Categories: Crawling, indexing & ranking :

Negative SEO - a forensic study

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Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/7/14 9:32 AM
I documented my "negative SEO" experience here:
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/Negative-SEO/

Basically I have a ski/snowboard website with some very unique, original and if I do say so myself, awesome content.
I believe that some of the large SEO'd content mills got scared and acted. My research (in the link posted) shows a jump in backlinks followed by a quick drop. Probably something which would happen with backlink spam which gets deleted by the moderator. I found one post in particular which was very spammy as if it was auto-generated by a bot. I only found one but there could be thousands out there.

My dive into this shows A/B tests comparing Google vs Yahoo/Bing and my ranking in each and the potential susceptibility of Google to negative SEO. The Google search results were not very good not just because they no longer included my page but that they were bad. I am now finding Yahoo/Bing quality to be much better (and they rank me #1 for the two examples I give). It's not all about me of course but my study does show that Google and publishers like me have a problem with negative SEO and that negative SEO works too well. Please read it and send any feedback you may have on my observations, theories etc. SEO is not my area of expertise and I don't want to become an expert. I would rather just be a techie with a passion for skiing and for the ski site I have created.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study luzie 1/7/14 9:39 AM
>>> SEO is not my area of expertise

In this case you should perhaps refrain from inventing complicated hypotheses about it.

Negative SEO is worth as much as any other conspiration theory is.

-luzie-
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study luzie 1/7/14 9:44 AM
Top-Ten lists are mostly considered "mild spam".
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Ben Griffiths 1/7/14 9:45 AM
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/analog/Traffic.html

Looks like natural growth to me? 
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Lysis 1/7/14 9:47 AM
Statistical analysis with one sample.

Math genius IMO. Get this guy a PhD.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study luzie 1/7/14 9:50 AM
And, wow, your backlink profile IS spammy. 

Anchor texts read:

15% ski resort guides for skier and snowboarders

14% skier and snowboarders: ski resort reviews

2% mountainyahoos.com
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study luzie 1/7/14 9:51 AM
Do these anchor texts look familiar to you? Is this the NSEO "attack" you're refering to?
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/7/14 10:05 AM
Both the links back from the other owned sites and the affiliate links seem to be lacking a nofollow. 
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Lysis 1/7/14 10:08 AM
I also think he lost backlink juice from blog comments. It seems he went on a blog comment tour and posted his reviews at various blogs  like http://www.powdermag.com/resort/2012-whistler-blackcomb/
http://theplanetd.com/vail-resorts-colorado-your-winter-destination/

Not automated, but different names for all of the posters. SO, I'm guessing he bought blog comments. Also, I'm looking at links before Penguin release, so these aren't nseo.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Lysis 1/7/14 10:11 AM
yeah here is an obvious blog spammer and he posted twice with different names in the comments http://blog.oyster.com/a-non-skiers-guide-to-a-ski-town-20310/

This guy got pwnd for blog comment spam. He bought a little higher level of spam and it's not automated, but he still bought blog comments with anchor text.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study ets 1/7/14 10:56 AM
Shall I spend another hour doing a "site:--- search" and pointing out how much bad indexing there is and the probability of there being a) bad ranking because of bad indexing and/or b) a Panda impact because of same?

Well no  - I'm bored with doing this every night - but it's pretty obvious bad indexing is going to be a key factor as soon as you do this: http://goo.gl/VTOHjY

Here's the first catastrophic clanger - the entire site looks like it is duplicated between both www and shopping subdomains:

or

or


I'm assuming the rest of the site is the same.

Results for shopping subdomain (7110): http://goo.gl/EvXNIe
Results for www subdomain (4880): http://goo.gl/4chVHM
These add up to roughly the total number of pages in this search (12,000): http://goo.gl/VTOHjY

I'll leave you to do the rest of this analysis yourself. 

1. Do this search: http://goo.gl/VTOHjY
2. Inspect every single result. Noindex, delete, or improve every bad page.

No need for elaborate theories about "negative SEO". Eliminate simple technical errors first.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Ashley 1/7/14 11:26 AM
Good find on all the blogger stuff Lysis. I can see how demotion of those links *felt* like negative SEO.

Gregg - can you give some examples of links you this are from "Negative SEO"? What about links that you feel are good links? I wonder if you're clear on those....


Some good technical stuff you should be mindful of from ets. 
(unknown) 1/7/14 10:44 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/7/14 10:49 PM
Great post ets! Good catch. Very sloppy of me and I will fix it. I don't believe that this caused a rapid decline in search ranking due to duplicate content especially since the site pages are tagged with

<link rel="canonical" href= ...

Ashley: An example of the negative SEO spam was mentioned in my forensic analysis:
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/Negative-SEO/
The backlink is on this page:
http://drtutorials.com/index.php?post/2012/09/04/Chemistry-Dimensional-Analysis&pub=1
The post is dated May 11, 2013 and it is the worst kind of negative SEO spam. Irrelevant, off topic and nonsensical.
It also corresponds to the time of the negative SEO as shown in the plot included in my forensic analysis (May to Sept).
It may have been generated by a stone age SEO tool with the belief that Google wanted a certain number of key words in
a post with relevant key words near the backlink. I'm pretty sure Google would not be fooled today.

Ben Hof: Observant discovery. There is a growing difference between the site web logs shown in the analog results vs the Quantcast traffic shown in my forensics report.
It seems that most of us with websites have been noticing this change year over year, the discrepancy between web server logs and measured traffic from a browser (javascript reporting).
More and more sites are getting spider traffic, indexing the site contents so that metrics and analytical sites can provide SEO services, backlink analysis, and other web metrics and intelligence analysis.
I'm getting to the point where I will not be posting analog results as they are becoming irrelevant.

Free2Write: I will need an explanation of your statement: "Both the links back from the other owned sites and the affiliate links seem to be lacking a nofollow."
How is this a negative? I'm not following the logic.

Luzie: Read my forensic analysis in the link above. It seems clear to me that valued, quality content was diminished in search rank.
My article on Mammoth Mountain's "Hole in the Wall" was given as an example and is unsurpassed in quality, authority and relevance.
is unsurpassed in quality, authority and relevance.
There are no better pages on the internet on this very esoteric subject anywhere!
I challenge you to make a case that any of the other pages Google finds more relevant are of better quality, or any other page at all.

Lysis: Really, insults? "Get this guy a PhD"? As google monitors +1's for their web credibility and authority, you may get to the point where no one will ever want any page to be affiliated with your +1 account. I do appreciate your finding more weak backlinks.

The negative SEO attack seems to have affected various pages of my content at different levels of effectiveness.
The NYE post was hit the hardest, from page 1 of Google search results to page 20. After submitting the disavow links I am now at page 7. A quick comeback from one specifically bad link.
It seems that Google has various levels of negative assignment value based on how bad the backlink spam is.
Clearly I have some more to find. It is sad that someone can do this to a site.
Thanks for all the help and suggestions. Please share if you think of something else.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study StevieD_Web 1/7/14 10:54 PM
You are worried about an autogenerated nofollow link on a LQ site as being nseo?



I will add explanations later because explanations now are for schmucks, which I'm not.



Try again.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study StevieD_Web 1/7/14 10:59 PM

14erskiers.com
aardvarksport.com
aardvarksport.net
absoluteastronomy.com
addsite.info
adventure-journal.com
adventuresportsjournal.com
answerbag.com
answers.yahoo.com
aspenskiandboard.com
aspenspin.com
aspenspin.squarespace.com
bestexclusiveresorts.com
burtonsnowboardbag.com
business-finder.info
canyonsresort.com
cesdirectory.com
columbiahikingboots.com
condospowdermountain.com
condosskiresort.com
consumertraveler.com
coppercolorado.com
coppermountainlodgingsite.info
dir.yahoo.com
directorycore.com
directoryritz.com
discoverhawaiitours.com
discovery.com

downtowntraveler.com


can you identify the nseo domains?


Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/7/14 11:05 PM
Good point! It is a nofollow link. I need a new theory. Any ideas as to what happened and why Google is not ranking some of my most obvious excellent content highly as it once was? Going from page 1 to page 20 is dramatic and it is puzzling. Google should rank the best content first. Sometimes it can be nebulous and subjective but sometimes it is blatantly obvious. Something happened and I don't know what. Google should also be concerned that their search results may not the best any more. They too are being manipulated by negative SEO.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/7/14 11:14 PM
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study black belt 1/7/14 11:18 PM
On Wednesday, January 8, 2014 1:49:09 AM UTC-5, Greg Ippolito wrote:
Ashley: An example of the negative SEO spam was mentioned in my forensic analysis:
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/Negative-SEO/
The backlink is on this page:
http://drtutorials.com/index.php?post/2012/09/04/Chemistry-Dimensional-Analysis&pub=1
The post is dated May 11, 2013 and it is the worst kind of negative SEO spam. Irrelevant, off topic and nonsensical.

Don't take this the wrong way. But your analysis doesn't contain what I expected to find - a long list filled with pure spam dumping that is a trail which could be spotted miles away. It's not hunt and peck. It's a garbage truck dump. I see a handful of entries and a list of junk that StevieD_Web usually calls "fungus" which Google knows about and tends to ignore -- or you'd see numerous others with the same problems you have.

Furthermore, I see crazy up and down volatility. What wen up came down almost as quickly. This is usually not synonymous with nseo campaigns. Usually this has to do with single or a very small number of sites where what went up now went away. Nseo efforts are usually difficult to remove that quickly.

Ben Hof: Observant discovery. There is a growing difference between the site web logs shown in the analog results vs the Quantcast traffic shown in my forensics report.

The fact that you've got Analog open on your site is rather frightening to me. ;)  I also use third party estimated traffic as the general guide that it is and not a substitute for the actual traffic which you should have.

And now I see 1,200 dofollow links, the majority of which are ski related or would seem like the result of your own entries and almost never the target of nseo attacks since stuff like directories are not as easy to post upon as open forums, blog comments, etc. which have dofollow attributes left open. This guy has only a few hundred entries. More likely one mass directory submission that could have done this and not a negative seo campaign.


I just don't see the mass volume of dirty bad backlinks that I was expecting which is clear on virtually every malicious SEO attack. Just some thoughts and I confess to have given this just a quick look.


Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/7/14 11:24 PM
Avantlink is an affiliate program. It's like CPA (Click Per Action) ads, like the Amazon tags where you can post stuff to buy from Amazon on your site and if they do you get a cut. Avantlink is a little more than that as a single PHP page converts these tags into an online store for your website.
There are various affiliate programs out there. Avantlink is the middle man which specializes in representing outdoor retailers. Avantlink set up the affiliation with the Skis.com online store.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study StevieD_Web 1/7/14 11:30 PM
ooooooohhhhhhhh   paid links.   


You do have the nofollow code attached to those paid links ?



On Wednesday, January 8, 2014 1:24:05 AM UTC-6, Greg Ippolito wrote:
Avantlink is an affiliate program. It's like CPA (Click Per Action) ads, like the Amazon tags where you can post stuff to buy from Amazon on your site and if they do you get a cut. Avantlink is a little more than that as a single PHP page converts these tags into an online store for your website.
There are various affiliate programs out there. Avantlink is the middle man which specializes in representing outdoor retailers. Avantlink set up the affiliation with the Skis.com online store.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/7/14 11:49 PM
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/7/14 11:52 PM
Paid links? Not at all. If you think it is being interpreted as such let me know your reasoning. It's a large affiliate program, very legit.
I run their ads and store on my site. I pay no-one to have links back to me, no one. Avantlink in no way drives traffic or is involved with SEO in any way. They are the broker between Skis.com and me. They make sure that we are honest. How can I trust Skis.com to pay me when something is purchased through me? How can Skis.com know when something has been purchased through me? The answer is the affiliate broker, Avantlink.
I have been using Avantlink for years. The drop in SERPS is recent, Oct/Nov/Dec. I can't really tell if it occurred during the summer as the summer is always slow for a ski and snowboard site.

The study of Google results for "Hole in the Wall" is an interesting one as many of the pages ranked higher point to my site as the authority for more info or reference my images. It is also clear if you compare results, its obvious that that mine is the much better page. I'm not bragging but it should be obvious. What caused Google to change their opinion? They use to rank some of my specialized content very high. Something happened. I did very little to the site during the summer and fall. I posted a single article on Ski resort mascots. Most recently I posted a ski resort review of Blue Mountain in Canada and removed broken links.
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SkiResorts/Mascots.html
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SkiResorts/BlueMountain-Ont-CDN.html

Puzzling. Hmmm.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study StevieD_Web 1/7/14 11:59 PM
Paid links means value of some sorts passes through the links.  In this instance, that value is the referral fees that you receive from Skis.com .  In fact the links would not exist if not for the affiliate referral fees received from the link.  Because value is received in exchange for the link, Google defines these links as Paid Links.

There is no problem with paid links as long as their classification is willingly declared to the search engines through the use of the nofolllow tag on all outbound links.



Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/8/14 12:11 AM
I'm not sure what the rules are on directory submissions but I did submit my site to a directory and search engine submission service right after I created the site about 5 years ago. No one wants people coming to your forum to post spam. It is like an attack and I'm glad Google has raised awareness. I installed PhpBB once and had to halt it after a week as I could not keep up with all of the spam. I hate spammers but submitting your site to a directory like DMOZ is actually encouraged by Google. I have tried, but DMOZ doesn't currently have a ski moderator. I applied but I was rejected as I admitted to having a ski site and they stated that would be a conflict of interest. Yahoo costs allot of $$$ and might violate Google policy of no paid links. It seems foolish to pay so much for so little. Anyway I did have my site submitted to the free directories, once, at least five years ago. They want you to make a submission. That is why they exist. To not allow it would be like Google saying that directory web sites are not allowed. No one would want to be listed. I have found it impossible to get registerred in DMOZ, I can't imagine how hard it would be to get unregistered. Registering the site in a directory five years ago should not have resulted in the recent SERP changes. Google knows what a directory is and should know how much weight to give them.

Thank you for the links however as one has me categorized properly:
http://directorycore.com/recreation_and_sports/sports/skiing/
but the other is way off:
http://monsterlinkdirectory.com/...Technology/Computer_Science/Alternative_Medicine/Sports/?p=17
I may try and get the second listing removed.

I'm still puzzled.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study black belt 1/8/14 12:20 AM
Greg - I took another look at your "forensic study" and, IMVHO, I think that it reflects too much assumption and too little actual forensic analysis.

Perhaps the biggest oversight that was obvious to me, IMHO, was the ahrefs graph about the huge link growth which didn't even have the follow/nofollow portion in the graph. You could have 10,000 additional backlinks that would have a grand total of zero negative seo effect if nofollowed. 

As I mentioned above, nseo does not correspond with immediate takeaways. It's dirty and meant to stick. What this graph suggests is that someone may have put one link in a sidebar that was subsequently removed just a few days or a few weeks later. Look at the movement - the gain/loss is almost identical and the loss usually exceeds the gain by a small margin, ensuring that these jumps are almost certainly not nseo.


As a result of a non-forensic and mostly opinionated analysis based upon questionable assumptions, you've disavowed all your junk. That isn't going to change anything since all the assumed gains which you want to negate have already been negated. So you're disavowing thin air.

And last but not least -- no manual action. Negative SEO campaigns almost always target this as an end result. They don't want to create just a mild abrasion algorithmic shift. They intend to cause great pain to the siteowner that will be very difficult to remove. This didn't happen here because the link issues you're reporting were probably well below Google's tolerance limits for abuse. Google understands the issues of volatility and harm that can befall a website and yours never approached that threshhold.


So... why did your site drop? I see 12,000 pages indexed. I don't see that kind of volume on your site, just gut feeling and I could be wrong. Just a quick check of the index and I see this:


So in short... I like your site. Love the panorama shots. I see all the effort you put into it but you should probably work with someone on the technical issues and not waste any more time on negative seo theory from this moment forward. Good luck.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Corruption Private 1/8/14 12:23 AM
You are also listed in spammy directories, using the exact same description, and in some cases not even using your name.
Those directories are easy to spot as they use the exact same sorting system, which suggests to me they are basically just using the one database.

The front page is too large for easy navigation. I could easily break it into 3 other pages, with more detail in them.
There is keyword stuffing in the site as well. Another no-no
The links you have to other sites are doFollow, and when you link out as much as you do, that makes Google think you are spammy.
That is just the front page!

I'm not sure, but is your redirect a http://www.mountainyahoo.com/ a full mirror, as I have someones seen, or just a redirect?

If they were suddenly added to your site, then why hasn't Yahoo and Bing been affected? They should be affected somehow.
All this is ignoring the fact that using Yahoo in your name for a directory site may constitute trademark infringement.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study black belt 1/8/14 12:23 AM
PS -- My little tidbit is just in addition to all the feedback from others who really hit some significant issues that leave you with a healthy to do list.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/8/14 12:26 AM
Stevie and black belt. Good posts!
Stevie, good catch with the Avantlink href. I added a nofollow. I have read so much about paid link penalties and was sure I had non, I don't sell them and I can't believe I had one (as an image link). I'm actually always trying to be legit.
Wow! I try to be good but yet I had one little but Google punishing mistake - no longer!

This had been on my site for years. I wonder if it can explain the drop in traffic? Did Google ramp up the penalties over time?

Thanks everyone. The results this next week will speak for themselves.
Hopefully things will be better.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Theresa S 1/8/14 12:27 AM
Backlinks aside for a sec..

ALL affiliate links from publishers to merchants should be set to "nofollow". For the record, it is a paid relationship.

"It's a large affiliate program, very legit" - it's an affiliate network, and if you are using their store builder, the links should be set to nofollow.

Affiliate sites are held to a higher standard - so in addition to the ongoing discussion of backlinks, issues like duplicate content and over-optimization can bring an affiliate site down harder than a regular content site (IMO). I'm an affiliate so I know this well. 
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study ets 1/8/14 12:28 AM
Re the two subdomains:

Very sloppy of me and I will fix it. I don't believe that this caused a rapid decline in search ranking due to duplicate content especially since the site pages are tagged with <link rel="canonical" href= ...

I'm afraid I disagree! Both subdomains are indexed; if the canonical had been obeyed, only one would be. It looks like your canonicals have not been "obeyed" - and that can happen for various reasons because Google takes them as hints, not absolute directives. As Google's Gary Illyes explained a few days ago, Google can gradually build up confidence in canonical URLs according to the strength of the consistent hints you give it. If there are inconsistencies, such as mismatched canonicals, page content being too different, canonicals being outside the <HEAD> or various other issues, they will not "obeyed".


If you suddenly had an explosion (doubling) in the number of indexed URLs, that could cause a ranking issue. Check out your graph of index status over the last few months to see if that happened.

What you need here is a 301 redirect from the unwanted subdomain to the other one, if you can do that without screwing up the way the site works. Let us know if you don't know how to do it and someone will write the code for you.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/8/14 12:48 AM
I just fixed the duplicate sub domain problem (www and shopping). It was an Apache configuration oversight. Done.

Affiliate nofollow added. Done.

Good catch black belt:

http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SnowReport/SnowReport-Colorado.html  -- garbled junk
It is an old cron generated page which was no longer in my sitemap and no longer linked to from the site. Apparently Google hangs on to old garbage. It has been deleted. Done.

Corruption Private: What does this mean?

"I'm not sure, but is your redirect a http://www.mountainyahoo.com/ a full mirror, as I have someones seen, or just a redirect?"
Does this refer to duplicate content in my two sub-domains? If so this has been fixed. If not I need more explanation.

Black belt - good catch on the redirect loop. I'm working on it now. Apparently I fixed one problem and created a new one.

Thanks everyone!





Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/8/14 9:40 AM
All the affiliate and ad related links on the entire site or sites you own must contain a nofollow. A few random pages were selected and all still seem to show follow links.


Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Lysis 1/8/14 9:43 AM
I wonder if the OP will update his highly researched, one site data analysis and admit to his own backlink spam.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/8/14 11:30 PM
Luzie: You made an astute observation about the text used with links and that it looked spammy:
"15% ski resort guides for skier and snowboarders"

I searched for sites using that exact string and it turns out that the site was submitted and registered with directories with that text. The submission to the directories and listings were identical for each and then the directories post the site info with that text in the appropriate category, A search on that text string reveals that the site is registered with 22 directories. I would think Google would have directories figured out by now and use them to categorize a site rather than count them as useful backlinks in a measurement of popularity.

The text "skier and snowboarders: ski resort reviews" is also from directories, 24 of them in fact. I must have made two submissions just after I created the site.

To all: After I added rel="nofollow" to the affiliate links, fixed the subdomain problem which listed content twice, fixed the recursive URL redirect loop problem (an Apache alias error), updated the sitemap and disavowed some links, my ranking in Google search engine results has fallen further.
A search for "Mammoth Mountain Hole in the Wall" has dropped me from first page, then second and now today, it is on the third page of Google search results. The funny thing is that Hole in the Wall is talked about allot but few have been. It's hard to find and you have to be a double black diamond skier. The ski and travel content mills mention it but I have the info, original photos, video and panoramic photos. I've been there and have the best content on this but yet ranking drops. Google has to remember that the search engine users just want the best search results and don't care about nofollow's, text used in backlinks etc. Yahoo ranks me #1. What is Yahoo doing to recognize the best content that Google is not?

I'll let it rest for a few weeks and see how it settles out. Google's index probably takes a while to fully absorb all of its indicators. I wish that content quality was a stronger indicator. Thanks for everyone's help.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study StevieD_Web 1/8/14 11:42 PM


Any time you make massive changes, 


>I'll let it rest for a few weeks and see how it settles out. Google's index probably takes a while to fully absorb all of its indicators


is always the best advice.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/8/14 11:46 PM
All the affiliate links I've been checking are still missing a nofollow tag. Even the affiliate related links on the home page seem to remain unchanged with respect to nofollow.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/10/14 9:17 AM
rel="nofollow" on affiliate links response and question:

I added rel="nofollow" to hrefs but not for the image used:

<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.avantlink.com/click.php?tt=ml&amp;ti=1927&amp;pw=26971"><img src="http://www.avantlink.com/gbi/10065/1927/21963/26971/image.gif" width="125" height="125" style="border: 0px;" alt="" /></a>

The Javascript also has none:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.avantlink.com/ale/ale.php?ti=961"></script>

Also none for iframes:
<iframe src="http://www.booking.com/?aid=3555


This should be ok. Am I incorrect?
Perhaps your browser cache needs updating. In Firefox you hold the shift key while hitting the reload icon.
Thanks for your feedback.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Free2Write 1/11/14 12:16 PM
At the time I checked I used a file viewer and a direct HTTP GET, not a browser.

Regardless, the nofollow tags on the direct links look to be there now.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 1/21/14 12:26 AM
Google has generated yet another business model. See http://www.directorycore.com/dance/recreation_and_sports/sports/skiing/?s=P

This spam link site will hold your website hostage for $5.00. Yup they will hold a spammy link to your website on their spammy page and web spam site unless you pay them $5.00. You of course can sign up all of your competitors for free!

The appropriate action by Google is to ignore spam and give it no value. Be done with it and end this nonsense of negative SEO and now this spam ransom. 

Update: MountainYahoos.com is still fairing poorly in search results. It never recovered from the negative SEO attack.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study black belt 1/21/14 2:00 AM
Disavow. Done.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study BDetect 1/21/14 6:14 AM
Um... I don't think anyone believes your story. Check the replies that were made before your last comment.
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study MountainSkiDude 3/19/14 1:10 AM
Follow-up a month and a half later. The "fixes" made things worse!

After on-site cleanup and modifying some links with
rel="nofollow" 
on affiliate links as suggested on this forum and using the Google disavow tool on low quality, unnatural or strange off topic backlinks, my traffic and ranking have dropped even lower.
In fact the following search in Google "Mammoth Mountain Hole in the wall" would result in my page showing up as number one:
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SkiResorts/MammothMountain_Hole-In-The-Wall.html (still the best content on the web for this long tail esoteric search).
At the time I came to this forum in January, it had dropped to page 4, thus my concern.
The page no longer shows up in the 20 pages of Google search results - nowhere. It is still number one in Yahoo. My linked spherical panoramic images and videos show up but not the article.

I have never received a notice from Google about unnatural links, I just assumed my drop in traffic was from negative SEO and a few spammy backlinks I found. I had mostly ignored my backlinks until recently when I decided to look into my drop in traffic. Wow, what a shock at all the junk out there.
Spam:
http://drtutorials.com/index.php?post/2012/09/04/Chemistry-Dimensional-Analysis&pub=1

Links from a categorized list of German industrial equipment ??? My site is a ski/snowboard site! How do I get listed here?
http://internetwebgallery.com/germany/germany-manufacturers.-list.html
http://sitevelocitytest.com/germany/germany-manufacturers.-list.html

A site with really strange link text (Negative SEO?)
http://saltlakemagazine.com/blog/2010/12/06/deer-valley-opener-celeb-ski-fest-30-lift-tix-through-wednesday-and-montage-restaurantsspa-open-wednesday/?t=137934904066
This is the link text: "Mayflower wasn't yet open (*the only lift not turning" and it points to http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SkiResorts/DeerValley.html which is our review of the Deer Valley ski resort. Clearly intentional by another topic related site. It is not a forum posting but a link posted by the website. As off topic as the text is, I guess that this link and others were helping rather than hurting.

Some forums which are reposting some of my old images are ranking well.

I'm really convinced that much of the web is a really weird place I don't understand. Here is my disavow list:
http://www.mountainyahoos.com/Negative-SEO/disavow-links.txt
This disavow list of crap links and the on-site rel="nofollow" dropped me from low (page 4 of the Google search) to not found a all.

What is it that I am not getting about the disavow tool and spammy links? Looks like what I thought were bad links were in fact what drove traffic to my site.
I really doubt that it was the nofollow had any effect as that was for outbound links. It didn't help though. I will be emptying the disavow list as clearly it hurt my site in a heavy handed way but I'm hoping to get some guidance first.

I also noticed that Google has formed a partnership with the largest ski site out there (content mill, all PR photos from resorts, no original photos, regurgitated scraped content from the resorts like snow reports and mountain stats)
http://searchengineland.com/google-adds-snow-conditions-interaction-mobile-weather-results-62857
Is this what happens to you if Google partners with one of your competitors? Google then crushes all of the competitors which are most threating?
We have allot of original photos, spherical panoramic photos, videos and insight by skiers and snowboarders for skiers and snowboarders. This content takes allot of work to obtain and produce. It is scary for a content mill to have a competitor like us but not if you are partnered with Google.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Cheerful Charlie 3/19/14 3:02 AM
I'm new here, but...

Avant links in RH column are still dofollow http://www.mountainyahoos.com/SkiResorts/MammothMountain.html, as are the links in the link directory at the bottom of the content. If all the area pages are the same, and given that there isn't that much content to balance all the links, your site could be viewed by Google as just another directory. If so, Google hit you hard. Why would searchers be sent to a site after a search, only to have to click a link another link to get to the information they actually wanted? It doesn't make sense.

Add in your highly unappealing, completely thin affiliate "shopping" site, and you are in for a double whammy from the Google algorithm. 

You have some great material on your site, it could be ranking well, but you have some issues to fix first.

Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Greg Ippolito 3/20/14 3:15 AM
I added both a rel="nofollow" and a robots.txt to block the shopping.mountainyahoos.com domain entirely. Good advice.

I'm not sure I understand the first part. The bottom block of every page has links for feedback, about us, return to home page etc. I did add the rel="nofollow" to the shopping link. Is there more I need to understand about that link block at the footer of each page. After reading your comments I started to look at other sites to see what they had in their navigation blocks. BBC.com does not have a single nofollow. CNN.com uses them allot. I added them to my internal links in the footer for all pages other than the home page. I don't think they are spammy or will confuse Google as most sites have this structure at the bottom of the page but they could over emphasize the feedback form as if it is the most awesome page on the site. Again, I think that Google has seen this structure before and should handle it but I added it anyway as I'm less inclined these days to make any assumptions about Google's ability to spider and understand a website.
The shopping/affiliate related links are now all nofollow.

I updated the sitemap and I guess I'll wait to see what happens. It is the recent change in my ranking that puzzles me, as if the result of something recent. The only thing I did recently was to add to my disavow list.

Thanks for the post and I did act on it as it does seem possible.
Greg
Re: Negative SEO - a forensic study Cheerful Charlie 3/20/14 3:53 AM

Hey Greg, these shoping links in the right hand column are all dofollow as are the links in the Links section on every page




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