SEO pie chart

A couple weeks ago we discovered that some unknown party has launched a negative SEO campaign pointing nonsense backlinks from poor quality sites at our domain.  The intention is to make it appear to Google as if we’re creating these “unnatural” links ourselves, so that Google will punish us by removing us from the rankings.

In non-geek speak, these “bad backlinks” mean that fewer people are finding us when searching for wedding marketing and wedding business related topics.

The reason we discovered this attack is because it worked, at least temporarily.  We noticed our rank slipping, launched an investigation and uncovered the reason why.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself if a competitor tries to poison your wedding business like this.  It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that this might happen to you.  Just in case, here’s how to recover.

Fighting Back Against Negative SEO

1. Diagnose the problem carefully.

You can find out if someone is trying to use negative SEO against you by running a backlink report from Majestic SEO or by searching your backlinks displayed in Google Webmaster Tools for strange anchor text and suspicious websites.

It’s normal to find a few of these spammy backlinks pointing to your site, and it takes hundreds to do some real damage.  However, if you notice an unexplained increase in backlinks with anchor text that doesn’t make sense or hundreds websites that have nothing to do with weddings linking to you, you may have a negative SEO problem.

2. Get as many of these links removed as you can.

We found over 500 of these “bad links” pointing to our website.  The only way to get them removed is to contact each website owner and request that they be taken down.

Oh, the pain!

Fortunately, there are a few tools you can use to make this job easier.  Rmoov, SEO Gadget’s Link Clean Up and Remove’em allow you to identify spammy backlinks, contact website owners and track your removal progress.

If you’re not able to find contact information for the website administrator, turn to a Whois Lookup.

3. Submit any links you can’t get removed to Google and Bing using the disavow tool.

If you aren’t able to get these links removed within a couple weeks, which is likely, you can submit any remaining backlinks you don’t want counted to the Google disavow tool and the Bing disavow tool.

Note: there’s quite a bit of controversy about the disavow tool in the SEO world, with many paranoid SEO experts wondering exactly what Google is doing with this information.  Even Google suggests that it be used only as a last resort.

After taking all of these actions, there’s no guarantee that your website will return to its former ranking, but you should see improvements within a month or two.

How to Protect Yourself

Which leads me to the Big Lesson learned from this whole adventure…

Don’t depend on any one source for all of your leads.  Ever.

Not Google searches.  Not your favorite wedding vendor.  Not your advertising.

Each lead source your business has is like a leg holding up the stool that is your business.

Imagine that your stool has three legs.  If you kick one leg out, it falls over.  Goodbye stool, goodbye business.

But if your stool has four, seven or ten legs, knocking one leg out still sucks, but the stool remains standing.

The more diverse your lead sources and the more places where brides and grooms can find you, the less vulnerable you are to disaster.

If a competitor tries to attack your website in Google, but couples can still find you on Facebook and you still get referrals from several other wedding businesses, it won’t kill your business.

Fortunately for us, Book More Brides gets lots of visitors from Facebook and LinkedIn.  So even if our Google traffic tanks, people can still find us.

Do the same thing for your business.  Be prepared for the unexpected as much as you can and keep flourishing no matter what comes your way.

Have you ever had trouble with competition?  Leave a comment and share your story.

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