Google's Response to Negative SEO Extortion Emails is Pathetic

Google’s Response to Negative SEO Extortion Emails is Pathetic

If you’re involved in any form with SEO, you’ll have undoubtedly seen the negative SEO extortion emails doing the rounds over the past couple of days. I first came across these when Dejan SEO covered the one they’d received. The long and short of it is that a complete stranger gets in touch demanding $1,500 from you by Western Union and explaining that failure to meet those demands will result in the stranger performing negative SEO against the recipient’s domain.

How friendly!

Here’s the email Dejan SEO received.

Negative SEO Extortion Emails

Well, I was pleased to see when I got up this morning that Search Engine Land were covering Google’s response to these emails. “Good,” I thought. “I’m glad they’ve responded so quickly.”

Then I read their response and I was a bit more like….

Google’s Response in Short

I do encourage you to read the full post over at Search Engine Land. But in short, Google’s advice if you receive one of these emails:

  • Don’t worry… our algorithms are designed to prevent stuff like this from having an impact. (There’s a whiff of cow poop in the air)!
  • But if you are worried, disavow the links (in other words, all that crap that lowlife criminal just spilled all over your website, please do clean it all up yourself)
  • If the threat comes through Gmail, give us a shout. We’re more likely to give a crap then!
  • If you receive an extortion email, get law enforcement involved

Law Enforcement…. REALLY?!

Look, I know that extortion is extortion whatever the threats are. But can you imagine reporting this to a police force more accustomed to dealing with burglary, domestic violence, assault and other crimes they actually understand?? Here’s how I see that conversation going:

google response to negative SEO threat

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I’m not underplaying how serious that threats like this should be taken, but what I am saying is that law enforcement frankly won’t know what to make of it, will they? This is a threat from a dodgy email address based in some country they probably have no legal jurisdiction in and the threatened action, far from being death or injury to you and your family, is that they’re going to link to your website from forums. Can you imagine trying to explain that?

Google’s Response Lacked…. Well, Something.

In an ideal world, links would either have some positive benefit or no benefit and just do nothing. We know from when this pretty much was the case that it brings with it a whole load of other problems and so Google is highly unlikely to revert to a world where you can pretty much get away with anything.

But this response stunk of,

“Yeh,we don’t really know what to say, guys….”

Their suggestion that their algorithm is designed to prevent things like this from working will offer little reassurance to anyone who’s read negative SEO case studies like this one. And the idea that we should basically all be investing time and resource into maintaining disavow files (effectively all of us acting as spam reporters on an unpaid basis for Google) is ridiculous.

I don’t know how seriously anyone can take these extortion emails. Time will tell if these people actually go ahead and carry out their threats and, even then, whether that activity does impact the websites affected. But the fact is that no algorithm is perfect and with the “rules” of play as they are, people do feel threatened by the possibility of negative SEO. While that’s the case, the very least that Google can do is improve the way it communicates with people about it, improve direct lines of communication between affected businesses and Google (automate email responses that take weeks to come through are pitiful) and at least try to look like they give a crap.