What does a Negative SEO Attack look like? (Visually)

Over the past year or so, the SEO team at Sympler has been aggressively defending against a relentless, on-going negative SEO attack that has plagued not only our client, NuLeaf Naturals, but a pretty significant number of businesses in the CBD Oil space.

What does a negative SEO attack look like?

If you take a peek at the graphic above, you might notice that it very much resembles the big bang theory, and I’m not talking about the T.V. show.

In order to create this graphic, we had to create a link between the source URL and the target URL. In this case, the source URL consists of thousands of websites that in return point to NuLeafNaturals.com.

Wait – doesn’t Google automatically ignore these types of links?

Google is known for touting their horn about how ‘sophisticated’ their algorithm is. They are seen frequently making claims that negative SEO attacks are likely ignored and in some cases, can help the website that is being targeted. They’ve also been known to suggest that disavows aren’t really needed unless you get a manual action (penalty etc).

The truth is, while Google is highly sophisticated, it’s not intelligent enough to fully understand the difference between a negative SEO attack and a poorly executed SEO campaign.

How do we know our client wasn’t simply hit with an algorithm update?

When you see a sudden drop in rankings there’s always a good chance that a recent algorithm update could be to blame. In the case of NuLeaf, their sudden drop was consistent with a large-scale negative SEO attack from prior months. Additionally, when the link clean up was completed and the disavow was submitted we saw an almost immediate recovery.

Negative SEO Attack Recovery Timeline
Negative SEO Attack Recovery Timeline

In February of this year, Sympler was also hit with a pretty aggressive negative SEO attack. This time, we caught it as it was launched so we were able to combat it in real-time, which resulted in only a temporary decline.

NuLeaf, on the other hand, lost significant ranking and revenue for quite some time due to their attack. This is one of the reasons that Sympler is offering a $10,000 reward to someone who comes forward with prosecutable evidence of who might be responsible for the attack.

What does a Negative SEO attack look like?

negative seo attack graphic
Negative SEO Attack on AltitudeSEO.com

The above graphic was pulled from ahrefs.com and represents the total amount of referring domains pointed to in this case, altitudeseo.com. The two spikes in referring domain names in 2014 and again in 2015 were due to an SEO Spam Hack. The increase at the end of Jan 2019 was due to a negative SEO attack.

What’s the difference?

The SEO Spam hack resulted in AltitudeSEO.com getting injected with thousands of spam pages that then linked out to various other websites for things like ‘cheap nikes, cheap viagra etc.’ Our old website was essentially cross-linking with thousands of other hacked websites. You can see the hack was fixed once, and then the hack occurred again. The second time the back door vulnerability was found and repaired.

From the end of 2015 until Jan 2019 had natural organic link growth. The third spike in referring domain names was due to a SE Nuke type of attack where the attacker spammed thousands of pages specifically targeting comments etc. To take it a step further, the attacker obviously knew me and my email address and used it in the attack resulting in my photo being tied to each comment – essentially, pretending to be me so it looked more authentic to Google.

Being in the SEO business, specifically dealing with Negative SEO and SEO Spam Hacks results in us (Sympler) and me (Sean) constantly being attacked by competitors, etc.

Is Negative SEO Illegal?

For not, not really. I’ve spoken to various prosecutors who state there isn’t really a defined statute to pin this type of offense too. If anything else, there are definitely civil liabilities, especially if you can directly tie loss of revenue to the attack which is pretty easy to do, especially in the world of eCommerce.

Need more? Guess what – there are a lot of additional types of negative SEO attacks such as scraping, DMCA Takedowns, MySQL Injections, Hacking, etc.

Welcome to the wonderful world of dirty SEO. If you suspect you’ve been under attack, or have been and need some advice on how to fight it – let’s talk. Email me at sean (@) Sympler (dot) com. No Negative SEO attack is too big, or too complicated. All you need is a little bit of time and you too can survive it.

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