SEO Blog

Posted on: 02/02/2015 - 13:19 | Comments:6

Here at Reboot Online a large portion of our workload involves dealing with Penalty recoveries. The demand has increased dramatically and several years ago, we employed Kate Brownhill, who in my opinion, is one of the top penalty recovery experts in the UK. 

Up to date, we have managed over 170 penalty recovery clients. Penalties caused by, gently put, less than organic SEO practices. We have seen it all. Comments spam, forums spam, directory spam, pingback spam, profile spam, hijacked/injected spam and every other type of spam possible.

The common denominator of all this spam was the cause of the penalty. Cheap SEO!

Simply put, it was caused by a business owner attempting to get SEO work at cheap prices. You know the type, £250/month service for 1000 directory submissions, 100 comments on PR5 sites etc…

However, in the last 6 months, we have started seeing a different cause for these type of spammy links. A much more sinister cause. Negative SEO.

In the last month alone, not only has one of our clients been clearly affected, but our own site has also been targeted.  In both cases, a little investigation has revealed the source of the negative SEO attack. Sadly, neither is currently provable in a court of law (but I’m working on it) and until it is, I refuse to be reduced to that level of action and re-action. In total, we have seen clear cut cases of 5 negative SEO attacks in the last 6 months. Previous to that, we did not see one. At this point I would also like to point out that quite a few penalty removal enquiries that we have dealt with were blatantly the direct product of cheap SEO yet the site owner was more than happy to point the finger at negative SEO from one of their competitors. It seems that for some, it’s easier to blame negative SEO rather than admit a poor decision when it comes to choosing an online marketing company.

Searching around the web also shows a worrying increase in websites offering negative SEO type services. Some quite camouflaged in their intent while others are shamelessly and blatantly advertising it for what it is.

I was still reluctant to believe that here in the UK, company owners; entrepreneurs, family men and women, mums and dads… you and me… would be so easily swayed to this dark corner of the business universe historically occupied by swindlers, con-men and thugs carrying out sabotage aimed at weakening, disrupting or destroying a competitors business. Today the web has provided the tools and anonymity for this, seemingly at least, more respectable, more educated people to take on the role of those thugs.

There are still people out there that would swear blind that Negative SEO is impossible or so negligible that the typical, honest webmaster has nothing to worry about. Admittedly, I was also on that side of the argument not so long ago. However, recent experience and time has changed my mind drastically.  So let’s be clear; Negative SEO exists and it’s a growing problem.  Especially on weaker, newer or less established sites where the authority of the site has not been established yet. The same authority that would make the typical negative SEO attack on big brand sites meaningless. It’s a little like trying to chop a tree down with a pair of scissors. If however your website is more akin to a young sapling, a simple pair of scissors are a much scarier prospect.

So we know that the services are there to find, and we know that it’s very possible for a negative SEO campaign to actually work. So, all that’s left is the actual will for someone to want to do such an underhand act on a fellow business. An act that goes far beyond fairness or indeed encouraged healthy competition. Surely, such a service will be rejected by the fair traders of this fair land? I hear you say. This great Land that treasures fairness above all, bureaucracy and… erm… queuing. Well, we decided to put that to the test.

We compiled a list of local businesses consisting of plumbers, lawyers, carpenters, Locksmiths, IT service providers, builders, accountants, cleaning companies and even skip hire companies. We then chose the ones that have a functioning website and went as far as to check for signs that the site has had some SEO done in the past. This was purely to increase the chances that the person we talk to will understand what it is we are about to offer. At this point, we had 84 contacts.

We then sent the below email to all 84 businesses harvested.

The Results:

61/84 businesses replied to the email – Incredibly high reply rate to what is pretty much an unsolicited email.

Out of the 61 respondents:
2   Gave me some well-deserved abuse while rejecting the offer.
11 Politely rejected the offer
19 Wanted more information on the service, payment or the guarantee we provide.
29 Accepted the offer outright and asked for payment details. 

So, out of the 61 respondents, a massive 48 either took the offer on or were very interested in the offer of sabotaging their competitor’s websites. That’s an incredibly high 78.6% while only 21.3% declined.

Ok, so it’s not the most scientific test out there. For a start, a service such as the one I offered is not realistically possible for that price; especially considering the guarantee I provided. In fact, such a guarantee is, I’m pretty sure, impossible to offer at these sort of price point as negative SEO depends on so many factors such as the methods and how authoritative the target site itself is in the eyes of Google at the time of attack. I also only checked a small section of the population in a selection of very small geographical areas. On top of all that, it could be argued that the people who DID NOT respond to my email should also go into the “Politely rejected the offer” group which would have evened out the numbers slightly but I think you will agree, even if we do that, the numbers are still quite shocking.

Saying all that, the levels of responses took me by a complete surprise.

Until Google clearly declares that they are tackling this growing problem, my main suggestion to the majority of webmasters out there is to make the checking of their own link profile a regular job as well as regularly checking Copy Scape for any plagiarism of your content (copyscape.com). Preferably once a week and if not possible, at least once a month. I will write another blog post as soon as I can on the steps you can do to protect yourself from negative SEO but in the meantime, see this excellent post from Felix Tarcomnicu https://blog.kissmetrics.com/spammers-and-negative-seo/

Posted on: 19/10/2014 - 09:56 | Comments:0

It’s been 1 year and 11 days since the last Penguin update (Penguin 2.1). Wow... that’s a long time for people to wait and pray that their site will be one of the lucky ones to escape the horrible Penguin algorithm. Not horrible because of what it’s trying to achieve, but horrible because of its harshness and unforgiving nature. After all, many small businesses were affected by that particular Penguin variation; Businesses that were promised white hat SEO but instead had their businesses ruined with no way to redeem themselves apart from waiting for the next refresh. A year, I think most people will agree, without your business appearing in Google is a very long time.

The various forums have been buzzing since yesterday morning when people first started noticing the changes. With nothing official announced from Google themselves, the community is rife with claims and counter claims whether a Penguin update has actually occurred. Well, as we do quite a lot of penalty recoveries here at Reboot, I have asked Kate to show us one of our examples of a client escaping the Penguin chokehold.

Below is a rank tracking graph for a very competitive building company related keyword. This company had some SEO done, got hit by Penguin 2.1 and then progressive got worst as the months went by. Mainly due to the fact that they stopped all online marketing efforts and, later, due to the fact that we started cleaning the site up in an aggressive but relentless manner. I will leave you to make your own judgment whether yesterday was in fact a Penguin 3.0 recovery for this particular client. I personally think it’s pretty clear.

Penguin 3.0 Recovery

Posted on: 14/08/2014 - 10:08 | Comments:4

Dear Client,

As many of you know, over the last few days, a new conversation has been taking place in the SEO world regarding the announcement by Google of a new ranking signal.

It is very rare for Google to come out and actually announce one of the 200+ claimed signals that they use to decide what position your website should be in the Google index. So, we have to sit up and take note when this does happen.

Well, on the 7th of August, Google has announced that in their drive to a more secure and safe searching experience, they will now use HTTPS as a ranking signal. Although admittedly, a very light one to begin with, they do stress that this could increase with time.

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/

http-vs-https-seo

What Is HTTPS: ?

When you look at your website address in your browser you will most probably see the following: http://www.yoursite.co.uk  . that “http” bit stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol which is, in very basic terms, a protocol (set of rules) that defines how browsers and web servers communicate. Google now wants you to move to https://www.yoursite.co.uk where “https” is the same as http but with the added Security.

How does HTTPS: make the web more secure?

In one word, Encryption. It encrypts all data that your browser is sending to the web server so that if anyone is “listening” in between those two points, they won’t be able to make any sense of the data making your data you send (credit card info, personal details, address etc.) private.

Is that it?

Well, it seems that Google has done some cross section tests and has found that it is more likely that the site is of authority, reliable or professional when it uses https: Also, the cost/extra work associated means that that its less likely that a spammy or “churn and burn” type site will use this protocol. Taking all of that into account, it does make sense that a site with https can be considered more “trustworthy” and as Google only wants good quality sites to be displayed for its searchers, it makes sense that they will give the site a small ranking bonus.

How do I get https: for my site?

You will need to purchase an SSL certificate for the site. This can range from around £50 all the way up to £250 / year depending on the type you require. This can be bought from your web host and in most cases, they will also install it for you for a small fee. There are several types of SSL and Google does not mention if some are better than others but they do mention that it should be of the 2048-bit variety (most are these days but double check).

Should I get https: for my site?

Well this is a very difficult question to answer in this email purely because each one of our client’s has different requirements, history and external variables that may affect our decision. If we strongly believe that your site should move to https: then we will be contacting you in the next few days to discuss. Please remember that this is only a tiny signal at the moment affecting 1% of all search queries so you should not rush into any decisions just yet.

If it’s a positive signal, Is there any reason NOT to do it?

Moving to HTTPS is a move that you should not take lightly. As far as search engines are concerned, when you change your http to https, it’s almost like moving to a brand new domain/address. It involves building a permanent redirect from the old url to the new one (http:// -> https://). There are also consequences that may outweigh the small positive gain you may get from this move. For example, all of the incoming links pointing to the current http version of your site will now have to go through the redirect to find your site. This has been proven to reduce some of their effectiveness and may in itself cause a drop in ranking. So in a perfect world, you will also want to try and get as many of your incoming links changed to https which is not an easy job.

There are lots of other considerations that are beyond the scope of this blog. If you do have any questions or queries regarding your own website, please feel free to contact either me anytime via email or phone. I will be more than happy to help in any way.

Posted on: 03/07/2014 - 10:14 | Comments:0

Nominet have today anounced that the new .UK top level domain has reached the milestone 100,000 registrations since its release only 3 weeks ago. This is great news for the uk domain market which has not seen such levels of registrations since the year 2000!

If your current site is on a .co.uk, you have automatic rights for the .uk. Will you make the move? Afterall, its inevitable that the .uk domain name will take over the current .co.uk as the extension of choice for uk targeted businesses. Some major sites such as the NHS and Govermental sites have already made the move to the shorter, more attractive extension. However, some other British icons such as the BBC are still showing no sign of any impending shift to the .uk domain.

What is holding you back?

Posted on: 10/01/2014 - 16:53 | Comments:1

Over the last few days, we have observed some strange behaviour from Google on the logs of approximately 20 - 25 sites. Ok, its a small fraction of the sites we monitor on a regular basis but undeniably there is an increase in activity.

The behaviour consists of many non-existent pages being crawled or pages that have long been removed being re-examined by the Google spiders. These often manifest themselves in strange entries in logs and sometimes they can be seen on Web Master Tools as crawl errors that have no 'Linked From' source.

An increase in "chatter" on the now legendary "Google Updates and SERP Changes" thread over on the Webmaster World Forum is also always a reliable measure of things that may be approaching.

Normally, this type of behaviour pre-empts a sizeable algorithmic update of some kind, and, as the last Penguin update is well over 3 months old now, it could well be the beginning of the next iteration of the black and white aquatic flightless bird. 

Watch this space for further updates...