I was shocked last week when I read a letter posted online, threatening a business with ‘negative SEO’.

Dan Petrovic over at DEJAN SEO received an email – which says in the third line it’s an extortion attempt – threatening to spam their business with 20,000 links unless they pay $1,500.

It seems pretty genuine with the group, signing off the email as RS, enclosing a notepad file of 20,000 links from the XRumer programme pointing back to their own website.

The gang give a deadline of 48 hours for a reply or they promise to “[ruin] your precious website & business permanently” by pointing those links at the victim’s site.

“20,000 XRumer forum profile backlinks (permanent & mostly dofollow) pointing directly to your website and hence your website will get penalised & knocked off the Google’s Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) forever.”

An idle threat?


Have you ever been a victim of negative SEO?


Businesses usually get spam emails about SEO all the time and it’s best to ignore them. But this threat had enough about it to stir the SEO community up and worry a lot of people.

George Zlatin over at Digital Third Coast even went as far to say that Google has created a platform for extortionists by punishing the webmaster when a spammy link signal pointed at their website has been picked up.

Google has responded but doesn’t offer much beyond “you can choose to use the disavow tool” to rid yourself of unnecessary links.

It says its algorithms are supposed to help in these situations to lessen the blow but instances like this show why link building has such an unhealthy reputation, and that Mr. Zlatin may have a point…

Have you ever been a victim of negative SEO? How did you discover the attack and how did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments section below.

Deal with it

Google’s canned response to use the disavow tool shows that however popular and fantastic the search engine is, it’s still far from perfect.

Whilst it’s helping to clean up spammy results with link algorithms the system can still be very easily played by people with far too much time on their hands – a worry when it says that a poor link profile can indeed hurt your search rankings.

It’s a good job we in the online community are raising awareness of this. If a lot of the leading global search community are worried about it then can you imagine what a small business owner will think if they see something like this?



The only thing you can really do in this situation is to take note and make a backup of your existing backlinks and disavow any future, spammy ones that are pointed your way – all through Google Webmaster Tools, of course.

But the flaw in this logic is easy to see. Why should the webmaster be punished for somebody else spamming tens of thousands of links back to your site?

A lot of work with search still revolves around building a quality link profile back to your website. Do you really have time to manage all of that yourself, though?

Do emails like this put you off SEO, or has it been a worthwhile investment for what your business does online if you’ve invested? Let me know below!

Disavow all knowledge

A simple email like this has again cast a bad light on link building, and how easy it is to do it in a negative manner.

Believe it or not but there are some agencies out there and companies that want to get a rankings boost by spreading bad backlinks to their competitors across the web.

Highly unethical, of course, and a lot of hard work to detect when the responsibility to clean it all up is on the victim. It’s why a lot of people with a budget decide to spend it on an ethical SEO company to manage their campaigns for them.

So, webmasters, what’s the right way to do it?

Build the right links

There are more communication channels now than ever thanks to social media and email. Using these channels alongside a great content marketing strategy is a natural and ethical way to build strong links back to your site, as are techniques such as link reclamation.

Ethical link building is as much about relationship management as it is getting the right link. Building relationships with the local community, media, and bloggers are an incredible way to get a great link portfolio that’s effective in the long-term.

Keep an eye on your profile

A link can appear at any time and it’s effectively webmasters’ jobs to verify its value and police their own portfolios.You can see which links are pointing back towards your site with Webmaster Tools, but there are other industry tools out there that can go that little bit deeper. Open Site Explorer not only shows you your backlinks, for instance, and also allows competitive link research.

But as well as keeping an eye on the links back to your site you need to cast your eye far and wide for potential linking opportunities that you can build on over the next week, month, year, and for the future of your online business.

Actively keep it clean

Though Google’s advice in this case is to disavow your links they’ve said in the past that, when it comes to removing links, they’d prefer you to get in touch with the owner of the website and ask them to manually remove the link.

Again, it’s a relationship-heavy business that can be very time-consuming, especially if you’re a smaller business just starting out in the world of online marketing. A link can appear at any time and it’s effectively webmasters’ jobs to verify its value and police their own portfolios.

Do it right though and link building, along with other factors, can produce a very successful SEO campaign for your website, and help get you great visibility on the world’s biggest search engines.

If you’d like to know more about search engine optimisation and how it can help your business contact Webpresence today!