Negative SEO Case Study

Just last year, Google revised its statement about Negative SEO, changing ‘there is nothing a competitor can do that will have sites removed from their index harm your ranking’ to ‘Google works hard in order to prevent other webmasters from having your site removed from our index or harm your rankings’. SEO’s and webmasters have tried for years to raise awareness with the Google spam team about the potential threat of Negative SEO via duplicate content, link bombing and others. Matt Cutts told that Google is focusing more on discounting questionable links than punishing entire websites, but someone forgot to inform the Penguins.

Penguin 2.1

Although the Penguin algorithm updates targeted those who deceived the system with blog comment spam, paid text links, forum spam, exact match anchor text, blogroll spam and directory spam, we wonder if actually this opened the door for Negative SEO and link bombing. According to the negative SEO theory, a site owner who wants to put down a competitor can link spam that site, causing a Google spam penalty and a drop in search rankings.

Maggie Sottero Case Study

Maggie Sottero, a major offline brand operating in the designer wedding dress industry, fell out of the SERPs for their brand name. Even if Penguin’s algorithm is punishing, in this situation a case a review was flagged, and as a result a manual penalty in Webmaster Tools for unnatural inbound links was activated. Because of this penalty, Maggie Sottero dropped off all organic rankings, along with the brand name. In spite of all this, Google gave them no specific information about the nature of the offending links.

Background on Maggie Sottero brand strength

Maggie Sottero Designs was created in 1997 and is one of the most recognized and popular bridal gown companies in the world. They were introduced into the DEBI (Distinctive Excellence in the Bridal Industry) in 2010 and received numerous awards, such as The UK Bridal Buyers Award, Wedding Idea’s Best Dress Designer Award, six DEBI awards and many more. The brands sells dresses in approximately 1,000 independent bridal salons in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Maggie Sottero has more than 600,000 total visits and 150,000 brand searches per month. They have 60,000 followers on Facebook.

Evaluation

If we evaluate the actions of Maggie Sottero over time, it becomes clear that the brand has invested more in winning awards than into SEO. Moreover, their site is non-transactional, meaning that the ranking for specific keywords is overshadowed by the ability to find the brand. Even if Maggie Sottero sent 2 reconsideration requests in Webmaster Tools and submitted a disavow file, Google’s response indicated that there is still a violation of webmaster quality guidelines, but no specifics were provided. In our opinion, a possible solution to Negative SEO is assigning no benefit or value to links deemed to be Spam, so that sites will not be affected is a positive or negative manner from such links.

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