Negative SEO Extortion Rackets Spread: Should You Be Concerned?

Negative SEO Extortion Rackets Spread: Should You Be Concerned?

internet marketingNegative SEO attacks and the concerns surrounding them have been on the minds of many internet marketing pros since Google’s Penguin algorithm update last year, which theoretically seemed to make it easier than ever for a competitor to damage your site’s reputation.

The two most popular online activities worldwide are email and search engine use, and 75% of search engine users won’t scroll past the first page that pops up. This puts extra pressure on companies to invest in internet marketing, PPC and SEO analysis to optimize the searchability of their websites.

Basically, the idea behind negative SEO is that another company spams your search tag with poor quality links to get your site or company flagged by Google for using unethical SEO. With this in mind, unscrupulous parties have sent negative SEO extortion emails to webmasters and SEO providers across the web.

The most common one threatens to use Xrumer, a popular tool for spamming, to post thousands of low quality links to the target company’s website unless they pay $1,500. In theory, the Xrumer links would bring your website to the attention of the Penguin algorithm, which could shut down search engine traffic to your site.

Most of the emails threaten to flood Google with bad links related to the company unless they pay up in the specified amount of time (Google currently owns about 65 to 70% of the worldwide search engine market). Many SEO and internet marketing professionals are unconcerned by the threats, pointing out that it’s unlikely the culprits have the computing power, time or manpower to carry out such an effective attack.

Google’s response seemed similarly unconcerned. In an email to, Google said that the claims are being investigated but there’s no way to determine how credible the threats are. They advised webmasters to use the disavow tool for suspect links and report any threats received through Gmail to Google also said to report extortion attempts to law enforcement.

However, Google has notably changed it’s webmaster guidelines in the wake of increasing negative SEO threats, 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,” suggesting attack attempts might be more effective than Google is letting on.

For now, webmasters who have received threats should not respond and keep their eye on the “links to your site” section of Google’s webmaster tools for unusual or unsanctioned activity. The threat may not be serious, but it’s best to exercise caution just in case.

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