If you are not familiar the term “Google Bowling”, it refers to the idea of a rival company performing black hat SEO tactics against your website. The idea is that by using black hat tactics against a competitor, one’s own website will benefit once Google penalizes the other site. The search team at Google for years now has said that they are aware of this tactic and take numerous steps to ensure that this type of sabotage doesn’t impact those sites that follow SEO best practice guidelines. While this idea is not new, recently there has been a rash of negative SEO extortion emails being sent to website owners and webmasters. The email asks for $1,500 and in exchange, negative SEO tactics will not placed against their website.
The email 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.
Extorting Google’s rules is nothing new to the SEO World. Back when Google first announced that the number of links back to a website would impact SERPs, internet businesses started selling links to unsuspecting businesses. Google corrected its thinking and left thousands of businesses cleaning up the messes they made for themselves. When Google+ rolled out Google announced that the more +1s that a website received, the more likely their website would be displayed in SERPs. Sure enough companies started selling +1s to businesses and Google soon fell out of love with their +1 idea.
Exploiting Google to create positive SEO for your business is a practice that will continue till the internet runs out. But what do you do when you personally are being exploited based on negative SEO tactics? The first thing to do is don’t panic! Start monitoring your links using Google Webmasters Tools or another backlink checking program. If you notice 20,000 backlinks appearing on your site one day, you will understand what is happening. The next step is not to panic! If you think you are a victim of a Google Bowling or Negative SEO, you can report that party responsible at :https://support.google.com/mail/contact/abuse. I would recommend not waiting to take this step. As soon as I received an email demanding money to avoid a penalty, I would report this to Google.
Identify the links recently added to your URL. Finding good and bad URLs is not difficult. Most of the time when you click on a link and its from a link farm, things are abundantly clear. Does the website look poorly built? Is there no logo and only the name of the business? Is the website merely a list of URLs and no additional content? Have you seen a website that looks EXACTLY the same before? These are some of the tell tail signs of a link farms site. I would first try to contact each website and ask them to remove the link as this is the best practice to avoiding a Penguin penalty. If that fails, use the Google Disavow tool to let Google know that you do not wish to receive any page rank from these websites.
While is can be scary to get an email demanding money or else your website will be penalized, know that Google is more powerful than the people sending you the demand. My guess is that Google will quickly identify this link network and add it to their ignored link database. What is a little more disturbing is if this idea spreads and more companies try to extort businesses for money. I think back to the “Nigerian Email Scam” where people actually made money. This spawned several other email scams. I hope that this doesn’t become a growing trend in the SEO world. We will have to wait and see Google’s response.
By Matthew Wilkos