Negative SEO: Beware Of Dodgy Link Removal Requests

Today I look at negative SEO and a worrying new tactic involving fake link removal requests.

black hat

Negative SEO has been a contentious topic for quite some time in the SEO community. Did it exist? Was it possible? Should you worry about it? *cough* Should you be doing it to your competitors?

What Is Negative SEO?

Firstly, just in case you don’t know, negative SEO is the practice of using dodgy tactics to harm the rankings of your competitors. For example, since the first Penguin update and the crackdown on low quality links, a competitor might buy a cheap links package and point a couple of thousand spammy links at your site causing it to potentially be red flagged and lose rankings.

Another thing they might do is create links to your site from bad neighborhoods, link farms, or even buy links from known sellers. All things that you don’t want showing up on your link profile.

Can It Harm Your Site?

Google’s head of webspam¬†Matt Cutts has confirmed that this could potentially harm your site and this is one of the reasons they introduced the disavow tool last year.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on linking sites in your webmaster tools account and if you spot anything that looks suspicious then report it/disavow it as early as possible.

A New Tactic

So, fortunately there is a way to counter negative link building, but a new tactic I am seeing is fake link removal request emails. I run a few different blog sites and I have recently been receiving emails similar to the following: –

Dear Webmaster,

Our client’s site x has links on your page y.

Due to recent changes in google’s algorithm we no longer require these links and request that you move them.

Thank you,
Some SEO Company

There are several things that tell me that this is not genuine: –

  1. The links on the pages are all perfectly valid editorial links, so there is no reason why they should be requesting removal.
  2. The emails never come from the companies, or the PR contacts I have dealt with.
  3. They are never personalised – it’s always ‘Dear webmaster’ or just ‘hi’
  4. When I look up the ip addresses I have found that every single one of these emails has originated in India. Before anyone says anything, I am aware that there are a lot of good white hat SEOs from India, but unfortunately it is also where a lot of spam comes from.

So I have obviously ignored the requests, however, I guess less tech savvy webmasters might just go ahead and delete the links. I am assuming they go through the link profile of a competitor and send out a mass email to all linking sites, which could do a fair bit of damage.

It’s a worrying tactic and one that I think will be difficult to guard against, short of spreading the word to as many webmasters as possible to double check any link removal requests.

Should You Be Doing It To Your Competitors?

I better quickly address this, so here we go…

Absolutely, categorically no! It’s a horrible business and one of the slimiest parts of SEO at the moment. Don’t go there!

Focus on your own website, building quality content, growing your network and attracting high quality links.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Negative SEO?

As I said earlier, you can use the disavow to remove any dodgy looking links from your profile.

It’s difficult to protect against this new tactic, but one thing you should be doing is monitoring your existing links (there is a good article here on the topic) and if you notice any dropping off then contact the webmaster and ask (politely) why they removed your link. It might be for genuine reasons, but it could also be a sign of something dodgy going on.

So, be wary, keep a close eye on your link profile and try and spread the word to as many fellow webmasters as you can to watch out for dodgy link removal requests (feel free to point them to this article!).

An SEOs work is never done!


About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Denis D. - September 30, 2013

Good points to take into consideration as any blogger or webmaster should always be on the look out for their site. I think Google is doing some good stuff and is helping all of the people who are playing by the rules. Eventually I think everyone using balck hat SEO practices will be weeded out and have their businesses completely destroyed.

Wallace - April 22, 2015

Maybe u can just reply him “why not you try disavow link ?” lol

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