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Negative SEO Attack - What to do?

     
1:56 am on Sep 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I saw my traffic get halved today. There seems to be little to no chatter of an update, which leads me to believe that this is the result of a site specific penalty of sorts. I searched my own domain name, to see what would be returned by Google and to my surprise the result had changed considerably from the last time I checked (several month ago). My website appeared in the top spot as usual, my Facebook page in position 2, followed by a bootleg pinterest page that claim to be from my website, but thereafter every single link was from a series of related spam domains. The description in search appears to be scrapped content from my website. I believe that the sites were hot-linking to images, but I put a stop to that a few weeks ago. But when one clicks on the links it leads to Adult content, or some kind of "You Win scam" site. All the links are similar.

If I type the links to those spam-pages into page-speed insights the preview shows "legitimate" content, not necessarily my content but nothing spammy.

Typically I would just ignore crap like this, but the results for my domain name are overrun by these websites, the typical sites that legitimately linked to me are nowhere to be seen. Today's drop in traffic has got me worried now that this has resulted in a penalty of sorts.

I have no notifications in GSC, and there is no sign that my website has been hacked.

Also, I had been experiencing a slow bleed in traffic over the past 8 to 12 month, and I have seen these pages appear in my link profile in GSC over that period, so I assume that this has been building since a while and now has reached its tipping point.

I'm at a loss as to what to do about this. My site has not been hacked, there are likely hundreds of these spam-domains pointing at my website, I doubt disavowing them will do any good.

Any ideas?
3:18 am on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There was a similar situation here recently discussed: [webmasterworld.com...] in case you might spot similarities.
12:24 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@not2Easy, thanks I had seen that thread. I think that my situation is different in that it has reached a tipping point were ignoring is no longer an option. Also, the OP in that thread is talking about links in GSC, I see those too, but my issue is that those links are now appearing in SERPs and pushing down legitimate content that would normally appear near my website. This suggests that those spam links have gained some kind of ranking. Will this last, probably not, but at the present time it has endured long enough to cast me some kin of penalty and an extreme loss in traffic.
2:09 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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You are right not to disavow links that you had no part in.
But when one clicks on the links it leads to Adult content, or some kind of "You Win scam" site. All the links are similar.

You might consider reporting these as webspam: [support.google.com...]
2:25 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I may try this, but the issue is that there must be hundreds of domains. All the domain point to similar if not identical sites, and I'm certain that there must be more that are not showing.
3:00 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My understanding of this is that Google uses leads like this to help sort out malicious and/or spammy networks so every lead can help point to others. These sites don't work in a vacuum, independently and the webspam group has some process in place to help root out the junk. It can't hurt to report a few and see where that goes.
3:09 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I just filed a report. I doubt it will help. The question really is, are these links contributing to the drop in traffic. There appears now to be much more chatter about an update, so the removal of this spam may in fact have little impact.
4:54 pm on Sept 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The drops can certainly be attributed to just sheer NOISE of such links. I, too, have experienced this in the last year (in particular) at an increasing rate. That said, it appears that Bing and G are the SEs that are flooded with this BS, DDG not so much (I don't Yandex, so can't say in that regard).
2:21 pm on Sept 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is it possible that this is a result of blocking the hot-linking. When I review the links reported in GSC, most of which were from hot-linkers, all those links are now dead. I flipped the switch on hotlinking a few month ago, is it possible that Google decided to recalculate it's link graph and as a result I am now seeing a sudden drop in the total number of links.

One must assume that most of the links were ignored to begin with, but isn't it conceivable that a portion of links were not (yet) being ignored and then by eliminating them all in one go, I lost the benefit from those that were still counted. My link profile was not that strong, I only had a very few links, and even fewer from truly credible sources. In contrast to the hotlinking links that number in the 1000.