Be Wary of Negative SEO Extortion Email
August 15, 2014
A recent post at searchengineland.com has brought to light an issue regarding emails being received by some businesses from a company claiming that they will engage in negative SEO against the business owner’s website unless the business pays a fee to prevent it from happening.
For those who are unaware, negative SEA is the practice of purposefully building poor links to a competitor site in the hope that the site targeted will be penalised by Google either by a reduction in rankings as per the Penguin algorithm, or with a manual penalty in worst case scenarios.
Debate still rages as to whether or not negative SEO actually works, with some pointing to Google recently changing their stance on the subject from “almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index,” to “Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index,” as an indication that such tactics can actually work.
The email itself reads:
Subject: I Want To Buy. Please Guide Me.
Read this email very carefully.
This is an extortion email.
We will do NEGATIVE SEO to your website by giving it 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, if you do not pay us $1,500.00 (payable by Western Union).
This is no false claim or a hoax, download the following Notepad file containing 20,000 XRumer forum profile backlinks pointing to http://www.negativeseo.cn.pn/ (this is our website and go and see on this website, you will find our email address firstname.lastname@example.org from which this email right now is being sent to you) :
Just reply to this email to let us know if you will pay just $1,500.00 or not for us to refrain or not from ruining your precious website & business permanently. Also if you ignore this email and do not reply to this email within the next 24-48 hours, then we will go ahead and build 20,000 XRumer forum profile backlinks pointing directly to your website.
We are awaiting your wise decision.
As you can see, the person(s) sending this email are very clear in that it is an extortion attempt. However we would recommend that if you do receive such an email that you do not pay the money as asked. For one, there is still no proven evidence that such a campaign would work, especially as Google is now aware of the issue and is apparently investigating the claims.
Secondly the company also made mention of the disavow tool, which can be found in Webmaster Tools for your website. Using this tool you can “disavow” a link, which is basically a way of telling Google that you do not want this link to count towards you overall link profile. Google reserves the right to do with the disavow as they wish, but if it is accepted then any links in the file will be nofollow tagged, essentially marking them as unnatural and thus eliminating any effect they have on your website.
Google also recommend speaking to the police to see if anything can be done about such emails, in addition to asking Gmail uses to report such abuses at https://support.google.com/mail/contact/abuse
We recommend that you keep an eye on your link profile if you do happen to receive this email. In all likelihood little will happen, but if it does then it is a good idea to keep an eye on your site ranking and the manual actions section of your Webmaster Tools just in case.