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How To Stop & Fix An SEO Spambot Site Attack

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How To Stop & Fix An SEO Spambot Site Attack


Spambot attacks are on the rise, with 25.6% of all internet traffic coming from a bad bot, and increasingly sophisticated methods are used to circumvent common security measures.

Enterprises and small websites alike must stop SEO spambots from derailing their optimization efforts and causing steep drops in traffic and revenue.

If you’ve been a victim of an attack, you’ll find the steps here to recover and restore your rankings.

You’ll learn about smart prevention and high-level monitoring systems, too.

What Is An SEO Spambot Attack?

SEO spambots are much like the friendly Googlebots that you want to crawl your site. However, instead of indexing your content, these bots will use vulnerabilities to infiltrate your website.

Why?

They’re engaging in spamdexing.

Essentially, these spam attacks will use your site in an attempt to rank content that can’t rank otherwise. Bots make hackers a ton of revenue, and their spam tactics cause your site to suffer a significant drop in SEO and revenue.

Additionally, black hat SEO techniques are employed to hide the attack.

A few of the many nefarious things a spambot can do are:

  • Content spam.
  • Content scraping.
  • Credential sniffing.
  • SQL injections to update portions of a site.
  • Link insertions.
  • Redirect generation.
  • Google Analytics referral spam.
  • User-generated content (UGC) spam.

Often, the main goal of spam is to insert links into your website. Hidden links will help boost the hacker’s website and revenue while damaging your site.

We’ve also seen redirects generated to create false URLs that redirect to the hacker’s website.

In each of these cases, the spambot works to leverage the site for its own gain.

Sometimes, display ads are inserted into a site using an SQL injection, but most of these infiltrations are for links or redirects to a website that, in some way, generates revenue.

Recognizing An SEO Spambot Attack

Spambots work diligently to circumvent your normal detection methods. Links are inserted or pages are created with the greatest effort taken to hide them from the site owner.

Sometimes, you’ll find that your CMS has core vulnerabilities, and you’re just another victim of an attack.

However, a few red flags that something may be amiss are:

  • A drop in traffic.
  • Random site pages.
  • GSC warnings.
  • Google Search warnings.

Enterprises and more established websites will have multiple forms of detection, such as:

  • Firewalls.
  • Logging systems.
  • Monitoring systems.

If you’re running WordPress, there are core vulnerabilities that hackers will spot and use to their advantage.

Diagnosing attacks on your site is possible using plugins such as MalCare or Wordfence, both of which add multiple layers of security to your site.

Additionally, you can use Cloudflare to take preventative measures to stop bots in their tracks by using the bot management system.

Step-By-Step Guide To Remedying A Spambot Attack

Remedying a spambot attack requires a few steps that will help you stop the attack and restore your site.

1. Stop Bots From Doing Additional Damage

During the next two steps, your site will remain vulnerable until you determine how the spambot accessed your site and did its damage. Therefore, before scanning your site, you’ll want to put bot protection in place.

Cloudflare’s bot management system uses AI and machine learning to stop bad bots.

The tool will use a three-prong approach to provide real-time protection:

  • Behavioral analysis will be used to detect any traffic anomalies.
  • Machine learning will use billions of data points to accurately detect bots.
  • Fingerprinting will also be utilized to classify bots that have been detected previously.

Rich analytics and logs will add to your site’s security and allow you time to clean up your site.

2. Run A Site Scan To Determine Impacted Pages

Now that your site has a high level of protection in place to stop additional spambot attacks, it’s time to run a scan on your site. We use the word “scan” very broadly because you can:

  • Run an analytics report to see pages where site traffic fell drastically.
  • Run a scan using Screaming Frog or something similar.
  • FTP into your site and scour folders for manually created pages.

You can even go through each page on your site manually, looking at the source code for pages that may have hidden links.

Screaming Frog will also help you find hidden redirects.

If you have logs available, be sure to analyze them to see where traffic is originating and find any pages on the site that may have been created by the bot.

A lot of time will be spent determining what needs to be cleaned up on the site.

3. Find How The Site Was Infiltrated

Secure sites aren’t infiltrated. For the most part, attacks from spambots look for existing vulnerabilities that you didn’t correct. Sites may have been infiltrated due to:

  • Bad plugins.
  • Out of date software.
  • SQL injections.
  • Easy to guess FTP/Admin passwords.

Your first step is to ensure that all of the software and plugins on your site are updated. Old scripts need to be updated, and if you notice scripts that you didn’t create, delete them.

Spambots may leave a script on your server to regain access to your site in the future.

Working with someone to go through your logs and uncover how the attack unfolded is recommended.

You want to patch up these vulnerabilities before going through the following steps. Cloudflare should add an extra layer of protection, too.

4. Clean Up Top Pages First

Cleaning up your site depends on what type of attack occurred. If your site has user-generated pages spam or mass page creation, you’ll need to go through the arduous task of determining which pages are wanted and which aren’t.

You’ll then need to delete these spam-generated pages.

However, you also want to do a few critical things for pages that aren’t generated by spam:

  • Analyze your analytics.
  • Mark pages that are greatly impacted.
  • Start cleaning up your top pages first.

Your revenue-generated pages must be worked on first to help restore their rankings.

When we say “work,” you’ll need to go through all of these pages thoroughly to search for:

Typically, you’ll need to manually clean up and review each page.

Even if a link were simply inserted in the footer of your site, you’d still want to check through all of your pages to ensure that there isn’t something else you’re missing on each page.

Once you’re confident that all of the spam was removed, it’s a waiting game to see what happens to your rankings.

5. Monitor The Site

Monitoring your site should become a part of your daily operations. You’ll want to monitor your site in a few ways:

  • Monitor your rankings and analytics for any changes.
  • Monitor site logs for suspicious activity.

You must pinpoint how the attack occurred and fix the point of entry. However, there are times when the spambot will put a backdoor on your server, go back in and mess everything up – again.

It’s crucial that you continue monitoring your site for any suspicious activity so that you can remedy issues quickly.

6. Optional: Restore From Backup

If you’re very lucky and catch the attack early on, you may be able to restore your site to its previous state using a snapshot. However, if you have new customer orders or data inserted into databases that have been impacted, this method won’t work.

Unfortunately, your backups will still contain the original vulnerabilities that led to a successful attack.

At this point, your best bet is to restore the site using Cloudflare protection and then correct the key vulnerabilities of the attack.

If an attack goes unnoticed for weeks or months, your backups may already be compromised, rendering this solution unusable.

Final Thoughts

Spambots are dangerous because they can go undetected for long periods of time. If a bot slips by and inserts links or content into existing pages, it can quickly ruin your company’s reputation and derail your SEO efforts.

Additionally, these link insertions are often one or two words that are linked to the site, and the text is made to not look like a link.

Identifying an attack of this nature can be extremely difficult.

We’ve also seen spambots generate thousands of pages on a site, using physical files, so the new posts never appear in a CMS dashboard.

Clearing out spam at this level took two full months, so there was significant damage to the client’s website.

Stopping an SEO spambot attack requires attention to detail and intensive monitoring. Cloudflare is a good option along with multiple levels of firewalls, logging, and monitoring systems to thwart spambot attacks.

You’ll also want to consider user controls and access and work on other ways to harden your website’s server.

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Featured Image: Tatiana Shepeleva/Shutterstock





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Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedIn

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Google's Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedIn

Google Analyst Gary Illyes offers guidance on large robots.txt files, the SEO impact of website redesigns, and the correct use of rel-canonical tags.

Illyes is taking questions sent to him via LinkedIn direct message and answering them publicly, offering valuable insights for those in the SEO community.

It’s already newsworthy for a Google employee to share SEO advice. This is especially so given it’s Illyes, who isn’t as active on social media as colleagues like Search Advocate John Mueller and Developer Advocate Martin Splitt.

Throughout the past week, Illyes has shared advice and offered guidance on the following subjects:

  • Large robots.txt files
  • The SEO impact of website redesigns
  • The correct use of rel-canonical tags

Considering the engagement his posts are getting, there’s likely more to come. Here’s a summary of what you missed if you’re not following him on LinkedIn.

Keep Robots.Txt Files Under 500KB

Regarding a previously published poll on the size of robots.txt files, Illyes shares a PSA for those with a file size larger than 500kb.

Screenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Illyes advises paying attention to the size of your website’s robots.txt file, especially if it’s larger than 500kb.

Google’s crawlers only process the first 500kb of the file, so it’s crucial to ensure that the most important information appears first.

Doing this can help ensure that your website is properly crawled and indexed by Google.

Website Redesigns May Cause Rankings To Go “Nuts”

When you redesign a website, it’s important to remember that its rankings in search engines may be affected.

As Illyes explains, this is because search engines use the HTML of your pages to understand and categorize the content on your site.

If you make changes to the HTML structure, such as breaking up paragraphs, using CSS styling instead of H tags, or adding unnecessary breaking tags, it can cause the HTML parsers to produce different results.

This can significantly impact your site’s rankings in search engines. Or, as Illyes phrases it, it can cause rankings to go “nuts”:

Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedInScreenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Illyes advises using semantically similar HTML when redesigning the site and avoiding adding tags that aren’t necessary to minimize the SEO impact.

This will allow HTML parsers to better understand the content on your site, which can help maintain search rankings.

Don’t Use Relative Paths In Your Rel-Canonical

Don’t take shortcuts when implementing rel-canonical tags. Illyes strongly advises spelling out the entire URL path:

Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedInScreenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Saving a few bytes using a relative path in the rel-canonical tag isn’t worth the potential issues it could cause.

Using relative paths may result in search engines treating it as a different URL, which can confuse search engines.

Spelling out the full URL path eliminates potential ambiguity and ensures that search engines identify the correct URL as the preferred version.

In Summary

By answering questions sent to him via direct message and offering his expertise, Illyes is giving back to the community and providing valuable insights on various SEO-related topics.

This is a testament to Illyes’ dedication to helping people understand how Google works. Send him a DM, and your question may be answered in a future LinkedIn post.


Source: LinkedIn

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Everything You Need To Know

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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

sitelink extensions - performance exampleScreenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

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Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

Some SEO processes involve repetitively clicking things on a screen. Not the best use of your time.

With the right tools, however, you can automate various SEO processes—and free up resources for tasks that need more creative, human input.

In this post, I’ll share two examples of how I automate SEO tasks. 

Example 1. Record and email article assignments to writers

Imagine being able to record and email article assignments to writers in seconds using a simple form like this:

Airtable article assignment form

Let’s look at how to set this up.

1. Set up an Airtable database for your writer and article data

Sign up for Airtable and create a new database with a table called “Writers.” The table should have columns for your writers:

"Writers" table in Airtable

In the same Airtable database, create a separate table called “Articles.” 

Set up columns in this table for your:

  • Article titles.
  • Article outline links.
  • Article due dates.
  • Assigned writer (set this column up as a linked record to your “Writers” table so that Airtable can retrieve data on your writers from it).
"Articles" table in Airtable

You’ll also need to add a lookup field to pull the writer’s email address from the “Writers” table. 

Add Airtable lookup field

2. Create an Airtable article assignment form

Next, create an article assignment form for the “Articles” table. You’ll use this form to add new article assignments to the “Articles” table.

Create Airtable article assignment form

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New Record in Airtable” trigger

When you submit your details on the new article assignment via the Airtable form, Airtable will automatically record the new article assignment in your “Articles” table. So that’s the first step of the article assignment workflow sorted.

Demo of how Airtable automatically records new article assignments when the article assignment form is filled out

Now, we’ll use the Zapier workflow automation tool to automate the next three steps in the workflow—namely:

  1. Create a shared Google Drive submission folder for the article.
  2. Create a Google Doc submission document in the shared Google Drive folder.
  3. Use Gmail to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Sidenote.

Instead of Zapier, you can also use any other workflow automation tool, such as Make, as long as the tool supports the automation triggers and actions you’ll need.

In Zapier, create a new automated workflow (also known as a “Zap”) with:

  • Airtable as the trigger app.
  • New Record as the trigger event.

With this trigger, your Zap will start running when you add a new record to Airtable (such as by submitting your Airtable article assignment form).

Trigger step: New Record in Airtable

4. Add a “Create Folder in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

Next, add an action step with:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Create Folder as the action event.

For the action step’s “Parent Folder” field, select the Google Drive folder in which the new submission folder should be created.

Also, provide a name for the submission folder in the “Folder Name” field. You can map the article title data from Airtable here to name your submission folder after the article’s title.

Action step: Create Folder in Google Drive

5. Add an “Add File Sharing Preference in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

The Google Drive folder created by your Zap will have its sharing permissions disabled by default, so let’s add an action step to grant folder access to anyone who has the link to the folder.

This action step should have:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Add File Sharing Preference as the action event.

Map the file ID of the Google Drive folder created in the previous action step to the “File Id” field of this action step.

Map file ID of Google Drive folder to "File Id" field

In addition, set the “Sharing Preference” field to “Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit.”

Set "Sharing Preference" field to "Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit"

6. Add a “Create Document from Text in Google Docs” action step to your Zap

Now, let’s set up the Google Doc that the writer will use to submit their draft.

We’ll have the Zap create this submission Google Doc in the shared Google Drive submission folder. And since the Google Drive folder will have general access enabled, anyone with the link to the Google Drive folder—and this includes you—will also automatically get access to the Google Doc.

No more frustration over writers forgetting to grant access to their Google Docs!

So add a new action step to your Zap with:

  • Google Docs as the action app.
  • Create Document from Text as the action event.

Map the article title data from Airtable to the action step’s “Document Name” field, and the folder ID of the shared Google Drive folder to the “Folder” field.

You’ll also need to include some default text in the Google Doc, such as “Write your article here!”

Action step: Create Document from Text in Google Docs

7. Add a “Send Email in Gmail” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll get the Zap to use your Gmail account to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Add a last action step to your Zap with:

  • Gmail as the action app.
  • Send Email as the action event.

Map the writer’s email address from Airtable to the “To” field for this action step. Also, map the article title, outline link, due date, and Google Drive submission folder link in the email body.

I also recommend adding your own email address to either the “Cc” or “Bcc” field so you get a copy of the automated email (and can confirm it’s been sent).

Sample text for automated article assignment email

Once you’re happy with your Zap, hit the Publish button to activate your automation!

Example 2. Finding and verifying prospects’ email addresses for link building outreach

Finding email addresses for link building outreach can be a massive pain.

After all, most prospects don’t advertise their email addresses publicly. And even if you’ve managed to dig up their email addresses (or guess them using trial and error), there’s no guarantee they work.

But using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, you can generate a huge Google Sheets list of link building prospects that looks like this:

List of prospects in Google Sheets

Then as you fill out the “Approve?” column for each prospect with data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—a Zapier automation will automatically do all these for you:

  1. Find the prospect’s email address using the Hunter email lookup tool
  2. Add the email address to your Google Sheet list of prospects
  3. Verify the email address using the NeverBounce email verification tool
  4. Add the verified email address to the Woodpecker.io email outreach tool so you can start sending customized outreach emails

Here’s how to set this up.

1. Get your list of prospects

Launch Ahrefs’ Content Explorer and search for link prospects. 

For example, if you recently published a marketing survey with unique insights and statistics, you may want to look for marketing statistics pages to pitch. To do this, simply run an “In title” search for “marketing statistics.”

Report of webpages with "marketing statistics" in their title, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Next, filter your results to show only webpages that are:

  • In English (unless you’re targeting webpages in another language).
  • Live, as it’d be weird to reach out and say, “Hey, I found you through [this webpage that no longer exists].”
  • On websites with a Domain Rating (DR) of 20 to 80 because you want to prioritize pursuing backlinks from authoritative websites but also that your chances of getting backlinks from super high-authority websites are quite low.
Filtering for live, English webpages on sites with a DR between 20 and 80, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Add a last filter to show only one page per domain (since you want to reach out to only one prospect per website).

Ahrefs' Content Explorer "One page per domain" setting

Click the Export button to export your list of prospects in a CSV file.

2. Clean up your list of prospects

As mentioned, we’ll be using Hunter to help us find our prospects’ email addresses.

Hunter uses the first names, last names, and domains of prospects to find email addresses, so we’ll clean up our list of prospects to provide Hunter with the exact data it needs.

Import your CSV list of prospects in Google Sheets and delete all columns in it except for:

  • Content Title
  • Content URL
  • Author

Also, some of the prospects in the CSV don’t have author names, so it’s worth removing these rows from the CSV. To do this, just filter for rows with empty author names and delete them.

Next, use the SPLIT formula to split the author names into their first and last names based on the space between their names.

Using the =SPLIT() formula in Google Sheets to split author names based on the space between the first and last names

Finally, add two new columns to the sheet:

  1. Approve?: Adding data to this column will trigger the Zapier automation we’ll be setting up next!
  2. Email Address: This column will store the prospect’s email address (if found).
Adding of two new "Approve?" and "Email address" columns to Google Sheets

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” trigger

In Zapier, create a new Zap with:

  • Google Sheets as the trigger app.
  • New or Updated Spreadsheet Row as the trigger event.

Map the action step’s “Trigger Column” field to your Google Sheet’s “Approve?” column.

Trigger step: New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets

With this setup, you’ll trigger your Zap whenever you add new data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—to the “Approve?” column for any prospect row.

Adding of the word "Yes?" to the "Approve?" column in the Google Sheets list of prospects

4. Add a “Find Email in Hunter” action step to your Zap

Next, add a new action step with:

  • Hunter as the action app.
  • Find Email as the action event.

Map the “Content URL,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” columns in your Google Sheet to the “Domain or Company,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” fields for this action step, respectively.

Action step: Find Email in Hunter

5. Add an “Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” action step to your Zap

The next action step will update your Google Sheet with a prospect’s email address if Hunter finds it. Use:

  • Google Sheets as the action app.
  • Update Spreadsheet Row as the action event.

Map the Row Number of the updated row in the trigger step to this action step’s “Row” field.

Map the row number to the "Row" field

Also, map the email address that Hunter found in the previous action step to the “Email Address” field of this action step.

Map email address to the "Email Address" field

Sidenote.

This email address does not exist. It is for demo purposes only.

6. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if Hunter has found an email address

Next, set up a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if the email address data found by Hunter contains the “@” symbol.

That’s because all email addresses have the “@” symbol. If Hunter happens to find an email address value that doesn’t include this symbol, we won’t want to waste time verifying it.

Filter action: Only continue if email address contains "@"

7. Add a “Verify Email Address in NeverBounce” action step to your Zap

Now, we’ll use NeverBounce to verify the validity of the email addresses that Hunter found. Add a new action step with:

  • NeverBounce as the action app.
  • Verify Email Address as the action event.

Map the email address that Hunter found to this action step’s “Email Address to Verify” field:

Action step: Verify Email Address in NeverBounce

8. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if NeverBounce returns a “Valid” or “Catchall” status for the email address

When NeverBounce verifies an email address, it will return one of four status text codes: Valid, Catchall, Invalid, and Unknown. Email addresses marked with the “Valid” and “Catchall” NeverBounce status codes have the highest likelihood of being valid.

So we’ll add a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if an email address’s NeverBounce status text code matches either “Valid” or “Catchall” exactly.

Filter action: Only continue if NeverBounce status text code is "Valid" or "Catchall"

9. Add a “Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll set up the Zap to add the verified email address to Woodpecker.co.

Create a last action step with:

  • Woodpecker.co as the action app.
  • Create/Update Prospect as the action event.

Map the verified email address to the action step’s “Email” field, and your prospect’s first and last name (as obtained from Google Sheets) to the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, respectively.

Action step: Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co

Hit the Publish button to turn your Zap on.

Now, when you fill out the “Approve?” column for prospects in your Google Sheet, your Zap will automatically do the heavy lifting of finding and verifying their email addresses using Hunter and NeverBounce and adding the verified email addresses to Woodpecker.co.

You can then customize your link building outreach emails in Woodpecker.co for each verified email address and, hopefully, snag yourself some backlinks!

Final thoughts

SEO automation takes some initial setup, but it’s amazing to watch your processes run automatically after that. It’s almost like magic.

And apart from the SEO processes we’ve shared here, there are probably plenty others you can automate.

Think of the apps you regularly use for SEO work. If you can connect these apps using Zapier or some other workflow automation tool, automating the workflows they support is likely more than possible.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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