Down but not out blog post hero image

Down but not out

A few of weeks ago I decided that I probably needed to check my SEO we always tend to deal with clients first then ourselves, a good strategy on most occasions but sometimes everyone needs to spend time on themselves. The results, we had dropped of the search results dramatically.

Now usually we tend to hover somewhere around the front page for most search terms we are interested in but we had just disappeared, if not completely to somewhere near the end of the top 50's so I set out to find out why. Our software told us our pages were well optimised, no real technical errors, a few had crept in when changing the header image recently which we corrected so what was going on?

First place to to check was Google search console, that told us we had no real issues, no penalties, no real reason for the sudden drop, Google had not updated it's algorithms in such a way that would cause this so what was going on? After some research I decided to look at our back links, that is the incoming links to 69Design from around the internet and here I found the problem. A scam site (SEO in South Africa supposedly) was using URL redirects to point hundreds of sites, not just ours to theirs by way of adding an URL query to a link to a legitimate site.

We found hundreds of instances over many accounts on blogging plata forms pointing to an address format like this https://domain name.com?URL="SpammySiteName.com" this meant that what appeared to be a legitimate link to a site, albeit on an obvious link farm page, was being followed by google to the spammy site bypassing the initial link.This was diluting our incoming links, and pointing instead to low quality unrelated content Google was reading as being associated with 69Design and therefore dropping its visibility rating for the search terms we were actually targeting.

Now this was not aimed at us, there were linked addresses being hijacked from dozens (hundreds?) of sites in what was a stupid attempt,to gain ranking for the spammy site.

We have now dealt with this, firstly by preventing URL hijacking by way of an entry in the htccess file on the site, a text file which can be used to set rules and redirects before any visitor enters the site, and by reporting the issue to Google. Meanwhile we have set out to repair the damage, it could be a slow process but at least we have learned a valuable lesson.

A sudden drop in ranking is always indicative of a potential issue, a change in Googles algorithms or something more serious/nefarious. If yous see this and would like some help please do not hesitate to contact us and we will try and help.

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