1, 2, 3 - find bad neighbour and flee!
(The following is a guest post from Alex Chudnovsky from Majestic SEO)
The issue of bad neighbourhoods has been a frequent topic of discussions among SEOs for a very long time. It is widely considered that it is one of the ranking factors that can have substantial negative effect on your site. Google itself talks about bad neighbourhoods suggesting to avoid linking to them. More recently David posted about host level spam detection and how it can affect sites. The highest risk group is shared hosting that can have thousands of domains from different owners hosted on the same IP address: this makes it more likely that a heavily spammed website would be your neighbour, however even sites on dedicated IPs are not immune to this problem - the IP may have been used before by a known to search engines bad domain.
Intuitively it seems obvious that it is best to avoid risk of hosting your site in a place where bad domains may also be hosted, but how does one check for their presence? Traditionally reverse DNS tools were used for this purpose to show other domains hosted on the same IP. This approach has 2 serious drawbacks:
- Neighbouring domains are not prioritised by backlink counts so checking them all manually is time consuming
- Class-C subnet level is not covered
Now we'll look at how to use 3 free tools to check on your neighbours.
Tool #1: Domain neighbourhood checker
You can check list of domains hosted with a particular domain on the same IP address or subnet by using free Majestic-SEO domain neighbourhood checker tool. On the screenshot to the left you can see our project domain majestic12.co.uk and its top neighbours:
When we run this check for our own site we noticed "loans121.com" with a fair few backlinks hosted on the same IP with our site. The theme of that site and it's apparent lack of ranking for term loans121 gives the impression of penalty.
Tool #2: Backlink history
Our next move was to check this domain using our backlink history comparison tool. This tools allows to analyse visually unnatural link velocity (the rate at which links are gained):
What this screenshot tells us is that this site obtained most of its external backlinks were acquired a couple of years ago and after the rate at which new backlinks were found slowed down considerably. This could be a sign of unnatural link acquisition that can result in a penalty. We might never be certain whether this particular site is penalised or not, but do we really want to take risks of being hosted on the same IP with someone like them?
Tool #3: Checking top pages
Our next move was to check if we have any bad neighbours on our subnet, the screenshot below shows domains ranked by number of referring domains pointing to them:
The top site (above ours!) caught our attention - nisda.info (we don't link to them intentionally here) appears to be an innocent site for National Independent Schools' Drama Association, but why would it get so many backlinks? We queried our search engine for top pages on their domain shown on screenshot below:
OMG, that's some drama they are teaching there! Or maybe they don't! It turned out that those heavily backlinked urls on that domain no longer existed, however it is clear that this domain was hacked and then heavily spammed. Not a good sign security wise for sure!
Looking for better neighbours...
We decided to move away and get some better neighbours, screenshot below shows that we now got the best neighbours there can be:
That's right - no other sites were hosted on that IP before, that's the best kind of neighbours! A couple of sites on our Class-C subnet are not ideal, but at least we have clean IP address for ourselves.
In real life bad neighbours can be rather obvious, but online you may not even know that you have them until you face unexpected drop in rankings due to penalty that may apply to IP address or even subnet. Be sure to use these free Majestic-SEO tools to check whether you have bad neighbours or not:
- Check domains neighbours on IP and C-Class subnet
- Check pattern of backlinks acquisition over time
- Check top pages for suspect domains
Don't hesitate to move your site if you have bad neighbours, you don't have to put up with them online!
About author: Alex Chudnovsky is the Managing Director of Majestic-12 Ltd (trading as Majestic-SEO) and can be also be found on Twitter. I'd like to thank Alex for some great convos of late and look forward to the evolution of Majestic into one of the TOP SEO tools on the web today (if you haven't already, be sure to go check it out!).
Bad Neighborhood Link Checker - The Tool
Bad Neighbourhood = Google Penalty - Do You Link To One? - Hobo Web
How to check if a site is serving up Malware - Site Reference
Google looks for patterns of linking to bad neighborhoods - SEO Scoop