So your website has been doing well in search results, it has made it to page 1 and then suddenly its gone?

Immediately the spotlight will be placed on the latest Google Panda or Penguin update but the real problem may well be those page 1 businesses protecting their position.

How could this be? At High Position we often hear business owners citing natural, careful link acquisition, slow growth equals quality etc. Well despite your very best efforts at writing quality content it can be undone at the click of a mouse. Although the practice is repeatedly being exposed Google seems unmoved about the effects that negative SEO campaigns can have on new and vulnerable websites. Who is at risk – New websites less than a year old and vulnerable websites those with low link counts or low link authority and trust, borderline percentages for exact match anchor text verses brand anchor text etc.

It is also alleged that large sites can be undermined with a structured and ongoing negative SEO campaign.

Once again we have evidence of a fledgling website that has been targeted with a concentrated campaign designed to trip the website up in Google and sure enough it has now moved from page 1 where it has been for 4 months down 320 places. The drop happened over a three day period and the website has stayed on page 32 for a week now. Hopefully it has stabilised there and we can begin the process of resurrection which may or may not be successful but which may also take some time. The website is just over 12 months old and had a steady inbound link accrual based on good content and some industry citations, “Google Places” with some citations, Twitter, Google Plus, Youtube and Facebook, Linked-In were all utilised.

The technique is well recognised and involves using the fundamental link analysis process that Google itself was founded on, by abusing this process deliberately unscrupulous SEO people can severely undermine the stability of a website in Google search listings. What’s more there is little effort needed because there are automated tools that make the job simple and cost effective, if of course you wish to invest a little more money to destabilise a competitor then of course there are more complex procedures that can be deployed.

Investing in a library of cheap domains takes very little funding and with the correct hierarchy once the offending links are indexed domains can easily be suspended resulting in a purge of links which effectively shows up as a dead link portfolio, this can be seen below.

Lost Links Graph – Rapid Link Attrition Is Very Bad News For Newer Websites

Negative SEO

You can see clearly that the domain has had a huge percentage of link attrition, on a fairly new domain name this is a very bad signal and shows that the linking activity is not to be trusted, that it is un-natural and artificial. Lots of exact match anchor text and a referring domain portfolio that shows extensive use of Eastern European, India and Asia residing domains further compounds the problem.

Where the links are only 1 to 2 months old the pattern will look really bad which together with the right volumes will send all sorts of poor quality messages back to Google.

Nothing New Here Folks But….
Of course none of this is new and I would not pretend that we have discovered something new but highlighting this as an issue and raising awareness may just help some hapless website owners understand that not all fluctuations are as a result of the latest Google update. It is important for the less SEO aware website owners to have some examples of how to analyse backlinks to see what is going on.

This is important as it affects the activity and the fire fighting process post apocalypse, of course Google will continue to deny this is an issue but they have made one or two moves to alleviate the issue of unwanted link activity but very few people have had much success and there is no confidence in things such as the disavow process.

When Google launched the disavow tool some areas of the SEO industry cried with relief that it would see the end of negative SEO practices, allowing you to monitor and quickly discredit links that are malicious or not wanted. Of course this is not how it works and the micro management of your link profile is not possible in this way.

Negative SEO practice will also use intensive and repetitious anchor text that targets important keywords and terms. In the past this has been a classic sign of over-optimisation and it’s something Google can detect – we saw this with the introduction of Penguin. In negative SEO campaigns exact match anchor text is used in such a way that webmasters who have been diligent in ensuring the correct ratio of brand anchor text links can one day find that all of their hard work and planning has been erased.


On the left you can see that the top referring domains reside in a number of countries, note the high percentage of spurious origins, from .info and .org to .pl and .tk. This is a sure sign that something is not right for a relatively new website.

In a natural organic link pattern the majority of your links will come from your recognised activity and if this graph matches your work you can be sure it is not a coincidence that the site has been falling in SERPs. In our own example we also analysed the breakdown of the links and the composition of the anchor text, sure enough the spurious activity was synonymous with the geographical TLDs with high levels of keyword targeted anchors from the un-natural domain extensions.

In our own example we also analysed the breakdown of the links and the composition of the anchor text, sure enough the spurious activity was synonymous with the geographical tlds with high levels of keyword targeted anchors from the un-natural domain extensions.

So if you find your website is plummeting in search results it is vital to make sure you do your analysis and do not just accept that it is down the the latest Google update. Use the correct online tools to get data that you can analyse and only then will you be able to start understanding why your website is now on page 50 in search results or worse.

You might just find you have been the victim of a negative SEO campaign.