Fried Spam: Dealing with Fraudulent Comments and Backlinks
Every website has to deal with spam. Between spam bots leaving links to “The Best Diet Pill on Earth™” to fraudulent comments and black hat link building techniques, getting spammed is just a part of doing business on the internet. But don't worry! In this post, we break down what fraudulent links look like and what you can do to stop them — and what to do if you get a link removal request that’s less than legit.
One Agency’s Story (Or, Fried Spam: Recipe for Disaster)
A few months ago, we received an email with a link removal request from the CEO of a digital marketing agency. The CEO requested we remove a link to his site, stating that the, “Above link is violating current formal Google guidelines. So, it is not only bad for our website, but also affecting your website as well.” He also stated that, if we didn’t comply with the removal request, he’d be forced to “send a Disavow Link report to Google which is something that would also affect your rankings and website profile.”
The URL he referenced led to one of our blog posts from 2013, but we hadn’t linked to his website in the blog itself — the link he was referring to was part of a comment made on the blog.
A quick Google search showed why this link to his site was a problem: his site had thousands of backlinks -- all made in comments on other companies’ blogs.
And those backlinks were actually hurting their site’s SEO rankings.
How Fraudulent Links and Comments Work
Our basic Google search showed that the CEO who emailed us (or someone at his company) had been using a common black hat SEO tactic. Black hat tactics are designed to (illegitimately) raise a website’s search engine rank without alerting the search engine. Common black hat tactics include link manipulation, keyword stuffing, content automation — any tactic used to raise pagerank without adding value or purpose.
Basically, this marketing company created an online persona and used it to leave comments on hundreds of different marketing blogs — and each comment included a link back to their own website, either in the text or in the “website” field on the comment form. Their goal was to increase their pagerank by having several backlinks to reputable industry websites.
Unfortunately for them and for others who practice black hat tactics, Google will flag this activity — justifiably so — as bad link building, and the offending website will lose pagerank.
If links in comments are hurting your website, you can delete them — even if they’re not hurting your website, you have the option of removing or creating a nofollow for fraudulent backlinks. If someone asks you to remove a link they’ve added to your website because their bad linkbuilding habits are lowering their pagerank, you can choose if you want to or not. (Of course, if the request is from a reputable website, you may want to give them the benefit of the doubt. The first rule of the internet is not to be a jerk).
But the main takeaway from fraudulent links is simple: learn from those people who are doing it the wrong way. Good quality content gets shared and linked because of its own merits. If you put effort into developing high quality content that solves a problem, answers a question, or fills a need — you won’t need to resort to bad SEO tactics.