Today, I am having a guest author present a full link analysis using Link Research Tools on one of my sites that was attacked. Guntram Bechtold approached me shortly after I revealed that my niche site project site, BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com, had been hit with a penalty, and asked if he could do a deep link analysis and present his findings here on NichePursuits.com. I readily agreed!
I do want to just preface Guntram's guest post with a few points. First and foremost, when my site got hit with the Penguin 2.1 penalty, it was not a surprise at all.
I had noticed that someone (likely a reader of my blog here) had started building thousands of spammy links to my site, many months before a penalty was ever applied. You can read how I reported on the negative SEO in March, about 6 months before the penalty hit.
Overall, I just want to be very clear that I did NOT build these spammy and heavy anchor text links to my site. This was clearly a negative SEO attack, and it appears to have “worked” for the perpetrator. I would never recommend anyone build this much anchor text links to their site or from such shady sources.
In addition, I should also point out, that I created BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com specifically as a public case study, so while it hurts that the income from the site is lost (although the site is still profitable), it was never a critical site to my business, as I have many others never publicly shared.
However, this report is very useful because it dives deep into exactly the types of links to avoid and other actions that I can take.
In particular, just 2 days ago, I submitted my disavow links file (provided by Guntram) through Google webmaster tools for many of the links discussed in this report. So, I plan to do a follow up post to report on any changes that occur from disavowing these links.
Overall, I hope you enjoy the case study, and thank you Guntram for doing this! The rest of the post is written by Guntram…
SEO Attack Against BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com
In the Summer of 2013, previous to Penguin 2.1 Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits got an unnatural links warning about 4 weeks ago. Monitoring his backlink profile indicated swiftly that his site was attacked by a negative SEO attack.
Within days the Site picked up not just dozens but thousands of new links. With Penguin 2.1 on the 4th of October these observations turned to results. The site dropped rankings for important keyword combinations like “best survival knife”, the number one money keyword of the niche.
The domain had steady rankings at a noticeable degree during Summer. After Penguin 2.1 was launched, it started to drop hard on the 6th of October.
The Site is a WordPress Project focused on generating affiliate Commissions in the survival knife buying niche. The Project was launched early 2013 with the intent of building a successful buying knife guide for focusing on the ZMOT, the so called Google “Zero moment of truth”.
Using Search Metrics we could see that the domain plummeted precisely when Penguin 2.1 Hit.
(Quick note from Spencer: The above chart is not entirely accurate. The site was receiving about 450 to 500 ORGANIC search visits per day before Penguin and now gets about 150 Organic search visits per day.)
I had a look at the indexation status and at the Waybackmachine, because I wanted to know how old the domain is. Obviously the project was started in 2013.
For every project it is suggested to create a new Project in Link research Tools. I set the name, Project URL, Search Engine country, and language settings; and saved my project. It is crucial to tell LRT the right country and language settings for various SEO metrics used.
Penguin drops are often bound to the overdoing of anchor text profiles. Many of them are stuffed with money keywords. Money keywords being overdone is one of the strongest signals Penguin looks for.
- Were Anchor Text overdone?
- Did the websites have more power than trust?
- Did they have too many site wide links?
- Did they have paid links ?
- Was the link’s Power*Trust distribution unnatural?
- Did they have sneaky redirects?
- Unnatural link type ratio?
- Did they have too many weak links?
- Did they have lots of off-topic links?
- Was their link growth unnatural ?
- Did the websites links have been part of a link network?
- Unnatural country popularity?
- Unnatural follow/no follow ratio?
- Too many links from link directories and article directories?
- Did the Site have a high Link Risk?
- Did the Site have Malware Links?
- Are there Toxic Links?
Were Anchortexts overdone?
Yes, the Anchor texts were overdone. 86,1% of all Links, contain the money keyword “best survival knife” in the Anchor text. The total amount of Domains with 324 is pretty high and the domains appear to be maybe even too strong on the first glance. The total Links are also pretty high with 15,717 Links in total.
How is the competition doing?
Looking at the keyword “Best survival knife” in the Google.com SERP we see analyse the Competitors ranking in Top 1-3 Positions.
Position 1 is OutdoorLife.com
This Competitor is a bit hard to grasp, since the Site is big and old. The total root domains are 6212, this confuses the image a bit.
Looking at the specific page, there are a total 11 Links pointing to page. The Links are auto generated and coming from the Application of Outdoorlife.com. They are compound Anchor texts, yet there is 82% of these compound anchor texts.
The Links are coming from 6 root domains.
Position 2 is BestSurvivalknifeHub.com
Position Two is bestsurvivalknifehub.com, the total of 889 Links are distributed to around 24 Anchor texts. There is also high money keyword density, with more than 33.4% of all Links pointing to the site using strong money keyword Anchor texts like “best survival knife” or “best survival knives”.
Position 3 is BestSurvivalknifeReview.com
The site has practically no Power, PageRank is 0, links are weak and total links are 58 with 47 no follow and 11 follow. There are no money keyword anchors, only compound keywords.
Position 4 to 10
|Position||Domain||Total Page Links||Money anchortexts (%)|
Two things are interesting:
- Pages that do rank in top 10 Player got 3 different strategies
- A low number of natural, quality Links
- A high number of built links
- High trust site, like YouTube, with a hand full of links
- This niche appears to be marketed significantly. Between 20% and 40% of hard Money Keyword anchor texts appears to be acceptable.
2. Page power VS Page trust?
Several Pages do have more Power than trust and are pretty much in a dangerous situation, yet BestSurvivalknifeguide.com does not have a bad ratio and therefor is relatively safe in this aspect.
3. Too many sitewide links?
Yes, there are 715 pages of 1572 pages that are sending more than 10 Links per Domain. There are even 25 Pages sending between 1218 and 36,413 Links per Domain.
4. Did they have paid links ?
Yes, there appeared to be some paid links hidden in blog rolls. Here is one example:
(Spencer's note: Obviously I didn't buy these links, these are the negative SEO links).
5. Link Power*Trust distribution unnatural?
No, CEMPER Power*Trust balance was natural. 3 Power and 2 Trust = 6 PowerTrust. Power is a bit higher, but there is no severe problem.
6. Did they have sneaky redirects?
Yes, a hand full of redirects. Another interesting point we can see in the diagram is the high percentage of links with [redirects] status. This means that around 15 links were redirected.
In order to answer these questions we have to export all links with [redirects] status and analyze them separately. In order to export them you have just to click on “[redirects]” in the column “Link Status” and you get the following table:
7. Unnatural link type ratio?
We can see that the backlink profile of BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com has the highest percentage of money keyword anchors. Of course it is natural to ask why we could not see this on the graph before. The reason for this is that the first graph gives us an overview of single anchor texts and in this case, we see the total results for all the keywords grouped by their types.
8. Did they have too many weak links?
No, there was a natural ratio of weak links. It rather appeared that these Links were pretty powerful compared to the trust.
9. Did they have lots of off-topic links?
Yes there were quite a lot of Random Joomla Trackbacks that were automatically generated. Many of these Pages grew with time into multi topic grew to link farms with pretty bad karma.
10. Was their link growth unnatural ?
Yes, there was significant Link growth in September 2013
11. Site part of a link network?
No, there was no obvious indication of a network. Yet a small number ClassC Networks are sending a high number of Links.
12. Unnatural country popularity?
About 45% of all links are outside of the US and GB. Quite a high ratio from non-english speaking countries, since the site is completely English.
13. Unnatural follow/nofollow ratio?
Quite a lot of “do follow” Links (41%) compared to other sites. Also a significant amount of removed links.
14. Too many links from link directories and article directories?
Shady Article Directories and Low Effort Directories
15. High Link Risk?
Yes, there was significant high Link risk. Not only that the Links are distributed unnaturally, but also that the competitors have significant different link rations. Some sites even rank with less than a dozen links whereas BestSurvivalKnifeguide.com has more than 15,000 links.
|Position||Domain||Total Page Links||Money Anchortexts (%)|
16. Are there Malware Links?
There were several pages with Malware. For example this page was hacked. These malware pages are dangerous to the normal user but also harmful for search engine rankings.
17. Are there Toxic Links?
Yes, see for yourself.
The most problematic and obvious problem was the high number of links that were added to the Site within a short amount of time. Additionally all links got the same Anchor texts and are originating from a sources of low value.
1. The site got too many money keyword links. Around 70% money keyword anchor text is too high.
2. 85% of all Links are Toxic or Suspicious
3. Many different Rules apply for these Links
|SUSP1 Page has no Power*Trust™ and Power*Trust™ Domain < 5 – a page without external links on a weak domain.||837||19.4%|
|SUSP27 Links from possibly banned Domain.||466||10.8%|
|SUSP8 Domain has the same Class-C as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||378||8.7%|
|SUSP22 Domain has the same Website Footprints as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||371||8.6%|
|SUSP19 Old domain with no homepage PageRank™||368||8.5%|
|SUSP7 Domain has the same IP as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||329||7.6%|
|SUSP2 Domain has no Power*Trust™ Domain – probably a new or very weak domain, or a penalty.||293||6.8%|
|SUSP20 High Risk score associated with URL||273||6.3%|
|SUSP23 Domain has the same Website Footprints as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||254||5.9%|
|SUSP24 Domain has the same Website Footprints as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||189||4.4%|
|SUSP14 Page has no PageRank™ but at least some weak links.||143||3.3%|
|TOX1 Domain is not indexed in Google. Usually a sign for a penalty.||85||2%|
|SUSP6 Domain has the same REG (Domain name registrant) as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||66||1.5%|
|SUSP18 Young domain with low Power*Trust™||58||1.3%|
|SUSP9 Domain has the same DNS as other linking domains – possible Link Network.||56||1.3%|
|SUSP17 Massive Number of outgoing Links||42||1%|
|TOX3 The Link Detox Genesis™ algorithm classified this link as highly unnatural. We recommend removal or disavow.||38||0.9%|
|SUSP15 Link Directory Links||29||0.7%|
|SUSP3 Page has more than 10 backlinks from 1 Class-C, Power*Trust™ Domain < 5 and Power*Trust™ < 5 – possible Link Network.||24||0.6%|
Problems sorted by priority
- Many automated Trackback Links
- Malware Linking Sites
- SEO Directories
- Paid Blog roll Links
Our findings for possible reasons behind the Penguin 2.0 update penalty are that a dangerous mix was created, resulting in a drop in rank and a Google penalty for BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com. Research uncovered the following:
Problematic Factors are
- High Number of similar Anchor texts
- High Number of Links coming from low number of Domains and ClassC Networks
- High Number of removed (deleted) Links that indicated to be spam
Recommendations to avoid Penguin 2.1
- Make sure to watch your Ratios: Avoid a high number of Money KW Anchors
- Use Brand and Noise terms in Anchor Texts
- Never Buy Links
- Avoid Link Networks
- Detox your site at least once a Month to stay up to date
Get Rid of Penguin 2.1
First of all we have to decrease the penalty risk in several ways:
- The first recommendation would be to manually delete a maximum amount of links from low-quality pages and domains as well as a maximum amount of offline bought links. Since there is a significant amount originating from a Negative SEO attack, these Links cannot be removed manually but need to be disavowed.
- In order to change the follow/no follow as well as deep link ratio, it is recommended to either change the target URL and the link status of existing links or to acquire new deep links and no follow links.
- The first and maybe easiest way to do this is to disavow so called toxic links using Google disavow tool. In the LRT DTOX Report there is also an option enabling the user to export all toxic links in required for google format.
Create a disavow File:
- Filter all the toxic links in the DTOX Table. Export the links by clicking “Google Disavow Links”:
- Next you should a screen with a popup asking you to carefully review the chosen links. Since the classification of these links as toxic was automatically carried out, there is always a chance that some could be some mistakenly processed as toxic:
- Now these Link can be exported to Google Disavow Tool
About the Tools
This analysis was created using the Superhero Plan and the new Competitive Link Detox tool extensively. The Superhero plan allows you to perform professional SEO and backlink analysis for your own or your competitor’s sites.
About the Author
2011 Founded StarsMedia IT Management, a Company for SAASoftware and Project-Management.
Previously he was 5 years Teamlead of Software-Projectmanagement and Crossborder Management at a Media Company in Europe. Guntram Bechtold is grad. Industrial Designer and lifes in Dornbirn, Austria.