[The purpose of this post is to demonstrate a poor backlink “strategy” without bringing any particular brand into the spotlight. Therefore, all sensitive information is omitted.]
Twelve days ago I received the following email:
I am contacting on behalf of [hosting company’s name here] and firstly would like to thank you for the link from your site.
We have noticed that your site does comply with Google quality guidelines. However, we are in the process of backlink clean up and want to get all the backlinks removed.
Due to which we request you to take down all links pointing to our website from your domain. Following are the details of the backlink:
This action is being taken to protect us from impending Google updates.
I checked the page they referenced, which happened to be my post on looking for similar sites as an affiliate recruitment technique, and having found no links to them I didn’t even bother replying.
This morning I’ve heard from them again — in an ultimatum manner this time:
I am contacting on behalf of [hosting company’s name here] and this e-mail is the follow up for the previous e-mail which I had sent on 19th Feb 2014 regarding removal of links pointing to our site. I still haven’t received any reply from your end yet.
Please consider my request for link removal otherwise I will have to resort to Disavow Tool for the said removal of links which in turn may take a toll on your website’s positioning.
From thanks (first line of the first message) to threat (last line of the latest message)? Well, that certainly got my attention. So, I checked again… And again I’ve found no link to them in my post. So I went ahead and checked all comments under the post… and bingo! On February 8, 2013 they posted the following comment under that post of mine:
I do not remember what anchor text they used when originally posting the above comment. Chances are that Rahul did not use his real name, but something along the lines of “Reseller Web Hosting” instead. I don’t remember as for quite some time I’ve been manually changing “over-optimized” anchor texts to the real names of the people who submit comments. By now, we all know that we want to link to our blog comments to names instead of keywords, don’t we? But it seems that this hosting company may have been employing the technique of posting (thoughtful, I’ll give them that!) blog comments as an SEO strategy. And it may be so that not all bloggers were fixing their anchor texts like I did… So now (possibly after receiving an unnatural link warning from Google), they are working on removing these (and possibly other) inbound links.
Great. But if your approach to “link building” didn’t work out and now you need to remove these potentially “spammy” comments from the blogs where you posted them, don’t threaten the bloggers by disavowing links “which in turn may take a toll on [their] website’s positioning.” Some will not be as patient as I am, and will not remove your company’s name from posts like these. Then poor backlink strategy will inevitably lead to brand damage. And there is no asset more valuable to a company than its brand. Think twice before you threaten a blogger (especially when there is no fault of his in the situation). It may turn ugly.