Q and A: How Can I Get Rid of Malicious Spam Content on Google?

QuestionHi Kalena

My friend is being harassed by someone who is manipulating SEO on Google.  What should I do?

Someone is using a story to back link and I believe it is web spammed via Google. The story was politically motivated and used to destroy my friend’s character.  I am not sure if there is anything that can be done to stop this person from page ranking this story to the top of the Google page, especially if they are using possible black hat techniques and other methods to rank this at the top.

Is there anyway Google would remove the story if they are participating in such acts? My friend sent a request for removal and complained to google about the back linking and abuse of page rank, but to date, nothing has been done in removing the story that is over a year old and is at the top of the Google site. Can you help and let us know what we may be able to do to have this story taken down?

Crystal

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Hi Crystal

Sorry to hear that. I believe there are quite a few people who find themselves the target of malicious spam campaigns like this. I personally can’t assist as I don’t work for Google and don’t have any contacts there who would be able to assist. However, the correct place to start the process is to complete this Request to Remove Objectionable Content form.

The other step I would recommend is for your friend to have a lawyer write a *cease and desist* letter to the owner of the web site hosting the objectionable content. Sometimes, the threat of legal action is enough to make them remove it.

My final piece of advice would be to create some positive content and optimize it well for your friend’s name so that it out-ranks the objectionable content to push the spam further down the search results.

Best of luck!

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Q and A: Can a List of Client Sites Be Seen as Link Spamming?

QuestionHi Kalena

I recently finished up helping my dad remake and SEO his site. His company has been around for a long time, and his site hadn’t been updated in a very long time, so it was time for a total remake. The URL stayed the same, but we updated the content/graphics/general design of the site.

So my first question is about a page on the site for “Who Uses Our Service”. On the page there is at least 200 companies listed, and most had links to their sites included. Would Google consider this some type of link spamming to have that many links on a page? Or do they really only care about links pointing TO your site, rather than FROM it? For now we have added a nofollow thing to the robots.txt so Google won’t index that page, but if it wouldn’t impact us negatively, then it would be nice to have it indexed.

My final question is regarding SEO in general. Pretty much I’m wondering how long it takes for SEO to start taking affect, and any reasons why an updated/new site (but with a link that has been around for a long time), that is keyworded on every page for our target keywords, and has some backlinks (not sure of the quantity or quality because this was done a long time ago, not by me), would still not show up within the first 5-10 pages of Google?

We submitted the sitemap to google about 10 days ago, how long would it take for the SEO to really start affecting it’s place in results? The weird thing is it is still top 3 or so in Bing and Yahoo, but had pretty much entirely dropped off the search results in Google, which is part of the reason we remade it. But it still isn’t showing up anywhere, so maybe it just hasn’t been long enough for things to start kicking in?

Sorry for the very long post, but needed to give the details. Thanks for any help!

Chris

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Hi Chris

A double whammy! Ok, let’s see if I can answer both questions in one post:

1) Google recommends a max of 100 outgoing links on any page. Any more links than that and Googlebot may not follow them or index remaining page code. To combat this, I would recommend that you break up that page listing all client sites into several smaller pages, perhaps by category? So law firms on one page, govt agencies on another etc.

In addition, if you are concerned about the page being mistaken for a link farm or directory, I would advise you to use the rel=nofollow tag on all those outgoing links. Unless you specifically want to pass PageRank to those sites, that is the best option for you. It instructs Google that you are not passing on any link juice and so Google is more likely to treat those page/s as genuine content, which is what they are.

2) New sites can take anywhere from 3 to 30 days to show up in Google. To determine if the site has been indexed, you need to do a search for your domain e.g. site:http://[yourdomain].com. If it is showing pages for your domain, then Google has indexed it. If it is showing some pages but not others, you need to investigate any indexing issues using Google Webmaster Tools and compare your site map with the pages indexed to see what could be going on. Webmaster Tools will tell you exactly how often Googlebot is indexing the site and which pages it is indexing.

Also make sure you check your robots.txt file against your XML sitemap to ensure you aren’t giving Google conflicting indexing permissions. I’ve seen many a client blame Google for a baffling indexing issue that was caused by their own instructions to Googlebot in their robots.txt file.

If there are still pages from the old site listed in Google, you need to make sure you use 301 redirects on those old URLs to point them to the new pages. This will signal to Google to update any old content listings. If you spot any dodgy backlinks pointing to the site from previous link partners, you should request they be removed, and/or you can also use the disavow backlinks tool in Webmaster Tools to make sure Google no longer takes those links into account.

If the new pages are listed, but just aren’t ranking as well as you like, it may be that they are under-optimized or over-optimized for your target keywords, OR, the keywords you are trying to rank for are simply too competitive. Keep tweaking the page and testing until you hit the sweet spot that sees the page ranking in the first page or two of search results for logical, realistic keyword phrases.

I would also recommend doing some more in-depth keyword research using some of the tools and methods I’ve previously recommended to make sure you find every possible keyword combination that your potential audience is using when conducting searches. You’ll find that targeting long-tail keywords (search terms with more words and/or that are more specific) will give you the edge over competitors when it comes to ranking. You may not draw as much traffic from them, but the traffic you do attract will be more qualified to purchase/sign up.

It may also be that competing sites have a much stronger backlink profile and so Google is naturally positioning them ahead of you in the search results. If this is the case, conduct a link audit and kick off a consistent link building campaign. In particular, you’ll need to determine how your competitor’s backlink profile compares to yours so you know how much work you need to do in order to out-rank them. My recent post about link audits should help you through this process.

Best of luck!

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Q and A: What steps can I take to recover from Google Panda / Penguin?

QuestionHi Kalena

I work for an online retail site and our company was hit really hard by Google Panda and then the ongoing Google Penguin algorithm updates.

We haven’t used any obvious spam tactics and we don’t use link farms, but a lot of our content is auto generated based on our product database and it is also duplicated on the sites belonging to some of our distribution partners. For example, we sell toys and promotional gifts made in China and these categories and product descriptions are replicated on our partner sites.

Two years ago, we hired a SEO firm to optimize our blog and write some articles for us that integrate links to our products. I think all these things have contributed to us getting wiped off Google search results after the Panda and Penguin updates. From what I’ve read, we may be guilty of over-optimization. Is this right?

Our traffic from search engines is down by at least 40 percent and has stayed that way for the past 6 months. What steps can we take to get back in Google’s good books? This is really hurting us.

Thank you in advance,
Tim

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Hello Tim

I started to answer this and then realized that Jill Whalen has already written an excellent article on this very subject. I believe it answers all your questions, including specific problems that have likely contributed to losses of organic Google traffic for many sites in the past year.

Please go have a read of  Jill’s article: 18 SEO Killers You Must Clean Up and Avoid for 2013 and all the best!

Kalena
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Q and A: Is it good SEO practice to cross link related sites in the footer?

QuestionHello Kalena

I took your SEO classes at Search Engine College a while back. I’m hoping you might be able to help me with a question that I really don’t know the answer to.

I now work at an advertising agency and we have various clients…some we work on their SEO and some we don’t.

One of our client’s websites [link removed] has their sister companies listed on the bottom of the site with links pointing to each. All the companies are related and interlinked in the same way. They were told by their “SEO” company that having the companies linked is not a good SEO move.

I would think that since these would be quality links that it is good practice to link them.

Can you please weigh in on this?

Thanks
Lena

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Hi Lena

Actually, I can see where their SEO’s concern lies. All of the sister sites are linked together in the footer, in a kind of feedback loop. This can be misinterpreted by Google to be a mini link farm of sorts.

Please read Google’s guidelines about links and you’ll understand what I mean. They particularly highlight this issue:

“Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines… Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites…”

By all means link to the sister sites, but use the *rel: no-follow* tag on those links so that no link value is attributed to them. That should prevent Google from misinterpreting the link intention.

Hope this helps!

Kalena
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Can competitors harm your Google ranking?

My little tribute to the Beastie Boys

A client and I were Skyping this week and the topic inevitably turned to Google Penguin and the impending doom of link building *tactics*.

This particular client has been having issues with rogue affiliates setting up fake link networks in order to boost their sales for my client’s products. Despite repeated warnings and/or promises to clean up their act, some of these affiliates have continued using dodgy practices for years, managing somehow to avoid Panda, Panda II and even Panda III. But their house of cards came tumbling down with the implementation of Penguin and with it went over 30 percent of my client’s traffic.

The problem is that, ultimately, my client has NO CONTROL over the tactics used by persons linking to their site. If they spot dodgy tactics being used, my client can alert or even ban the offending affiliate, but what of all the affiliates spamming under the radar? And these are sites supposedly in favor of my client staying in business. Imagine if they were direct competitors? All the education in the world isn’t going to stop spammers using whatever tactics they can if they are rewarded for those tactics in cold hard cash. And who can blame them?

This is inherently the problem I have with Google at the moment. They still claim it isn’t possible for spammers to hurt innocent sites using SEO spam but guess what? There are many, many examples of exactly that happening. Heck, this guy is offering a $10,000 reward to find the persons responsible for link bombing his site. Do you think he’d offer cash if the issue wasn’t crippling his business? There are even public projects set up encouraging people to use SEO spam in order to influence the Google SERPs in a positive or negative way for political purposes. And what about super competitive industries like the PPCs – porn, pills and casinos? I can assure you that competitor sabotage is alive and well and flying business class.

Now I applaud that Google are concerned enough about the issue to roll out updates like Penguin to try and punish persons using obvious SEO spam. Comment spam is evil! they warn. Artificial backlinks are evil! they say. Use of these tactics is a violation of our guidelines! But then they say don’t fret if others build backlinks to your site. Don’t worry too much. Just concentrate on making your site the best that it can be.

Why oh why do they keep insisting that competitors can’t harm your site using those same methods? Asked the question, Can competitors harm your ranking?, this was Google’s reply:

Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.

I look at these posts and this is what I’m hearing:

“Don’t be evil. Don’t do this, this or this. Doesn’t matter if your competitor tries that, they can’t hurt you. Oh look at these naughty spammers ruining your SERPs. We’ve got an update to fix that. What? Your legitimate site was smacked down? Not our problem. Don’t be evil.”

Well Google may not want to admit it but here it is: Can competitors harm your Google ranking? You bet they can.

 

 

 

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