Ok, you notice your rankings tanked. Nothing was done, changed, or malicious on YOUR end. However, you suspect black hat attack. Which tool would you use to analyze your backlinks, to confirm?
3 👍🏽 3
[filtered from 23 💬🗨]
It is very unlikely to be a black hat attack, not because people don't try, but because a successful one is much, much, much harder than people think. Even buying a ton of really spammy bad links by the thousand to point at a site usually does no more than create a temporary blip.
Some years back, Rand Fishkin made an open challenge to anyone to do negative SEO on Moz. There were a bunch of attempts – none worked.
Now, that does not mean that there's no such thing as negative SEO, there most certainly is, but it is very tricky and unreliable in most cases. There's more chance that some of the bad links you point will actually help the site than that the bad ones will tank it.
There has been a major, core update that has caused sites across the board to be reevaluated – including the 'value' of those that linked to you, changing the value of those links is absolutely a possibility. In fact, the best analysis I have seen of the overall changes from the update seem to imply just that – that sites affect each other in what was changed, as if trust and reputation scoring was recalculated across the entire index.
This means that while you may have made no changes to your site, you are pretty sure that changes HAVE been made to how it ranks at Google's end.
agree with 99% of this, however smaller sites are much more susceptible to attacks than a major, trusted, high authority site like Moz.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Chris
I agree with that statement. Now, don't stop there, extrapolate 'why' from there. Sites with more good backlinks are less prone to having any harm from toxic backlinks – even to the extent where a brand in a very small topical niche such as SEO can actively invite every blackhat in the world to 'have a go' and have no fear.
So, thinking it through, if someone aims toxic backlinks at your site, is the correct response to (a) disavow them and wait for the next set of toxic backlinks in an endless cycle or (b) build a few high authority, high trust links (not just tool numbers, real authority and trust that a non-techie could understand) and become completely immune forever?
Chris » Ammon Johns
i always use disavowing as a last resort – only if i can be sure the site is reacting negatively, the reason is the links, and my efforts to recover aren't working. the solution always involves building some nice links with natural anchors (usually to the hp), and in many cases you can get away with just this without the disavow.
Michael Martinez 🎓
In addition to what Ammon said, if a black hat attack actually works, there should be a manual action notice in the Google Search Console account. The purpose of the black hat attack is to get the site penalized – which means someone on the spam team investigates and decides the site is doing something egregiously naughty.
So, if you lost your rankings and traffic and there is no manual action notice, most likely what happened was the core algorithm update rewarded other sites with better rankings. That's not the same as the algorithms demoting your site.
They *COULD* score your site lower in some ways, but that still won't be the result of a black hat attack. That would be the result of Google deciding it didn't like how search results were being computed previously and changing how they score documents for inclusion and/or ranking in the search results.
It could also be that everything is fine with your site but Google needs time to recrawl and reprocess other sites that link to yours.
Likely isnt a backlink attack as that wouldn't make any sense in 2021 SEO. Google at this point has the capacity to disregard spammy links. So much so that the disavow tool has become kinda redundant.
And are we talking sitewide rankings or just a few primary keywords? Sitewide changes would indicate a residual algo update impacts while a few could mean competitor changes, Google understanding a shift in search intent, etc.
Your best bet is to diagnose which high value queries experienced the largest declines and start looking at what the new top ranking pages are doing that you aren't. If any patterns develop then you have found the missing element you need to improve your rankings.
This may satisfy you: Low-Quality Backlinks can Negatively Affect Your Ranking Hence Disavow Them
div class=”d”>Billy ✍️ » Paul
not site wide. Just 4-6 big time
That I have ranked for a long time, but with these new p0rn links I’m finding (using those big money keywords)
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Billy
if there are loads of those links on just a few domains, it is a good use of disavow. But mostly it just shows one of your enemies or rivals is getting pretty desperate and doesn't know how to beat you. The effects of pointing toxic links are usually very, very temporary, and a few of them may even help you.
I worked primarily in 'adult sites' SEO for several years early in my career, and am still pretty well aware of that market and what works there. Adult stuff is HIGHLY competitive, and links from and to adult content is what makes adult sites rank, same as any other market.
Paul » Ammon Johns
agreed, I normally wouldn't bother but using the disavow tool it is a low hanging fruit fix that you can try. I still don't think it will move the needle enough to warrant the effort but there's an old mechanic saying along the lines of "check the easy things before taking the engine apart."
Paul » Billy
may I ask if the site in question falls into the "adult" niche? Read something recently that Google is devaluing sites with adult content in favor of regular content when semantics could inadvertantly imply adult content in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Paul
honestly a disavow is so fast and quick that even without expecting it to work sometimes the peace of mind it brings the website owner is worthwhile. But as an SEO user I generally find disavows to be a waste of effort compared to building positive signals.
Overall, I'll pretty much never do page-level disavowal, only bothering where I'm disavowing an entire site or domain with multiple (usually mass) toxic link spam. I don't think a disavow on its own does anything at all – I think it is merely a signal that only works in combination with other signals, such as Google having a degree of distrust in the links from the page/site/domain anyway, or hundreds of other webmasters having disavowed the same site/domain.
Billy ✍️ » Paul
no I am in an niche specific automotive category.
Billy ✍️ » Ammon Johns
I submitted a disavow file and I’m hoping to see improvement.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Billy
never expect a disavow to do very much other than make you feel better. Even against actual toxic link attacks you'll get more effect out of gaining a few good links than out of any amount of disavowing.
Fleming » Ammon Johns
Finally someone who tells the truth. All a disavow file is going to tell anyone especially Google is that they probably need to keep a closer eye on you and your marketing, they admit they don't even check them lol. As Ammon has said you'll see a far better return of your time getting traction on better links and showing to Google etc instead of crying to them you are actually trying to affect change and in the right direction. I too spent a few years in the adult niche as Ammon has, and I can tell you now there are absolutely no rules at all in that industry when it comes to Search Engine Result Pages.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Paul
there's no change to how adult sites are ranking, that's just the 'Chinese whispers' from John Mueller having said that sites with adult content, even only a tiny bit, may never get featured snippets. Doesn't change how they are ranked, only how the rankings they have might be displayed.
Ammon Johns 🎓
Take a look at how different a brand search for p0rn-hu6 looks compared to non-adult brand searches and you see what I mean instantly.
p0rn-hu6 – Google Search
Ammon Johns 🎓
Youtube – Google Search