Tag Archives: google algorithm

Can a Negative SEO Attack Hurt Your Contractor Website?

Negative SEO for Contractors

We all know the benefits of contractor SEO. How it can keep even the smallest of businesses competitive near the top of search rankings for relevant keywords without the major marketing budgets that some heavy hitters have.

But there has also been a lot of talks lately about negative SEO. What is it, exactly, and should you be worried about it? How can you protect yourself from negative SEO? This guide will give you a little better understanding of the subject.

What is Negative SEO, and Does it Work?

In essence, negative SEO is when someone makes an attempt to lower the search engine rankings of a particular website. The most common way to achieve this is through link-based negative SEO, but there are certainly other methods to achieve this.

Google currently penalizes or suppresses sites through their algorithm if they have shown to be engaging in manipulative link building. This means that there can be a manual unnatural links penalty or a demotion that is unannounced at the hands of the Penguin algorithm.

In essence, these links that are made can hurt your website. Having considered that, it only makes sense that someone could generate the same negative impact on a website. Still, Google is rather adamant that true negative SEO is still quite rare.

Google acknowledged that, while rare, there is a chance that a competitor could do something to harm your website like hacking into your server and deleting your site or changing the robots.txt file to tell the search engines not to crawl that site anymore. Things of that nature.

That leaves the question, though: can a competitor point bad links at your website in order to reduce your overall ranking. Google has stated that, while it is technically possible, it is extremely difficult to pull off.

The Creation of Penguin

When Penguin was released back in 2012, it came with a refresh in October of that same year. This refresh brought with it the disavow tool. This means that site owners could ask Google to not count links that they thought might do damage to their site.

While the need for this tool would be few and far between due to the algorithm’s ability to make sure that those bad links wouldn’t hurt your site, it could be an issue for those in high money, competitive niches. This is where disavow would come into play.

There are many avenues for reporting issues like this to Google and the search engine giant usually takes that feedback into account to help improve their algorithm. Still, Google is not 100% perfect and having the disavow tool available is incredibly helpful for websites who feel as though there are damaging links being pointed at their website.

Google continues to make core updates to its algorithm so that any new methods of manipulation can be identified and either penalized or disallowed for ranking purposes. The ultimate reality is that Google is always going to address any shady practices that compromise its algorithm’s reputation.

Knowing What isn’t Negative SEO

There have been more than a few instances of a website claiming that a competitor was attacking them with bad links when that turned out to be absolutely untrue. There are examples of situations where negative SEO may have been suspected, but really, there was something else entirely going on.

Some websites will link to literally every website on the web. The vast majority of websites will have links from sites like mrwhatis.net, askives.com, m.biz and its various directories, links from websites that analyze and provide domain info, and Chinese sites that scrape alexa.com.

There have also been cases where site owners see that they have a huge number of links to their site. The fear here is that Google will think that you built tens of thousands of links to your site and will flag it for unsavory practices.

Having a sitewide link from a site with thousands of pages is not a bad thing. Google is pretty good at figuring out that a sitewide link is actually just one singular vote from a site and a single sitewide link is actually not a sign of negative SEO.

Signs of Actual Negative SEO

While there are certainly plenty of scenarios out there where it may look like negative SEO as it at play, but it really isn’t, there are situations where it does actually happen. There are a few links that you really should be wary of when someone is trying to attack your site with negative links.

These can be things like links from foreign forums or a huge number of links from sites with TLDs of .cz, .ru, .pl, .cn, .bg, .ro, .com.ar, .biz, .com.br, or .info. While not all of those links are going to be of the unnatural variety, but getting an influx from, say, a Russian website is a pretty good indicator of an attack.

It could also be genuine if you begin to notice numerous links from blog posts that are complete nonsense. There may also be a lot of keyword-anchored links from multiple sources, which is often confused with sitewide links. You may also have an influx of links from porn sites, payday loan sites, gambling sites, and any of the less friendly websites online.

Should You Be Worried About Negative SEO?

Even if you think that you have evidence of an attack, it is important to remember that Google works hard to protect sites from this type of linking through its algorithm. That means that the vast majority of websites out there do not need to worry about a negative SEO attack.

Again, the odds of them happening are few and far between and there is the disavow tool should something authentic actually make its way through. The only place to be concerned is in those high-money, competitive niches like payday loans, casinos, insurance, pharmacy sales, and the like.

Generally speaking, the people in those circles tend to have far more sophisticated methods that could work. This means taking hours and hours to find loopholes in Google’s algorithm in order to take down a competitor.

Again, this is in high-money, niche areas, so it isn’t something that the vast majority of websites out there need to concern themselves with. If you are a site that has a long-standing history of doing manipulative linking, then you might need to keep a watch-out. Sometimes Google can’t tell what is self-made and what is an attack, so keep that in mind.

Protecting Yourself from Negative SEO

Again, this is more for the competitive niches out there or those with a history of being penalized and needing to do link cleanup. This can be done by monitoring your backlinks on a regular basis. This can include a monthly backlink audit. By implementing a practice like this, you don’t allow unnatural links to go unnoticed and can generally clean them up in short order.

Even if you aren’t in that competitive niche, it couldn’t hurt to do a monthly backlink audit in order to monitor your new links. This way you can see the new and good links that your site is attracting. Even monitoring them can give you ideas on how to get even more just like them, which can be beneficial for your SEO ranking in the long run.

It also couldn’t hurt to give yourself 100% protection. As good as Google is when it comes to catching negative SEO and discounting it, nothing is 100% accurate. Having your monthly audit allows you to potentially catch those negative SEO instances that may have gotten past Google’s algorithm. It’s a backup of a backup, essentially.

The Takeaways

Ultimately, when it comes to negative SEO, there are a few things to remember. The most important is that not everything that looks like negative SEO is actually negative SEO. Every site out there is going to have weird links pointing at them. Google’s algorithm knows this and will discount those links so that they do not negatively impact your website’s SEO rankings.

A sudden influx of links could be the telltale sign of an attack but, in most cases, Google’s algorithms will just end up ignoring those links. That means you won’t see any drop in the rankings due to said links.

If you are in a hyper-competitive, high-money, niche market there is a more likely chance of seeing a real negative SEO attack pop up thanks to a sophisticated effort on the part of a competitor. Taking steps to perform a backlink audit each month can help narrow down those instances of a negative SEO attack and combat them.

For those websites that have a history of doing natural unlinking and have been punished by Google, the giant may not be able to differentiate your unnatural links from the attack links so perform that monthly audit to keep your website safe.

Ultimately, there is only a small corner of the internet really feeling the impact of negative SEO and a comprehensive monthly backlink audit can help to combat it. For the rest of us, there is comfort in knowing that Google is not only aware of the issue but that their algorithm has the tools necessary to make it a non-issue.

Posted: | Updated: May 27, 2021 | Categories: SEO

Will Google’s Unconfirmed February 2020 Update Impact Contractors?

Google February 2020 Update Cover

According to industry experts, Google has been making frequent updates to their algorithm in the last month. As a small business owner, you may be wondering what that means for your contractor SEO strategy and whether you have the processes in place to continue generating online leads after February.

Those changes, which are largely unannounced and never have a direct “fix” to them, can have substantial impacts across the web and on a variety of industries. Unfortunately, it is up to those websites affected to figure out what changes occurred and how to combat them.

And as of this past weekend, it seems that Google has pushed out some sort of ranking algorithm change that has resulted in a large shift in the rankings of many websites. While it is uncertain on just what this February 2020 update has done, Google has not yet commented on the speculation surrounding this update nor has it even confirmed that the update occurred.

Google is Always Changing

Much like the February 2020 update, Google’s search results are constantly changing. This means that new pages are coming into the index, new signals get refreshed, and that Google makes literally thousands of changes each year.

This is common knowledge and something that the only SEO community has been dealing with for a long, long time. Still, it is not that often that the community sees such a big spike in both the rank checking tools and the SEO community chatter.

To say that Google’s February 2020 update has a substantial impact that we have yet to understand would be putting it lightly. While it will eventually be realized what these changes were and how they impact websites, it is a bit like feeling around in the dark at this point for many websites.

Rank Checking Tools

According to some of the most popular rank checking tools, there have been substantial changes. It is important to note that the tool providers have stated that they don’t count the featured snippet deduplication or user interface change with their rank changes.

While there are those that suspect that these changes are the result of these tools showing ranking fluctuations, it doesn’t seem as though that is accurate at this time. Essentially, most of these tracking tools are registering “off the charts.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the changes were good or bad, but there are a substantial number of websites that were impacted according to these tools.

Some Main Points of Major Reports

After Sunday, February 9th, the rumors of a big February 2020 update began to circulate, speculating that there were “really big, maybe even massive” changes that were taking place within Google’s search results.

Since then, more reports have emerged and there are a few points worth noting when it comes to this update:

  • The Update is not officially confirmed by Google yet.
  • The update has effects on many niches and websites that have very different profiles. This means that there is no clear pattern of websites that have been impacted by the update.
  • There are some sites that are losing and then simultaneously gaining traffic. This is a definite sign of possible Google testing.
  • There is some speculation, though it isn’t exactly solid, as to whether these fluctuations being observed are connected to layout or HTML changes in the SERPs.
  • The update has clearly not had affected everyone yet though that could change in short order.

The Problem with Updates and Google’s Communication

Since the Core Update back in March 2019, Google has made it a practice to announce or even pre-announce major updates to their core algorithms. The communication policy was introduced as an attempt to increase transparency as well as prevent some speculation from spreading.

Still, there have been plenty of times since then that Google has not provided consistent communication. This was evident in the November 2019 update, which didn’t have any pre-announcement and was only acknowledged by Google after numerous SEOs had been affected in the rankings.

Whether we like it or not, what Google discloses is up to them and it is up to us to fill in the gaps. When there are updates with no communication, as seems to be the case with the February 2020 update, it is up to users to determine where the biggest SEO ranking changes have occurred.

Even when Google does acknowledge that a change may have been made, it is vague at best. Google even commented long after the November 2019 update by saying “we do updates all the time.” I would suggest rereading our general advice about this.”

That is not much as to what the update was, how it impacts websites across the net and what changes need to be made to improve the affected SEO rankings. This can lead to frustration for users in determining where the biggest changes have taken place.

What Contractors Should Do About The February 2020 Update

The best idea for finding out what changes have been made is to wait for the SEO community to figure it out. Sure, being patient is not always easy but unless Google is transparent about their updates, there is no other way to know what has happened.

Google posts updates at times through their Search Liaison account on Twitter, but other than that, it can be like feeling around in the dark when it comes to their algorithm updates. And with the impact it can have on the SEO rankings of websites, it carries serious implications with it.

Keeping your ear to the online community and seeing what they uncover is the best course of action for finding out what changes may have taken place and what impact they could have on your website and your business as a whole.

SEO is an ever-evolving tool in the online marketing world and while Google has the aim of providing the most efficient rankings possible, it can be frustrating in the days after the update.

Posted: | Updated: Feb 24, 2020 | Categories: SEO

How Do Google Core Updates Impact Contractor Websites?

Google Core Updates Blog Cover

January 2020 sparked discussion around SEO as the latest of the Google core updates was released and rolled out. Although Google makes some type of change to its algorithm on a daily basis, a core update represents a more significant change

It should come as no surprise that Google makes frequent updates to its algorithm. With nearly two trillion searches each year and 20 years under its belt as a search engine, it has to make those updates in order to get the very best out of its search algorithms.

To put some context on it, Google launched more than 3000 changes to its Google Search in just the last year. To say that there will be changes on the horizon for 2020 would be putting it lightly. Still many of these updates are peripheral and something that you might not notice.

But there are major updates known as core updates that make significant and broad changes to the algorithm and systems that Google runs. These core updates can attract major attention because they have a more noticeable effect.

What is a Google core update?

A core update happens whenever Google makes a broad or significant change to its search engine algorithm.  All of these updates have the aim of improving the search experience for users while providing more useful, relevant, and trustworthy content than the previous update.

Google January 2020 Core Update Tweet

Different Core Update Examples

Prior to 2020, you may have noticed some of the more recent Google core updates that were rolled out in 2019. One of which was the March 2019 core update. Google itself never released specific details about the update, but there was industry research that suggested that those sites with low-quality content would see the biggest decrease in both rankings and traffic.

That same study also showed that most of the websites that were affected by that core update worked to improve their overall content and, by proxy, their overall search ranking.

Then there was the June 2019 Core Update. This broad core update was meant to mimic other core updates. Unlike the previous core update, this one didn’t update any of the major categories like the March core update or a previous update that had an impact on site speed.

Google did, however, suggest that users read their 2011 blog post on how to build higher-quality websites in order to better learn to improve their sites for the long haul. Google can be quite vague with its updates at times.

Lastly is the September 2019 Core Update. Those that reported negative impacts from the June 2019 Core Update reported getting increases in both their rankings and traffic when the September 2019 Core Update was released.

Generally speaking, this update was thought to have the biggest impact on healthcare and news sites. The thing to keep in mind is that these updates rarely come with details. Pay attention to industry reports in the wake of an update to learn more about its general impact.

How Can You Tell if a Google Core Update Had a Negative Impact on Your Contractor Website?

It is normal to be worried that a Google core update could have a negative impact on your contractor website. And since they don’t really announce what the update entails, it can be easy to not know what changes have taken place until you begin to see changes.

Decreased Rankings

When Google makes a broad core update, SEOs often look at the search engine results page, also known as SERPs. Your rankings in the SERPs can give you a pretty good insight into whether a core update helps or hurt your site.

You will have to monitor the rankings for several days to really get an idea of where things have changed, so don’t expect to see an impact in a single day. Be sure to check your rankings for a variety of keywords, including ones that have different intents.

If you begin to see your rankings tumble over the subsequent days, you can be certain that the latest Google core update has had a negative impact on your website as it stands.

Decreased Traffic

Another thing to keep an eye on in the wake of a Google Core Update is your organic traffic. Should your rankings drop in the search results, you will definitely lose traffic. You could see a dramatic drop in traffic depending on what your before and after rankings are since the first five positions on Google search results generate 68% of all clicks.

Be certain to use your Google Analytics package to analyze your rankings and site traffic. Take a look at your traffic year-over-year to see where the biggest impact is. While you should definitely look at your site-wide traffic, make sure that you take the time to look at the traffic of individual pages as well.

If you have been impacted by the latest core update, there are two things that you can do to help alleviate the issue.

Refer To The Google Quality Rater Guidelines

This details exactly what Google wants and expects from websites, determining Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, also known as E-A-T. If you are uncertain of what to do to improve your rankings and, therefore, your traffic, this is the best bet.

Assess your content

Since content is such a critical part of the SEO rankings, this is one of the first places to start when reevaluating your website for any potential core update dips. Depending on the size of your website, you might want to shift your focus to the more important and valuable pages on your website.

Sometimes, the core updates can have an impact on some but not all of your content. In an instance like this, take a look at the content that was and wasn’t affected and take note of the differences between the two. This will go a long way towards allowing you to make the necessary adjustments for the new core update.

Evaluate things like the quality of the content, the presentation and production, how comparative it is, and the overall expertise. This will go a long way towards reestablishing your website in the Google search rankings, helping to drive more of that organic traffic back to your website that may have been cut out.

Audit Your Website’s Health With Contractor SEO Services

Posted: | Updated: May 28, 2021 | Categories: SEO