What if My Competitor Buys Spam Links to My Website?

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This question has been very often discussed. Yet, we are getting back to it again and again. Let’s try to crear up some confusions?

Here’s what makes us discuss that questions again: Whiteboard Friday from SEOmoz. The question is simple: how Google finds out that a website is building spam links?

Incoming links are not under your control, there is no simple way you can stop your website from getting links back from spammy websites. So what if my competitor buys 100s of spammy links and then points them to my website? Will Google pull my website down like JC Penney and others?

So, is there any way to remove the links from those sites? Is there any penalty for those who are involved in these kinds of unethical activities to pull down the competitor?

Track Your Incoming Links

Gary-Adam Shannon has a wonderful post about this; let me share some important points from the post:

Adam recommends two tools to be alerted of new backlinks: The Google Alert and Link Monitoring Service.

  • Set the Google Alert for your website name so you will get notifications as soon as your brand is mentioned anywhere online.
  • Majestic SEO (in my opinion) is the best tool for Link Monitoring. Majestic can give you a daily break down on new links and you can use their graphing systems to see link spikes.

Ok, let’s move on… now I know how to get alerts when any SPAM website is linked to me, but what are the preventives once I am under attack? Let’s suppose I come to know that there are some SPAM websites who are linking to my website and this is not natural, it clearly seems like somebody has done some link buying in against of my website, the graph shows something like this:

So What Do I Do If I Suspect I am Being Spam-Linked?

Do I have to email Google or something like that? What should I do? Keeping this situation in mind, I broke down the situation into three questions:

I emailed the same questions to one of the most creative link builders Wiep Knol. Here’s his reply:

Google’s Matt Cutts has repeatedly mentioned that they will try to prevent this as much as they can. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, but it would be very difficult for aged domains. New domains are easier to burn with spammy links.

In most cases, Google will simply devalue the paid or spammy links, instead of penalizing the buyer. In some cases, either the link seller or the link buyers will get a penalty, but this is quite rare if you compare it to the amount of sites that sells and/or buys links.

And since it would be *really* difficult to determine which competitor has been buying links for website A, I don’t think competitor B has much risk, apart from bad press when things do come out.


There is no simple way Google can track who is actually buying the links?

So, what I can do? First, don’t get obessed. In reality this kind of situation is very rare. People would hardly do this kind of investment as you can never be sure if and how it will work. Will it pull you down in SERPs? Will it be ignored? Will it result in wasted money?

Al you can do is to maintain a clear natural link building profile. Nothing is earned as hard and works as good as a crystal clear reputation!

Moosa Hemani

Moosa Hemani

Inbound Governor at SEtalks.com
Moosa Hemani is a strategist and a blogger at SEtalks.com. We also help our client get better online visibility using all inbound marketing channels.
Moosa Hemani
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  • http://twitter.com/RyanJones Ryan Jones

    Thank them. The chances of getting penalized for somebody else doing this to you are very rare. Google is good at knowing what links to just basically ignore in the algorithm. Chances are the person doing this to you will do more benefit than harm to your website. (unless of course you’re a new site with hardly any pre-existing links)

  • http://www.life3dblog.com Ompundit

    This would involve a large amount of time and some investment in money for a strategy that may or may not work. Not that some unscrupulous people wouldn’t do this, I actually worked for a man that had me hire a company based in Japan that used real people to leave forum messages all over the web with links, to do a negative PR campaign against a competitor, which I thought was very wrong. So I guess what I am saying is that the odds of this happening are very very low so I wouldn’t make this a deep concern.

  • Ompundit

    Correction *Japan* should have been China. Sorry I am trying to multitask and apparently failed.

  • http://twitter.com/mkhamisani Faizan Iqbal

    Thanks Dude very nice article. We all want to know that how we can stop spammers but i think that right now there is nothing that we can do to stop them 100% but i hope in future big G will do something for this.

  • http://www.web-hosting-service.in Web Hosting Service

    This is a great post and much needed information. Its obvious that there are these kinda chances where the competitors buy spam links for our websites and try to get us down in the rankings. But there will definitely be some chances to avoid this.

  • http://twitter.com/gemini7hebest Bruce Michael

    If someone gain’s traffic from negative marketing of their competitor, then other person will definitely try this technique to pull him down.

  • http://thedesignary.com Chicago SEO

    I would take a bunch of spammy links to my site any day. As long as I’m building my SEO according to my plan and can offset those other links with quality ones, I can’t really imagine it would do anything but help my sites value.

  • http://www.shreeonlinejobs.com Bisaani

    I think Google needs update here. If we can find spammy links pointing to our site, then we can say Google boss this is spammy link and we have not built it. In robots.txt we can say Google please dont indexed this page then some syntax should be built where we can say Google please dont indexed this I have not built backlink to this and please dont count this is our backlink.

    • http://twitter.com/mmhemani Moosa Hemani

      you mean to say that the site owner should inform Google that the no. of spam links that are pointing to your site and are not build by you through may be robots.txt

      making sense but this might fail when the links are in 1000s. but seems a nice idea!

      • http://www.shreeonlinejobs.com bisaani


  • http://www.mw3forumz.com MW3 FORUM

    Google alert seems a very useful tool, I never considered using this for my gaming forum up until now. Thanks

  • http://www.linknami.com/ Linknami

    The only chance google has is to detect spam links, including purchased links, and to devalue it, i.e. doesn’t let them count in your overall link profile.
    You have to say goodbye to the thought that google will penalize you for getting any links that are not in your control.
    A competitor could have a penalized page, put your dofollow link in a section that is clearly labeled as commercial links and tell google that you are buying links on spam pages. That would be too easy and google is very well aware of it.

  • Harsha

    I am not sure where I read this view but, It is said that if you have a good and natural link building profile and when someone tries to create a spam links for you, Google observes the changing trend and then devalues those links without affecting your rankings. However, if this was true enough, I dont think JCPenny would be a victim of such penalty. 

  • http://RadioTelephoneTutor.com Lassar

    The good old days are over.

    Your competitors can easly do negative seo on you.

    Lots of luck trying to prevent that, or clean up the mess.