Case Study: Negative SEO Attack on NuLeaf Naturals

NuLeaf Naturals used to rank #1 in Google for just about anything like buy CBD oil, CBD Oil and others. That was until they were at the receiving end of a brutal, relentless negative SEO attack.

Who is NuLeaf Naturals?

Since 2014, NuLeaf Naturals has been bringing customers the highest-grade CBD products on the market with their all-natural, lab-tested pure CBD oils and extracts.

Recently, NuLeaf Naturals was ranked as the 11th fastest growing company in America by Inc, 5000 and the fastest-growing company in Colorado according to the Denver Biz Journals.

What is a Negative SEO Attack?

Negative SEO is the practice of deploying ‘black hat’ or unethical techniques designed to sabotage a competitor’s search engine rankings. Negative SEO can come in many forms including hacking, building thousands of spammy links, DMCA takedowns among other tactics.

The Attack

NuLeaf Naturals Negative SEO Attack Timeline

The image above represents the total number of referring links to and subpages. As you can see, from Nov of 2015 until about Feb of 2018 link acquisition was normal with steady growth. On Feb 12, 2018, our sensors picked up an instant increase in referring domain names which represented the first attack. The anchor text from these links including everything from money terms like ‘Organic CBD, CBD, CBD Oil,’ etc to x-rated terms that I’ll leave off of here. Obviously, the XXX-rated terms used to link to NuLeaf were easy to find but sorting through the legitimate anchor text took more diligence to qualify and de-qualify poor links.

Starting on Dec 18th you’ll notice link attrition. This happens due to website owners finding the spammed links (in this case through forum spam) and deleting then in addition to our own outreach to the offending website webmasters.

Around July 19, 2018, the second round of attacks started rolling out. It was about this time NuLeaf Naturals was seeing their first major increase in search engine rankings going from around 7,900 visitors per month to 65,000+. At that time, NuLeaf was engaged with Altitude Agency who was doing a phenomenal job at getting new, authoritative links and optimizing

In September of 2018, the 3rd blast directed at was executed which ran steady until about December of 2018. December of 2018 is where NuLeaf had its first decrease in traffic since July of 2018 which quickly rebounded and peaked in March of 2019. This is where ‘shit hits the fan.’

According to SEM Rush, NuLeaf Naturals went from an estimated 97,000+ search engine users per month to 65,000 by May. In May, another hit rolled out reducing search engine visitors to about 16,000 by August. Additionally, it appears that a series of algorithm updates continued pummeling NuLeaf until they were pretty much obsolete online.

The Recovery

The Recovery

In order to help NuLeaf recover we knew we had to continue to build reputable links while manually removing or disavowing spammy links associated with the attack. This was a multi-faceted approach that took months along with multiple disavows monthly, sometimes even weekly.

The ranking downfall continued until about mid-September of 2019 and in October, we saw our first sign of light with an increase of an estimated 16K monthly website visitors to 46K+.

What’s next?

While the negative SEO attack continues (among other regular attacks such as DDos etc), we’re finally ahead of it and continue to monitor links on a daily basis and remove or disavow links we deem spammy or harmful.

In order to continue to thrive online while at the receiving end of on-going attacks the best action is to continue to adhere to Google Webmaster Guidelines, build great content and continue to build great links while closely monitoring and removing offending links.

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