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Negative SEO – Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
Posted on August 1st 2012
So, I’m minding my own business late last night doing a quick check over my site stats, and something jumps out at me… a referrer from Fiverr. As I’ve never even created an account over there (not even to have someone write me a song on the Ukelele), and the fact that the referral path indicated that it was was from a ‘job’, something smelt a bit fishy. Time to investigate.
Stage 1: The Hunt
As I had the username of the person who’d clicked through, it was just a simple case of going to their Fiverr profile and seeing what services they’re offering. Kaboom! I found this:
Now, at this point, things were starting to feel like they might get interesting, but there wasn’t a huge amount more that I could do without getting in touch with the guy that was going to build these links to find out what was going on. As he’d only visited my site an hour or two ago there was no way that the links would’ve been picked up in Webmaster Tools.
Things to remember: Check your referral traffic for things that appear out of the ordinary – the more you know about your links the better.
Step 2: Digging a Little Deeper
Since this is Fiverr, I decided my best tactic was to offer my new friend some cash to let me know what’s been going on. A quick screenshot of our first couple of messages is below:
As you can see, he was more than happy to help. Result! I fired up Paypal, sent over the funds, and waited. A few hours later and I received a big juicy text file of Naughty Links!
I also asked him for the message text of the person that had placed the order. Here’s what they’d asked for:
url = http://www.mattbeswick.co.uk
keyword = seo consultant
So, I now had a good indication that whoever was doing this would likely be someone who is trying to rank for ‘SEO Consultant’ as a search term. As I’ve been writing for a few different sites lately my rankings have been slowly but surely edging up, so it wasn’t really a surprise that someone would take exception to this… but who?
Step 3: Getting Lucky
In life you need some luck now and again; this was mine. As I went back to the main job page I noticed a review from a name that I recognised.
Now, to ‘out’ or not to ‘out? That was the question:
— Matt Beswick (@mattbeswick) Juli 31, 2012
The overwhelming response (thanks Mike and Paddy) was to speak to my prime suspect first, which was a very sensible piece of advice, and exactly what I did. The conversation went something like this (the name, of course, has been changed):
Me: Hello dear sir. I have a small bone to pick with you.
Barnaby: Oh yeah?
Me: The evidence (I place a virtual folder full of paperwork in the Skype window) suggests that you’re being a sneaky little blighter.
Barnaby: Wasn’t me guv
Me: Now now, are you sure?
Barnaby: Yeah, honest.
Me: Well, I’m not sure I believe you, but if it wasn’t you then someone’s being very mischievous.
– END –
The upshot here is that I don’t know if it was ‘Barnaby’, and don’t particularly care… the point is that someone’s been up to no good, so now I’ve got to spend some time dealing with it.
Step 4: Pre-emptive Recovery
At this point, there isn’t a huge amount that I can do, other than wait and watch. I will, however, be doing the following:
- Keeping an eye on LinkStant to see if any dodgy referrers appear. (There’s already one that I’ve noticed from http://classicarchive.org/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=spam which certainly isn’t safe for work).
- Lodging a reconsideration request, with a link to the Xrumer output file that I mentioned earlier, reference to this post, and a quick explanation of what’s happened.
- Over the next few days and weeks I’ll keep an eye on Bing Webmaster Tools and ‘disavow’ any dodgy links that appear.
- Google Webmaster Tools now has a handy feature that shows your latest links, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that to see what happens.
If anyone wants to help out by giving me a nice juicy link to my homepage, feel free. I’ve never been someone to pass up an opportunity for a link or two!