An SEO content production company, Healthline, has been allegedly caught in the middle of an email blackmail SEO scam.
In recent years, there has been a rise of unscrupulous SEO scammers who email as many people as they can find in order to try and scam a backlink or two.
To do this, they will claim to point millions of negative SEO backlinks back to your site. In an effort to permanently tank your rankings.
The scam works like this:
Basically, the scammer emails you – usually from a contact form – about requesting a link.
They will usually ask for a dofollow link. Of course, dofollow links do not exist in the technical term. That is the default crawling behavior from Google (another sign you’re dealing with an idiot).
They attempt to scam a few online reviews as well.
Then after the pitch comes the threat. If you do not comply with these “requests” which have now turned into a threatening demand, they threaten that they will create a million toxic blog comment spam and redirect links to your site.
They will also claim that this will tank your Google rankings.
An Experience With a Client
We recently had an experience where an unscrupulous SEO decided to email one of our clients with one of these scams.
Thankfully, said client is more savvy about SEO than others.
But this is a ridiculous situation where the scammer is trying to score backlinks by using threats and intimidation.
This is not SEO. This is outright blackmail.
We believe that there should be consequences for such behavior.
What Does John Mueller Say?
In 2018, one SEO pro asked John Mueller about these types of negative SEO attacks.
John said you can just ignore it.
You can just ignore it.
— 🦝 John (personal) 🦝 (@JohnMu) December 14, 2018
Other forum discussions across the industry point to a general rise in such threats. For example:
So I had a client phone me today and say he had a call from a guy with an Indian accent who told him that he will destroy his website rankings if he doesn’t pay him £10 per month to NOT do this. What the hell…
What can I do since I can’t suggest going to the police if the guys in India! Is this even possible?
Website extortion has been going on since the start of the internet. Popular websites for a long time have been threatened with DDOS attacks if they don’t pay up. So they often build up a more robust network to better defend against DDOS attacks.
Recently smaller websites have been extorted with the threat of bad links. In the cases I have dealt with, most of them are empty threats. The cases that turn out to be real, are easy for a trained SEO to handle. Regularly monitor the backlinks (which should already be happening) and disavow the trouble links. Also keep developing a strong backlink profile. If you have hundreds or thousands of quality links, then a few bad links won’t significantly impact you. By building up the good and disavowing the bad you can handle these situations.
Unfortunately, there will always be bad people looking to do bad things. If it isn’t extortion over bad links, it would be social reputation poisoning or duplicate content issues – oh wait both of those have already been happening :(. Dealing with troublemakers and coming up with new countermeasures is unfortunately part of running a business. Good luck.
CaptainSalad2 – 12:26 pm on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)
goodroi, only problem is the guys site is just a little local trademan who pays me only slightly more than that to host/design/on site SEO and support the site!
Without putting his budget up (which no one wants to pay because of outsourcing to India is cheaper) I don’t have the time to monitor his backlink profile or build new backlinks. If he was a client that paid more than £25 per month then maybe I could find the time! Getting natural links to a local trader is not possible without a bigger budget, who wants to link to a local cleaning lady as example?
This is not so much for the OP but a comment about the consumer, the site owner described.How much does two six-packs of beer cost where you are at and is this about the amount of money he’s willing to pay to keep his site online?And is this his livelihood?
Zig Ziglar wrote an interesting insight about convincing people. He said something like, you can convince a person of the facts of a matter and still not make the sale. Convincing is not the same as persuading. Sometimes it is best to put things in perspective for someone in order to persuade them to agree.
What is the Best Way to Solve This?
We recommend continuing to build your backlink profile with strong, stable backlinks. And, to keep an eye on your overall backlinks just in case you do get hit with some negative SEO.
Then, you can disavow any links that come in if it makes you feel better.
Overall, though, you can (mostly) ignore any of these types of emails as they come in.
But, it’s still a good idea to continue spot-checking your backlinks for any strange activity.