Real Case: How To Combat SEO Dirty Tricks Damaging Your White Hat Works In A Friendly Manner

Just recently, we noticed an unnatural linking activity on our client’s website. We at once investigated what or who caused the sudden surge of links.  The culprit?  Our Google Alerts setup revealed it!

seo web spam link farm abuse
Image Source:

Now, here is the rub. We were linked using free site directories which Google has been penalizing and dropping lately from their database aside from the fact that the articles were duplicate content scraped from the web. More than that, we were getting links using an underscore character (“_”) anchor text inserted within the duplicate articles. It was dubious in a sense, which we usually call as Google bowling strategy by first impression. We were alarmed by the fact that Google Panda, Penguin and Negative SEO are hot topics these days which every SEO agency in the planet is watching closely! =P

Given the scenario, we thought of 2 possibilities.

A. Our client’s website and the owner of those author bio links were the target of a Negative SEO.

This is a reality which has been plaguing the search industry lately. If this is the case then we are on against a Negative SEO type. =)

B. The owner of those author bio links are the one doing the SEO activity.

The website owned by a reputable multinational company may have hired an SEO or a link builder doing low quality works with or without the knowledge of the company.

With the two possibilities at hand, we basically took the easier route first (#2).

We did the following:

1. We Got Their Phone Number and Made A Call.

We let them know that we are an SEO company working for their competition and that we noticed an unnatural link building activity regarding their website that may put them in trouble. However; the person we talked to told us that the one responsible for their SEO activity was not around so they will just callback. Based on the phone conversation, it was obvious that they have an in-house SEO. One question, answered.

2.  We Emailed Them Using Their Catch-All Email Address From Their Website

Given the urgency of the situation, we did not wait for them to call us back, we emailed them. We thought of using their catch-all email address to alert every concerned personnel or stakeholder of the company so that they can immediately address (internally and externally), the mistake committed.

Now, this is where our friendly strategy comes in. We intentionally crafted our email to show our concern to their brand and let them know that they may be a victim of a dubious SEO activity. You may read our email below.


 Case Study To Combat SEO Spammers

After a day, we received an email from the concerned company coming from their in-house SEO. Read below.

reply-to-email - Search Opt Media inc.We followed it up with a series of emails pointing out more links and URLs until all were removed and cleaned by their in-house SEO.

As such, here are the lessons we’ve learned as follows:

1. Never Forget To Setup Tools Monitoring All the Brands You Handle. Constantly Check The Incoming Links/Alerts.

– Believe it or not, it is our Google Alerts setup among all the tools that we are using that led us to detect the said activity.

Google Alerts

However; there are a lot of best backlinks checker tools you can use that we also have been using in the company as follows:



 2.  Alert All Stakeholders of the Erring Company About the said Activity by Showing Concern to their Brand. Call Them and Use Their Catch-All Email Address.

I find this really effective to immediately move their butts addressing the problem.  I believe every sane manager from a reputable company would not want to blow their brand equity. In most cases, such bad activity is being caused by unmonitored staff who wanted to make his/her work life easier regressing to not-so-good tactics.  So, a wake-up call/email does the trick! =)


3. Unnatural Activity Must Be Addressed with Utmost Importance But Use a Friendly Approach.

There is no better approach than being cordial to get across your message.  We mean this in every way when we called and email them because we are aware that they may deny the result of our investigation. It is a normal defensive reaction, Right? That is why; we showed them our concern to their brand. =)

Actually, one may reason out ala Napaleon Bonaparte saying, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”  We should have done that! Lol. However; the twist here is that, we were inadvertently (?) linked to those duplicate content on free article directories! Thus, we have no recourse but to get them remove those spammy posts.


napoleon bonaparte

4. Build Good Relationship with the Culprit

Each and every SEO practitioner out there started at a certain point where they grappled in the dark. This is the case maybe with the in-house SEO we caught red handed. His/Her apology recognizing the mistake was good enough for us. Maybe someday, he/she may drop a link love coming from a highly authoritative site, make us aware of other possible attacks that we may not be aware of, etc. Who knows? The positive karma is endless. =)

There is no need to name names.

5.  Ascertain Hiring A Really Skilled SEO Practitioner.

There are  interesting articles on how to ferret out good SEOs from the bad ones.

You may refer to the following posts below:

– Ian Lurie’s How To Hire An SEO Company 2012 edition.

– Richard Baxter’s How to Recruit an SEO.

6. When All Else Fail, Keep on Building your Clients’ Brands Without Resorting to Low-Quality Link Building Methods. 

We do believe that a continuous build-up of your clients’ brands the right way will provide you better leverage against potential attacks (intentional or unintentional).


Toby Murdock wrote an informative post on How to Build and Operate A Content Marketing Machine that we believe you need to check out.

Content Marketing as a subject is ubiquitous among marketing professionals both digital and traditional. It is nothing new but it works big time!

To set an example about content marketing, Ross Hudgens has proven that good content and self-less sharing of know-how on link building strategies catapulted him to be recognized by influencers and eventually became an influencer himself in the search industry.  It is a matter of building compelling content, reaching out to influencers, syndicating your content and “being present” during good conversations can spell the difference between failure and success.

Admittedly, we first learned about Ross at SEOMOZ blog writing about Search Engine Optimization and not via his own blog site. Cleverly, he managed to build “linkable assets” using his many ideas on link building techniques at the right place where a lot of search industry influencers are hanging out (SEOMoz) until he was able to leverage such exposure driving folks to his own blog.  Indeed, he knows what he is doing in building his own personal brand. We think it is a good example of an excellent content marketing at work.

Certainly, there is a good list of people in the space of link building where Ross dwells but they all have one thing in common that is, they all know how to pull off content marketing concepts rightly.

Another excellent case study on content marketing is WordStream’s recent research on Facebook Advertising and Goole Ads Network Comparison which earned a huge amount of citations, mentions and links as evidenced by the post of Larry Kim, Founder of WordStream entitled, “Opps, I ruined the Facebook IPO!“.

Now, angling that to the brands that you handle, invest on high quality content marketing strategy and you will never go wrong. It will even protect your clients against bad reps and possible intentional outings. This may not be a silver bullet to solve those dirty tactics that maybe thrown against them but surely, it will help augment their brand authority and overshadow negative works against them.

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