This is the story of a violent Black Hat SEO attack , which plunged my blog’s traffic from Google from over 4,000 daily visits to less than 700 in just 10 days .
Yes, yes… you read correctly, the numbers are not upside down. And I’ll tell you in advance that I wasn’t hacked and that my site was always clean and online.
The truth is that I have had to live a brutal blogging experience that, although it is a bit complex to explain, contains the ingredients of a novel. Among them I would highlight feelings of frustration, panic and helplessness, as well as sinister characters in the form of modern pirates. All this, combined in a cocktail where the Google algorithm comes out very badly.
Today you will be able to know the chronology of this attack, the sophisticated strategies they followed to confuse Google (with video included) and how I managed to defend myself thanks to the help of some excellent fellow travelers.
I also want you to know that despite having been a traumatic experience, it has allowed me to reflect and move forward on the future of the Blog. At the end of this post I will share with you “ 5 essential tips for bloggers” as a result of this accelerated learning.
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SEO is one of the keys to the success of a blog, but it can also play a role
Before going through this nightmare situation, it received more than 4,000 daily visits from Google and was the most read blog on its subject in Spanish.
Among the keys to success to achieve it, it stands out having given a lot of importance to SEO from the first minute .
Google has been the gasoline that has moved the Blog since its inception and the traffic depended on it by 80%, since I have many entries that are very well positioned in important criteria. Proof of this is that a single entry has received more than 300,000 visits from Google and receives a daily average of almost 1,000 from that search engine.
I was very proud to reach these figures without spending a single euro to pay for traffic, since I started from 0 and in “Self-taught on” mode, thanks to the luck of having leading blogs such as Shaz Vlog.
Anyway, I almost thought I was the king of the mambo until, “suddenly”, strange things began to happen.
I discover that a natural positioning in Google does not mean peace of mind. The BlackHat SEO nightmare begins
For the brutal drop in visits that I am talking about, a few days were enough:
- June 23: everything is going well and I receive from Google in a single day more than 4000 visits (the usual on weekdays) on those dates.
- June 25: I see that the visits drop quite a bit and I verify that an entry that received hundreds of daily visits only reached 5. As Mr. Google is sometimes capricious, I thought that I had taken it down suddenly for some reason that escaped me but, or just in case, I already put myself on red alert.
- June 26: From that day on, the visits began to plummet and when I verified that other important entries were not generating traffic for me, I got even more pissed off. The first thing I did was put the main keywords of those entries in search engines.
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Well after typing those keywords I almost fell on my ass!
It turns out that, in the same positions where my entries had been for months, my same titles and descriptions were there (including the name of my Blog in many of them), but the URL corresponded to a domain from Hungary, another from Greece, another from Turkey, Italy, etc….
But the worst came when I clicked on those links that Google had put in my place: “All” led to the same online store of fake Chinese sunglasses and that it was hosted on those domains from different countries .
Unfortunately, that was only the beginning…
- End of June and first days of July: The debacle is accentuated:
During the following days, exact clones of my page begin to appear in Google in .asp format , in addition to those of Google searches for titles and descriptions ( SERP ) and the number of domains used for this fraud increases, reaching 13 different ones ( the ones I detected).
To each clone that appeared, the “alleged” Chinese pirates sent in some cases up to more than 30,000 backlinks and since some of the hacked sites had enough authority, they managed to confuse Google.
They not only overtook me but directly replaced my pages and mine disappeared from Google . The world upside down!
Years of work and thousands of hours of effort vanished at the speed of light. A feeling of frustration, rage and impotence invaded me.
- July 4: Visits from search engines bottomed out, dropping to 678 per day. In spite of everything, the feeling of fighting against these scoundrels and putting up a fight was stronger than discouragement and the advantage of knowing that my family’s livelihood did not depend on the Blog, allowed me to stay more or less clear to be able to fight against them.
- July 15: traffic from search engines returns to normal and the values ??of more than 4,000 daily visits from Google are recovered.
Black Hat High Impact SEO
This is the technical name used to define what they did to the CuidaTuVista blog, but taking it to levels of sophistication not known to date in Spain. I, however, would call it pirated SEO or cheating SEO (to be soft) and in this particular case they have also committed a lot of different crimes (phishing, hacking, fraudulent sale of fake glasses, etc…).
In order to get an idea of ??what strategy they followed, nothing better than watching a video with parts recorded live during the days that it happened.
You are going to have the “dubious privilege” ? of seeing the first video that I record and upload to YouTube in which I use many of the resources that I had prepared for a free visual health video course that I will offer soon. The occasion deserved it!
The video is recorded in HD so if you want you can see it full screen:
The importance of surrounding yourself with good travel companions if you want to succeed with your blog
During the heat of the battle you realize how important it is to have good traveling companions and I have to admit that I have been very lucky in that regard.
From the beginning I was helped by friends and fellow bloggers. Thanks to their analysis I was able to understand the strategy that these pirates had used.
Despite the bad times, it has been a satisfaction to see that among the majority of bloggers there is a fantastic climate of solidarity and collaborative economy. I hope it doesn’t drop!
In bad times they have always been there to cheer me up and help me in any way they could.
And the 3 musketeers came to the rescue
I want to publicly thank my 3 musketeers for their invaluable help and unconditional support. They were at the foot of the canyon in the moments that I needed it most. They are:
1. Javier Gobea
Javier Gorbea, from hormigasenlanube.com immediately appeared to help me. He is my reference for security issues , maintenance and integrations in WordPress.
Among many other things, he confirmed that my site was clean, he searched for a lot of information on foreign forums on the subject, and he carried out actions in order to help me improve my positioning. Thank you Xavier!
2. Web company
The second musketeer was Webempresa . From the first moment they understood the serious, special and difficult situation that I was going through.
They showed me that they are very good on a technical level but also on a human level, feeling supported at all times (which was what I needed most in this situation).
Some actions carried out from Webempresa were:
- They entered my wordpress several times to check and recheck if it was clean, they blocked countries, access to certain resources ( especially css ) to prevent the crawlers (plagiarizing robots) used by pirates from sucking public information from my website.
- They also provided me with very helpful recommendations. Among them, contacting all the webmasters or owners of the affected domains and upgrading to the paid version of the fantastic wordfence plugin that I already used in its free version. This plugin allowed me to block traffic from countries where clones were appearing (in addition to China, India, Hong-Kong, etc… as supposed origins of the scam for obvious reasons).
- They carried out other more technical actions that I kept for security and that undoubtedly helped because after a few days, the pirate crawler no longer cloned my website in new domains, although those already indexed were still in their privileged places. Thanks to the Webempresa team!
I fully agree with Berto and Raquel that Wempresa is the best wordpress hosting in Spanish and if I already chose them before because I thought so, this hard experience has confirmed it for me.
These people are not just a good hosting provider , they are much more, they are true partners of yours and of the good ones .
3. SEO specialist Javier Gosende
Javier, from javiergosende.com was my third musketeer. He thoroughly studied my data from Webmaster Tools and Google Analitycs to get a clearer view and provide me with some final fundamental recommendations. Thank you Xavier!
I will always be grateful to all of them for their unconditional support in a crisis situation like this, which is when it is shown who the real “Friends” are.
Do you want to know what other actions I took to defend the fort from this Black Hat SEO attack?
The truth is that they were crazy days, sleeping little and badly. Some of the actions I did were totally useless and others very successful. These are the most important:
- The first and most useless of all was to file a complaint at the National Police station for identity theft, image damage, etc… Unfortunately, they did not contact me until more than two months had passed from the date I filed it. It only served to make me feel a little protected in case someone mixed up my blog or myself with the fraudulent sale of fake sunglasses.
- I made multiple Web Spam and Phishing notices using the Google console applications (I don’t know if it was worth anything since no one responded to me).
- Following Javier Gosende’s instructions, I created a thread in the Google Webmasters forum that enabled a moderator who is paid by Google to escalate the information to his superiors… This action is supposed to have helped, although no one contacted me. . As it is the only source of direct contact with Google through a person, it is a necessary action in these cases.
- I indexed all the entries manually through Google Webmaster tools in the crawl/browse as google tab. I couldn’t do all of them at the same time because there is a maximum number of entries that can be registered. This action has also been decisive because it is the fastest indexing method and after doing so, these contents were reindexed much faster than by other methods. Some entry was recovered and left again so I had to re-index it again. Think that I got to keep 80% of my entries outside of Google.
- I uploaded posts with affected “Evergreen” content to the Blog ‘s Facebook page to move them through social networks and even, for the first time in my life, spent a few euros promoting them using “ Facebook Ads ”.
- I contacted all the webmasters and/or owners of the 13 hacked affected domains where my website was cloned . Imagine these guys getting an email in English telling them that my website was being viewed on their domain and that they were unknowingly selling Chinese sunglasses. Most probably sent the email to the trash.
- I made several changes to the web . Among those that I can comment on, I highlighted the removal of Adsense to improve the speed of the page and make it more attractive to readers. I also increased the internal links to the most important posts.
- And I also made a radical decision to remove my Blog feed, as it makes it harder for bots to copy the content. I lose quite a few visits but I live calmer. Feeds are fantastic fodder for plagiarizing bots.
Regaining positions at the same speed that I lost them
After a couple of very complicated weeks, in which important entries were disappearing every day at a much higher rate than they were being recovered, things began to change. And how…
What a rush to see that no more clones appeared and that visits returned to their usual levels.
- July 15: the situation finally returns to normal.
They begin to appear more affected
Throughout this process they were appearing more affected by this pirate strategy. The most affected websites have been those related to the world of football and glasses. In both cases, the motive was to redirect to online stores selling fake copies of soccer jerseys and sunglasses, respectively.
Do not trust Google. Your algorithm can screw up to the bottom
- My opinion and that of many people is that Google has been sneaked in a brutal way. It is unacceptable to allow a cloned website on another domain that has itself been hacked to take the place of a website with original content published long before.
- This madness has occurred with more than 100 different CuidaTuVista pages that, to make matters worse, were deindexed and disappeared from the search engine.
- Imagine the look on my face after years of doing a little ant work to make Google like me and you see that they send you out because of their mistake, leaving some criminals in your place.
- What I had worse was the impossibility of contacting Google directly . It is frustrating and leaves us at the mercy of its capricious rules, even if the fault is theirs.
5 essential tips for your web positioning in Google
After seeing the ears of the wolf in this traumatic experience, I want to share with you 5 tips that I consider essential for the future of any blogger.
- Internet fires are not put out with fire extinguishers. Design an emergency plan to know how to proceed and who to contact in crisis situations.
- Invest in getting a healthy and faithful subscriber list , which will be the one that can save you from a crisis situation and start again in almost any situation. The mailing list only depends on you.
- Diversify traffic sources .
- Always choose good travel companions . Saving a few euros can be very expensive.
- Connect with other bloggers , show solidarity and share experiences without expecting anything in return. You will end up receiving much more than you give.