Facing a Negative SEO Attack on a Website

A client’s website was facing a drastic drop in organic traffic. After an in-depth SEO analysis, it was dtermined that the website had fallen victim to a negative SEO attack. A single page was targeted exclusively. It was enough to bring down the entire website’s organic visibility.

Client: Stéphanie Walter
Year: 2016

Our SEO Approach

Negative SEO is a bit of an odd problem to have. It is more and more common but few people know about it. Negative SEO can be defined as a set of techniques that aim to make a website vanish from organic results or lose some of its visibility in search engines. The objective is either to make someone’s content invisible or to take down a well-ranking website to help another website reach a better position in search engines like Google.

A first audit of Google Analytics data revealed that the organic traffic drop was indeed drastic. We quickly determined that the source of the problem: scammy links. Dozens of low quality links were pointing to a single article within the client’s website. Once identified, we proceeded to review them and signal them to Google.


Identifying the Source of the Problem

A detailed account of the situation can be found online. If you want a good read, go ahead and check it out! After auditing links pointing to the client’s website, it was easy to identify the source of the problem. In between legitimate links, we could detect odd link anchors with unusual terms such as viagra, cheap rolex, etc.

The purchase of toxic links is cheap, scalable and easy to put in place. That’s why negative SEO is a difficult problem to solve. Most victims are not aware of the problem until it’s too late.


Cleaning Things Up With Google Search Console

In this case, following an in-depth analysis of incoming links to the client’s site, we were able to establish a complete list of toxic links. This allowed the client to prepare a file to disallow these specific links. The file was submitted to Google by the customer via the Google Search Console tool.

Following this disavow file submission, it took several weeks for traffic to increase. Today, there is no trace of this negative SEO attack. However, it is important to note that this attack was taken in each case by the client and that she was never again the target of this type of campaign. She remains vigilant about links to her site because it could happen again.

stephanie walter disavow file

Here is What Stéphanie Walter Had to Say

I met Myriam at a conference and we spoke about my traffic drop over lunch. The next day she came back because she had figured out the source of my issues. I must have pissed off someone who wanted one of my blog post to disappear from Google. My traffic went back to normal after a while though! Thank you Myriam 🙂

Stéphanie Walter UX