SEO Attack Against A Full Link Analysis and Case Study

By Guntram |

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,, had been hit with a penalty, and asked if he could do a deep link analysis and present his findings here on  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.

I also reported on the “Unnatural” links warning that my site received in Google Webmaster Tools in August.  I’ve also discussed much more about this site throughout the entire case study here.

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 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

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.

Business background

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”.

Visibility Check

Using Search Metrics we could see that the domain plummeted precisely when Penguin 2.1 Hit.

000_1_SearchMetrics_Visibility BestSurvivalKnifeGuide

(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.)

Domain History

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.


Project Setup

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.

Penguin Checklist

  1. Were Anchor Text overdone?
  2. Did the websites have more power than trust?
  3. Did they have too many site wide links?
  4. Did they have paid links ?
  5. Was the link’s Power*Trust distribution unnatural?
  6. Did they have sneaky redirects?
  7. Unnatural link type ratio?
  8. Did they have too many weak links?
  9. Did they have lots of off-topic links?
  10. Was their link growth unnatural ?
  11. Did the websites links have been part of a link network?
  12. Unnatural country popularity?
  13. Unnatural follow/no follow ratio?
  14. Too many links from link directories and article directories?
  15. Did the Site have a high Link Risk?
  16. Did the Site have Malware Links?
  17. 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 SERP we see analyse the Competitors ranking in Top 1-3 Positions.

Position 1 is

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 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

Position Two is, 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

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 (%)
1 11 82%
2 889 33,4%
3‎ 57 0%
4 39 2,6%
5 1 0%
6 10 0%
7 40 0%
8 1250 87%
9 102 40%
10 8847 3,5%
34 15.717 86,1%

Two things are interesting:

  1. Pages that do rank in top 10 Player got 3 different strategies
    1. A low number of natural, quality Links
    2. A high number of built links
    3. High trust site, like YouTube, with a hand full of links
  2. 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?

Position Domain Power Trust Power*Trust result
1 5 4 20 Ok
2 2 1 2 Ok
3‎ 1 0 0 Ok
4 6 6 36 Ok
5 0 0 0 Ok
6 10 10 100 Ok
7 10 10 100 Ok
8 3 2 6 Danger
9 4 2 8 Danger
10 3 1 3 Danger
34 2 2 4 Ok

Several Pages do have more Power than trust and are pretty much in a dangerous situation, yet 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).

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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 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. (DTOX, 2013-10-12) - LinkResearchTools

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.

11_Class C

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

014_Article_Marketing 014_Dir
014_blog 014_trkstr

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 has more than 15,000 links.

Position Domain Total Page Links Money Anchortexts (%)
1 11 82%
2 889 33,4%
3‎ 57 0%
4 39 2,6%
5 1 0%
6 10 0%
7 40 0%
8 1250 87%
9 102 40%
10 8847 3,5%
34 15.717 86,1%

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


Rule Links Percentage
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

  1. Many automated Trackback Links
  2. Malware Linking Sites
  3. SEO Directories
  4. 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 Research uncovered the following:

Problematic Factors are

  1. High Number of similar Anchor texts
  2. High Number of Links coming from low number of Domains and ClassC Networks
  3. High Number of removed (deleted) Links that indicated to be spam

Recommendations to avoid Penguin 2.1

  1. Make sure to watch your Ratios: Avoid a high number of Money KW Anchors
  2. Use Brand and Noise terms in Anchor Texts
  3. Never Buy Links
  4. Avoid Link Networks
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Filter all the toxic links in the DTOX Table. Export the links by clicking “Google Disavow Links”:
  2. 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:
  3. 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.


Stories & Projects | 69 comments

By Guntram

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Holy cow. This is awesome.

Thanks Guntram for the write up and thank you Spencer for sharing.

Guntram, I’m curious, are “Power” and “Trust” similar to Citation Flow and Trust Flow found on Majestic? I’m wondering if I could use Citation and Trust to recreate your analysis on some of my own niche sites.

Guntram Bechtold

Hello Jason,

Personally I’ve used these other tools aswell. I’m only going for Their technology is far superior to other Systems. LRT got a unique DeTOX Alorithm called “Genesis” that helps you find negative links more effectivly.

Best regards,

Jeff C

Very interesting link review……hopefully the disavow tool will help clean some of these links up….thanks for sharing.

Spencer Haws

I hope so too…thanks!


Great article, thanks guys! I love the Penguin checklist and then how you went through point by point and analyzed the Best Survival Knife site to see how it looked in relation to the checklist.




Wow, great post. Looks like someone really was determined to go to such lengths to have a negative impact on your site.

Hopefully, with this eye-opener, your rankings can come back as soon as possible.

Thanks for sharing!



Loved the in-depth analysis. I am going to be really curious to see how these changes affect the site.

We always hear about them sinking. Never about them recovering. If you get this one recovered, you’ll be a hero like none other.

Keep us posted. Thanks for this public case study.

Guntram Bechtold

Hello Quinton,

I’ve update it and you can find it here:

Best regards,


Awesome analysis – really interesting to see the amount of things that are wrong with these links.

One question I had though, once the disavow request has been processed, naturally if you were to perform link analysis again, the app wouldn’t be able to filter out previously removed links.

How would you again perform analysis say in a months time on the site if the initial disavow didn’t work?


You can upload the disavow file to the tool and it will filter out those links so I can see the profile google is supposed to see after the disavow file was submitted.

Guntram Bechtold

Dear Steve,

Please find the right Link here:

Best regards


Nice post guys.

What’s the best way to “detox” our sites at normal intervals? There a tool in specific you would recommend? Or would a manual look over and then Google Disavow?

Also, what’s about “sponsored” links? They are paid, but it’s a legitimate form of advertising in related verticals…just curious on your thoughts.

Hoping the site bounces back, Spencer.


Just download your links from wmt and all other backlink tools you can get your hands on like aherfs, moz, majestic, etc. Combine them in excel and start to go through them. LRT makes the process MUCH easier though. Normally though, just monitoring your rankings on a regular basis will be fine. When you see big jumps either way, you need to check out your links.


Hey Matt, thanks for the response – I appreciate it.


Great post with loads of information. It is good to see a comprehensive review with an action plan.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Doug!


I’m really looking forward for the result of disavowing :-)!


Very interesting analysis… I’m sure that everyone is excited to see the result of this investigation


Yeah, this business of link building always looks treacherous. I stay away from it almost completely for this very reason — you can’t count on google. But, what you can count on is a dedicated audience.

I would stick with consistently providing something of real value (like this site). 50,000 forced “quality” backlinks (or whatever) serves the webmaster and NOT the audience. Think about it, now all the people who really liked your site because they actually want to read about survival knives can’t find you because of a lot of unnecessary gaming.

Also, just want to point out that pagerank doesn’t mean anything in terms of getting ranked high for a specific keyword. I have a site right now sitting at #1 for my targeted keyword, have almost zero backlinks, and a pagerank of zero. It took 6 months of dedicated effort, quality content, and real connections with real people (old fashioned stuff like business cards — oh my!).

People first – content second – search engines dead last.

There’s nothing passive about passive income.

Spencer Haws

PG – I agree to an extent…it depends on the type of site you are building. An authority type site like I do no link building for. If you read the intro though to the post, the whole point was that I didn’t build these spammy links to my survival knife site, this was someone else against my will building the links.

And yes, PageRank means nothing – hasn’t for a long time.


“this was someone else against my will building the links”

Yeah, I understood that, and it’s insane. Honestly, I’m really sorry about that because I know you’re busting your ass to actually build something. That type of activity is disgusting because you’re a guy who is graciously out in the open taking a risk and putting skin in the game.

Whoever is engaged in that has no creativity, integrity, or honor. Sorry Spencer.

Casey Dennison

This was a really awesome link analysis! Hopefully you can bring this site back from the depths.



Not to give anyone ideas, but how did these bad links get inserted into the website?

Mike @

Great info. Overwhelming, but awesome. Truth be told it would be great for those who are less evolved if we could have a video on exactly how you do this. I just can’t process the info unless I see it too. Just a suggestion.



Thanks Spenser for sharing this.
It’s a great article and I’m going to study it very carefully since I think one of my sites has been hit by Penguin (or some other animal) on November 16.
It’s a site I have built following your Niche Site Project and Pat Flynn’s NSD.
The site was first in Google for a couple of keywords and was starting to show traffic and also some earning.
Then on November 16 the site fell to 170 on Google.
I’m still struggling to understand why but reading this article has opened my eyes.
Thanks Guntram, great job.


I can very well understand your feeling. One of my own niche sites got targeted for negative SEO too, just 2 days back. I was able to rank on page #1, around 4th position. Then, I woke up and saw it jump to page 16. I instantly got goosebumps and saw someone built 1.5K links overnight (as per ahrefs report) making my main anchor go from 2% to 40+% weightage, lol.

It’s sad to see that mor#$s (snipped purposefully) like these do exist who can’t move their ass or be successful but tries instead to bring successful people down.

Anyway, it’d be an interesting case study to see what happens next.



You do something wrong, but where? Besides, pagerank update is ON.



How do you deal with the frustration associated with doing all the work and putting all the money necessary to get a site like BSK up and going only to have the competition come in and knock it off page 1.

I know this happened through negative SEO, but it very well could have happened from a bigger or better site deciding it wanted this niche.

I think dealing with competition on a daily basis is one of the most difficult obstacles in this job. It’s a grind. Anyone can rank top 3 in non-competitive niches, but staying on top of a competitive niche, where the money is, is a full time job.

Thanks. KC


Ugh. I can’t believe that I nubbed one of my sites up. I have a site that was ranking like 6 in yahoo/bing and i was trying to figure out why it wasn’t ranked at all in Google so I went into the WordPress Admin and was looking around.

The main article of the site targetting the money keyword. I had not put anything in the Title/Description for the article and those are 2 pretty important pieces.


Guntram Bechtold

Hello CJ,

Personally I’m a huge Fan of Spencers Long Tail Strategy. If you are not ranking in Google, I would check the following:

1.) To check if my site is indexed at all I type into Google “”
If there are, like at the moment, 1,010 Results, the site is technically indexed. Yet it its not ranking for the keyword I want to

2.) Next I’m doing a competitve Landscape analysis in LRT. I try to see what other sites are doing for that keyword

3.) Next I build a strategy from there. I could do an other Post on how this may be approched.

If this is interesting, send me an e-mail via my website.
Best regards,


Allen L

I loved the analysis. Not sure I completely understood the analysis but loved it all the same..

Spencer you are a Judo master! Taking an attack and using its momentum as a teaching tool. How cool is that! This is why this site is head and shoulders above the rest.

Looking forward to the ongoing education as you put into play your plan of action.

Thanks for always looking for ways to teach and educate.


Wow, thats the most deepest analysis i have read on a given domain. Kudos to Guntram for sharing. It is a shame to see a niche site that is earning decent income got hit just by an attack.


Hi Guntram or Spencer,

I submitted my site to a directory to get a link and after using to check my links, I notice I am actually getting at least 10 links from them. They have my site listed on their site at least 10 times, and they are using the same anchor text. The anchor text is also unfortunately the exact keyword I am trying to rank.

2 questions if you wouldn’t mind…

1. Should I dissavow these links and keep just 1 of them?

2. Should I ever use exact keyword for anchor text?

Guntram Bechtold

Hello Lindsay,

First of all, I would generally avoid all “easy” linkbuilding tactics. There is no save way of easy linkbuilding.

Like in the example here, we see that sites with real value and content (and just a couple of links) outrank sites with many links.

Regarding your questions:

1.) It is common that sites, especially wordpress sites, forums, and directories send multiple links. Often 1x per Category or per Tag selected. This is neither hugely benefical nor signficantly harmful.
The more signficant Question is if the Site is obviously a (SEO) directory. In this case any link from the site might signal to google that you are cheating. That might lead to a punishment somewhere down the road.

2.) Personally I’m no fan of using keyword anchor texts anymore. A normal Blogger just would not do that, so I would not do that either. Rather make sure your content at the target site is relevant for that keyword.

Best regards,


Thanks for the response.

I really don’t want to be paying for links, it’s just that if I have a website about “4-slice toasters” it’s really hard to find places to get a links for that. There are not many blogs that would be talking about 4 slice toasters and people are not going to naturally link to me. So I’m kinda left in a position where I either buy some links and hope for the best, or I take forever to rank a site.

Next time I’m going to try and pick a niche where there are going to be sites I can reach out to or leave genuine comments on, but using the 4 slice toaster example that’s really hard.

Any advice for me seeing as my site is similar to the examp,e I gave you? Appreciate it!

Guntram Bechtold

Dear Lindsay,

I would not suggest to buy links. Its the directy path into seo hell.

I’d be happy to work with you on a linkbuilding strategy.
Please send me an e-mail via my website.

Best regards,


Without “buying links” you might be able to reach out to a site that talks about kitchen appliances, time saving gadgets or even recipes. A little more off topic there maybe blogs you might approach where you can talk about an excursion day and the perfect pack up to take. Then within the content in a dedicated paragraph talk a little more about what you take as you pack up that you made with your.. wait for it… “4-slice toaster”.

As Guntrum mentioned linking with the actual keywords is getting more dangerous these days so you might say something like:

“When I’m out hiking for the day I hate it when my sandwiches get all soggy so here’s a little tip. Try toasting the bread to dry it a bit before making your sandwich. If you have a few to make I recommend using a toaster like one of these”. Using either the words “One of these” to link to your page or posting the full url link after your last sentence.

Obviously the more relevant the site the better so a site that talks about cooking or appliances would give more trust but other trustworthy but less relevant sites but that’s one way to approach getting natural-ish backlinks.

I’m sure Guntrums linkbuilding strategy would be well worth checking out though. That link report is awesome!!

Lindsay Collins @

Good advice, I’ll be doing that from now on. I am checking out Guntram’s strategy and will be trying it out.


Irony at it’s finest

Greg Nunan

that is awesome.


LOL – enough said


Interesting insight Spencer. Best of luck with the disavow tool


I have a site in this same niche and have been removing links and have submitted a disavow. I’m going to follow this and see how it all works out.

Phuong Le

So Detailed guide, to resolve the bad links incoming I believe though, that the Robots.txt level would probably be the easiest to implement and would cover most cases I have encountered

Guntram Bechtold

Hello Phuong,

Uness I would not consider your post as plain comment link spam, I would say: No, the robots.txt is not at all a way to manage incoming links.

Best regards,


Great post and great analysis!
I have a question that is a little bit off-topic if you don’t mind…
Spencer noticed that his site got penalized due to a large number of Amazon affiliate links on his homepage. Looking at his site he still has a fairly large number on the homepage and close to 100 in the Survival Knife Guide section. Would cloaking be an option to be able to post that many links??




The Survival Knife Guide section has been blocked by his robots.txt file. SE’s won’t index it and hence he doesn’t run the risk of getting penalized via those links



My site was hit badly, so I decided to take action and try finding out why.

First, my website was ranking for many keywords and I was making money. Suddenly it just got hit while I’d changed nothing.

This is what I have done:
1- I removed most of my outgoing links and I am monitoring the site.

2- I have also published many articles with incoming links. I am just waiting to see if there is any improvements in the coming days.

Will let you know how it goes.



Thanks for sharing Daniel! Looking forward for update


Awesome report! Thanks to you and Spencer for taking the time to look into this and posting your findings. Like some others I got a bit lost with it but sure I’ll figure it out after a couple more reads.


Where is the site ranking now? Any idea who the douche bag is that’s responsible for the negative SEO campaign?


2 questions:

1. How were you able to determine that the blogroll links were paid links?

2. Can links in other site’s blog comments be disavowed with google’s process? I have made a single comment on a blog and in webmaster tools I see hundreds of links pointing back to my site somehow.

Thanks for the informative post!

Guntram Bechtold

Hello Chris,

Regarding your questions:

1. Blogroll links are generally considered as “payed links” due to four factors. These factors are rather common sense then facts
1.1 Often times they are. A Normal blogger rarely would use them the way they are used nowadays
1.2 Often times the relevancy of these Links is low
1.3 Often times they use exact keyword phrases
1.4 Since they are on every page, they send 100s of links

2. Yes, that should be perfectly possible. If you have many Links, you should rather do a “domain:” disavow for the whole domain. Matt Cutts says: rather use the Machete than the small scissors to remove links.

Best regards,


Hey Guntram – quick question.

I started a new niche site about a month ago and was ranking on page 1 relatively quick and understand that it takes some time for Google to “grade it” and place it accordingly.

My question is a few days ago I checked some stats and it went to a nose dive after a steady climb.

I checked AHREFS and it shows like 4k+ links but I went through them and doesn’t look like anything I didn’t do, but I wasn’t spamming at all and def did not build this many links.

Checked G Webmaster and verified it’s all legit sources.

Any thoughts? I’m confused on why this would happen.


Guntram Bechtold

Hello TX,

Without seeing the Linkgraph, no valid statement can be made. I could look into it, yet you would have to tell me more.

Generally I would say two things:
4k+ can not be natural. A normal website might have several dozend or hundred links.

Run a Linkdetox für 150 EUR and disavow all bad links. that will help.

Best regards


Thanks Guntram for the reply. Yea it’s one website that I posted a comment on and it is on SEVERAL HUNDRED PAGES – it crazy. I guess Google is seeing that as spam so I think I’m gonna check out the tool or possibly just disavow that specific domain.

Thanks again!


Thanks for an informative post. But using the disavow tool means you’re handing over your sites to Google just like that.

Do you do this for *all* your sites, Spencer?

Spencer Haws

This is the first time I’ve used the disavow tool. I think you are overly concerned about “handing” things to Google. And if you have a penalty, you don’t have much option anyway.

Miki Vicioso

This is a massive post! Now the question is are you going to try to beat them? Would be great to see how you accomplish to get your #1 spot back 🙂



Happy new year to everyone here. best wishes for year 2014.

I have a question regarding domain name. I choose a niche 2 keyword and in monthly search result it is 5k+. EMD is not available. If I add “review” or “reviews” the search goes down to 500. What should be done in this case ?

Thanks in advance.

Spencer Haws

I would advise maybe not even including the keyword in the domain. For example, Perrin’s site:; is targeting the keyword, “Best Safety Razor”…the domain is Its ranking #1 or #2 in Google for its keyword. You don’t need keywords in the domain anymore.


thanks for your reply Spencer.

I have confusion on micro niche and authority website, how they are different. aPennyShaved is niche or authority website ? Is it make sense to make a single product niche website without EMD ? If not then It will have a non EMD where I can put more products. Will it be called authority website or micro niche ?

I hope my question makes sense.

Spencer Haws

It doesn’t matter what its called does it? Just build it and make money – call it whatever you want :). For the record, I consider Perrin’s site a smaller niche site. If we decide to grow it in the future, it could become an authority site.



Yes, That’s what I thinking, I am working on keyword research, I hope in this one I will build one. Only thing I am concerned about is manual link building. Hope I will get good guide from you.


My question is, why would someone go to such extremes to attack a website? It seems it takes a great deal of effort to do this, so I’m guessing there is a bit of vengeance in the mix.


Tried to access but it is not responding. What’s wrong?

Spencer Haws

Nothing. I moved the site. Its private now.

A S.

Dear Spencer Haws,

I following your blog of creating a niche website, I appreciate it.

– Have your return form a penguin 2.1 penalty ?

– Now, still make money to you? (if you keep it to private)

Spencer Haws

I’ll provide an update in the future.

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