely driving traffic and brand awareness, then the fact that it’s a nofollow or unlinked shouldn’t be troubling you too much.

Most link building tactics fall under the category of ‘quick-wins’, and the results can have a huge impact on your site’s authority and brand awareness. Fundamentally, staying wary of the latest link building developments is key, as an outdated strategy can distill your wider SEO strategy and hold back the success of your site.

 

Read More

Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page?

Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page?

A page that is commonly found on all kinds of websites, is the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. Commonly asked questions or remarks from customers/visitors are addressed on this page. When you visit a site looking for an answer to a specific question, the FAQ page is probably one of the first pages you’ll check.

There are several ways an FAQ page can benefit your site. For starters, it can save you time, if you regularly have to answer emails asking similar questions. In addition, a good FAQ page shows professionalism and expertise, and therefore could help improve your visitor’s trust. A great answer to a potential buyer’s question might tip the balance toward a sale. So, you’ll understand that it’s certainly worthwhile to consider adding an FAQ page to your site, and give some thought to how you do that. Let’s dive in a bit further in this Ask Yoast!

Francesco Fredduzzi emailed us his question on FAQ pages and SEO:

From an SEO-perspective, what’s the best way to create an FAQ page for my website? Should I create a subdomain? Is it better to have a collapsible list (question + answer) on the same page, or a list of links to specific posts that answer each question?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Creating an FAQ page from an SEO perspective

“It really depends. First of all, do not create a subdomain. Make these pages on your own website. Second, if they’re long answers, then there’s nothing wrong with creating individual pages that answer those questions. But if they’re short answers, then the best user experience and thus, usually the best thing to do for Google is to put them on one page and create a larger FAQ page.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

$199 – Buy now » Info

Now there’s all these efforts going on in Schema to make things like FAQs more easily marked up so that we can detect what is a question and what is an answer. I suspect we’ll have better solutions for this within the next six months. So stay tuned, subscribe to Yoast.com and make sure that you get all our news. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO conundrum you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to [email protected], and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: What is UX (and why bother)? »

The post Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page? appeared first on Yoast.

Read More

Adapting to Google’s latest speed update

Page speed has always been a priority to maintain search visibility, but before Google’s latest Speed update, this was something predominantly associated with desktop sites.

Now that mobile sites are also being ranked on their page loading times, it is no surprise that websites need to be up to speed to avoid decreasing search ranking.

In today’s competitive, ever-changing marketplaces, establishing a great online presence is clearly of utmost importance. However, our report recently found that 87% of the UK’s top online retail brands alone are risking a significant drop in their visibility by neglecting mobile site performance; rating as ‘poor’ in terms of mobile site speed. Google’s own research supports this by revealing the average site takes five times longer than the ideal 3-second timeframe to load.

These slower sites notoriously see increases in bounce rates, as well as lower online visibility and search engine ranking.

So what can you do to rectify this issue and bolster a websites SEO?

Research suggests the key to addressing the above issues and adhering to the latest speed update, is by focusing specifically on the mobile site user journey and eliminating any potential pitfalls. By eradicating unnecessary desktop elements on mobile sites and specifically focusing on adapting material for smart phones, you can expect to boost page speed, online visibility and meet Google’s revised website requirements.

With this in mind, let’s explore how you can adapt to Google’s most recent speed update.

Lazy loading

A quick and effective way to improve page speed is by adopting ‘lazy loading’. By only showing images ‘below the page fold’ when a user scrolls to view them, as opposed to fetching and loading everything when a user lands on a page (regardless of whether they’re going to scroll down or not), a website’s efficiency is instantly increased.

Online brands that have adopted this format are already experiencing the benefits by enabling pages to be displayed on mobiles and tablets in a shorter timeframe. Eating up less mobile data is another advantage of this technique.

Unsplash is a prime example of a brand doing really well in this space. As an image dominated site, lazy loading has played a key role in maintaining its quick page speed.

However, this tactic alone is not enough to sufficiently decrease loading times and maintain search engine visibility.

Optimizing images

With images making up 65% of web content, it is widely recognized that high-resolution pictures are one of the main culprits for slow loading times.

To address this issue, you need to reduce file sizes and ensure that only the right images are shown to users based on the device they’re using. Adding image compression functionality to a site’s admin system achieves this by ensuring that uploaded files aren’t larger than necessary (without compromising quality).

In addition, you should work to ensure that size-appropriate image files will be served to mobile visitors and retina displays (where retina images are available).

Websites without optimized images run the risk of being penalized by Google for poor practice. This could clearly cause a drop in page visits due to reduced search engine ranking.

Removing hidden content

As space is limited on mobile devices, it has always been common practice to create a scaled down version of the desktop site when building a mobile version. However, the key to improving speed is to implement server-side mobile detection. By preventing the site in question from attempting to fetch and then hide desktop-only images and/or features, its perceptual speed to users will be improved.

By stripping away these unnecessary elements, space is freed up to incorporate mobile-enhancing features without detracting from page speed. One example of this is location awareness. Enabling brands to send relevant content, specific to a user’s surroundings using Geo-location API technology, helps sites stand out from competitors.

Font compression

Typography is typically an important element of design, however bloated font files can really slow a site down, so it’s important to strike a balance between aesthetic and performance.

You should switch to using WOFF2 web compression format for fonts (within applicable browsers), as it notably offers a significant reduction in file size.

Leading online marketplace Etsy has proven this does not detract from a website’s aesthetics. Despite opting for compressed font formatting, this site has achieved faster page loading while maintaining high-quality text.

Analyzing success

As with all site modifications, after carrying out the above changes you need to check that they are having the desired effect. For this reason, tools such as PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse are invaluable for tracking webpage performance.

These platforms allow you to easily detect both well-performing and ill-performing aspects of webpages. By closely analyzing these figures, you will be in much better stead to rectify any inefficient website elements. This will also enable you to rectify issues before issues begin to negatively impact SEO.

What happens next?

By adhering to the above tactics, research shows that websites can expect a 68% reduction on perceptual load times, a 64% reduction in homepage weight (which reduces bandwidth costs), a 43% overall load time improvement on 3G speeds and a 39% improvement in ‘first interactive’ (when a page is minimally interactive for users).

However, it is important to remember that site improvements should be actioned on an ongoing basis. By doing so, you are set to truly maximize search engine ranking, boost sales and future-proof excellent user experience.

 

Gavin Lowther, head of digital at ecommerce digital marketing agency, Visualsoft.

Read More

How To Do Negative SEO Attack (And How To Defend Against It)

How To Do Negative SEO Attack (And How To Defend Against It)

Negative SEO Attack

We all know that ever since the release of Penguin Algorithm Update, Google deals harsh penalties for websites that use black hat SEO techniques, so here’s an idea to keep you up at night:

What if a malicious party (say, your closest competitor) starts using those techniques on your site just to try and get you penalized?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is something that is commonly known as Negative SEO.

#optin-template-3{
float: left;
margin: 0;
width: 100%;
max-width: 654px;
height: 100%;
}
#optin-template-3 .container{
float: left;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;
text-align: center;
background: #fff;
border: 0px solid d64a37;
padding-bottom: 16px;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row{
display: inline-block;
width: 88%;
padding: 3% 6% 0%;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row h2{
margin: 5px 0 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
color:#d64a37;
font-weight: 600;
text-align: center;
padding:0px 0px 5px;
font-size:2.2em;
}
#optin-template-3 .left-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 100%;
max-width: 270px;
min-width: 270px;
height: 100%;
vertical-align: top;
padding-top: 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .ebook-img{
width: 100%;
min-width:270px;
height: 310px;
background: url(https://seopressor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Deadliest-SEO-mistake-cover-2.png);
background-size: cover;
}
#optin-template-3 .right-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 60%;
min-width: 250px;
max-width: 305px;
padding: 24px 4% 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul{
text-align: left;
padding-left: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul li{
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
margin-left: 20px;
}
#optin-template-3 .optIn-form{
display: block;
bottom: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .email{
display: block;
width: 100%;
border: 0;
padding: 8px 0;
font-size: 18px;
text-align: center;
border: 1px solid #d64a37;
}
#optin-template-3 .submit-button{
display: block;
margin-top: 4%;
width: 100%;
padding: 8px 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
font-weight: 400;
color: #fff;
background: #d64a37;
font-size: 21px;
border: 0;
outline: 1px solid #d64a37;
cursor: pointer;
}

Deadliest SEO Mistakes
Revealed By Google Patent

“While not being a Black Hat is a no brainer, this book lets you know how not to let Google mistook you as one.” – Evander Wilmer
Cracking Methods Used By Google To Detect Black Hat Practices
4 Big Companies That Got Caught At Rank Manipulation
How You Can Avoid Being Penalized By Mistake

What Is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO is the act of using Black Hat SEO on other websites in order to get them penalized by Google. Negative SEO can also include reducing the effectiveness of a website’s SEO properties by disabling or altering them.

Negative SEO in a nutshell.

Dealing with Negative SEO tactics can be quite tricky since some of them is out of your control, like pointing bad links (a.k.a link bomb) to your site. Another thing is, they are also a bit hard to detect.

Unlike some hacking practices that aims to deface or simply take down a website, a Negative SEO attack doesn’t affect a website’s look and feel.

Instead, the effects are only apparent once your website takes a dip in search ranking and incoming traffic.

But Why Would Anyone Commit A Negative SEO Attack?

Similar to hackers, people who do Negative SEO attacks might do it for various reasons. It can be intentional, such as sabotaging a competitor’s website, extortion or simply for fun. Do not be surprised you will find plenty of these Negative SEO Services online easily.

And believe it or not, an unintentional Negative SEO attack can also happen. There are cases where family members, employees or even hired SEO agencies deliberately do obsolete Black Hat practices on behalf of the owner thinking it will help their website ranking.

Types Of Negative SEO Attack

Just like normal SEO, Negative SEO also have both on-page as well off-page aspect to it:

Negative Off-Page SEO

As the name implies, Negative Off-Page SEO attacks without internally changing your website. Mostly it revolves around using Black Hat or negative SEO link building practices and point them to the target website:

Link farms are a series of web pages created for the sole purpose of linking to another page on the web.

Ordinarily, inbound links are a good thing that help to improve your site’s ranking… but if you have a lot of links coming in from same unrelated, spammy websites, it tells Google that you are trying to artificially increase the number of links pointing to your page by creating link farms and you will get penalized.

No, not exactly like that..

In a Negative SEO attack, malicious parties will create obvious link farms and heavily link to the target website.

Sometimes they will also purchase link farm services or buy site-wide ads to achieve the same effect. Since it’s hard for Google to tell who’s responsible for the links, it can lead to a Google penalty on the target site when detected.

Copyright complaints are a bit more complex, but at their core, they usually involve a someone claiming that you’ve posted material that belongs to them.

In many cases, this can result in an automatic removal of the page for up to 10 days – and wouldn’t it be just awful if your landing pages vanished right in the middle of your biggest campaigns?

Finally, competitors can falsify duplicate content – basically just copying and pasting your web pages over and over, maybe even as part of those link farms we discussed above.

An influx of duplicated contents across domains might signal a manipulation attempt to get multiple different websites ranking with the same content. This used to be a popular Black Hat SEO technique before Google started cracking down on it.

Massive amount of duplicate content can land you a penalty even if you’re not the one responsible behind it.

As you can see, there are many different ways for negative SEO techniques to be done to your website… but no matter how tempting they might be, you should never even consider doing any of these yourself.

Even if it works in the short-term, it’s not going to be effective forever… and could land you in serious legal trouble if anyone can prove you were behind it.

Negative On-Page SEO

This form of attack is a little different, and generally focuses on hacking into your site and changing things around. With as little as a few minutes to start messing with your setup, a hacker could easily disrupt your site’s coding, introduce viruses, and generally wreak havoc on everything you’ve tried to build.

The real threats are the ones that are hard to see, though, and consist of the following:

Negatively altering your SEO properties: Let’s be honest – are you really that likely to notice if someone changes all the alt text on your pictures to be less effective? A lot of basic SEO techniques are intended to be “set and forget”, and that’s what can leave you vulnerable to on-page negative SEO strategies.

Changing the Robots.txt: This is easily one of the most important files on your site when it comes to SEO because it tells crawlers how to interact with your site. It is normally used to tell Google which part you don’t want them to crawl and index such as a live but unfinished page. An attacker with access to your site can easily modify the robot.txt to tell Google to ignore important pages or even the whole website.

A small change is all it takes to tell Google to completely ignore a website.

Modifying Redirects: Search engines have an opinion on certain error pages – namely, they’re bad. Sites that automatically redirect from bad pages generally aren’t penalized too much, but if your redirects are changed, disabled, or scrambled, you could find yourself plummeting down the ratings.

The good news, as we’ll discuss later, is that on-page negative SEO attacks are much harder to perform… and much easier for a competent programming team to fix, too.

The Likelihood of Negative SEO Attacks

Negative SEO services are not hard to find, but are they really worth it?

With all the stuff we’ve talked about here, you might be worried that there’s a rampant amount of negative SEO going on and you just haven’t caught up to it yet.

Well… not exactly.

Google is quite good at detecting when negative SEO is occurring. For example, if someone’s trying to do some Google Bowling and smash you over with site-wide links, there’s a good chance that the link from that site will only be counted as one vote from them – unlikely to do you any real harm.

Also, remember that while Google is actively hunting down Black Hat SEO practices, some might slip through for a while. This means that Negative SEO attempts won’t guarantee a penalty from Google for the victim. Not only that, it might even do the opposite and actually help the target to rank better!

Google have already taken into account the possibility of framing others when designing their algorithm.

Similarly, hacking attempts are not that hard to avoid as long as you are using a robust system securing your site (make sure they are updated). Also avoid using simple administrator passwords just because you think nobody is interested in ruining your humble site. You know what they say – better safe than sorry.

In general, Negative SEO can be costly, takes a lot of effort and is highly risky. The return on the other hand, isn’t even guaranteed and while it might work, it’s quite easy to fix once the target realize what is happening.

In short – Negative SEO is a high risk, low reward activity. Unless there’s a very compelling reason (revenge maybe?), it is quite unlikely for anyone to attempt on doing it.

The most likely websites to be targeted for SEO are those in highly-competitive, high-money fields – gambling sites are a common example of this. Sites that are in calmer niches are far less likely to be hit by negative SEO – indeed, anything that happens is more likely to be an accident or a remnant of an old advertising strategy instead of a deliberate attack on you.

That doesn’t mean you should be complacent, though. Constant vigilance is the best way to protect your site and your reputation, so let’s look at what you can do to help protect your site.

How To Protect Your Website Against Negative SEO
Detection

The first step in protecting your website is to detect any signs of attack such as a sudden drop in organic traffic. This is easy to notice if you are constantly monitoring your traffic through Google Analytics.

A sharp drop in organic traffic usually signifies a Google penalty.

You can also set up Google Webmaster Tools Email Alert. This will allow Google to notify you through email if your website is not indexed or receive a manual penalty.

If you haven’t done anything wrong, that can mean that your website is under attack. The sooner you know, the faster you can react and minimize the damage.

Disavowing

Google’s answer to Negative SEO is the Disavow tool. You can see the full process here – what it comes down to, though, is basically saying “I don’t like or trust that link, please don’t factor it into my rankings”. By disavowing low quality links, you avoid associating your website with them so that your ranking and reputation is protected.

Use the Disavow tool to let Google know you don’t want low quality links.

Utilizing the Disavow tool also tells Google that you care about the quality of links pointing to your site. This will be taken into consideration when Google’s Webspam Team is considering whether to penalize your site when they detect an influx of bad links pointing to it.

The Disavow tool is very useful against :

Link Farms
Google Bowling

Securing Your Administrator Login

Hackers generally require some sort of administrator access in order to mess around with your site, and by adding additional levels of security, you can drastically reduce the odds that they’ll be able to break in and start disrupting what you’re doing.

This will help you stop:

Altered SEO properties
Changes to important files
Modified redirects

Revising SEO Settings

This isn’t tied to a particular problem, but you should regularly revise your SEO properties. This includes checking out your robot.txt once in a while or performing random checks on your contents’ internal coding (headers, image alt tag etc).

It wasn’t this bad the last time I edit it!

If you are using SEOPressor, checking SEO properties will be much easier as each contents will have it’s SEOPressor score. If you regularly optimize your contents’ SEO properties to get high SEOPressor score, then you can easily spot the ones with bad score and fix them.

It is always better to be active and aggressive in searching for attacks on your site, rather than locking it up and expecting that nobody will be able to get in.

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake – negative SEO attacks are a real threat, they’re just not a common one. And even though you can disavow links or report them to Google, it might take some time before Google can conclude that you are innocent and not the one who’s behind the Black Hat practices.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Now that you know what is negative SEO, set aside some time every now and then to check for negative SEO, and if need be, resolve it using whichever technique is most appropriate. It is also a good idea to just be nice to others and avoid giving anyone any reason to attack you in the first place. After all, being nice is free.

This post was originally written by Azfar and published on October 28, 2015. It was most recently updated on August 2, 2018.

#optin-template-3{
float: left;
margin: 0;
width: 100%;
max-width: 654px;
height: 100%;
}
#optin-template-3 .container{
float: left;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;
text-align: center;
background: #fff;
border: 0px solid d64a37;
padding-bottom: 16px;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row{
display: inline-block;
width: 88%;
padding: 3% 6% 0%;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row h2{
margin: 5px 0 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
color:#d64a37;
font-weight: 600;
text-align: center;
padding:0px 0px 5px;
font-size:2.2em;
}
#optin-template-3 .left-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 100%;
max-width: 270px;
min-width: 270px;
height: 100%;
vertical-align: top;
padding-top: 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .ebook-img{
width: 100%;
min-width:270px;
height: 310px;
background: url(https://seopressor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Deadliest-SEO-mistake-cover-2.png);
background-size: cover;
}
#optin-template-3 .right-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 60%;
min-width: 250px;
max-width: 305px;
padding: 24px 4% 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul{
text-align: left;
padding-left: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul li{
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
margin-left: 20px;
}
#optin-template-3 .optIn-form{
display: block;
bottom: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .email{
display: block;
width: 100%;
border: 0;
padding: 8px 0;
font-size: 18px;
text-align: center;
border: 1px solid #d64a37;
}
#optin-template-3 .submit-button{
display: block;
margin-top: 4%;
width: 100%;
padding: 8px 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
font-weight: 400;
color: #fff;
background: #d64a37;
font-size: 21px;
border: 0;
outline: 1px solid #d64a37;
cursor: pointer;
}

Deadliest SEO Mistakes
Revealed By Google Patent

“While not being a Black Hat is a no brainer, this book lets you know how not to let Google mistook you as one.” – Evander Wilmer
Cracking Methods Used By Google To Detect Black Hat Practices
4 Big Companies That Got Caught At Rank Manipulation
How You Can Avoid Being Penalized By Mistake

Read More