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And They Threaten to “Disavow” Your Website?

We all know how important it is to obtain good quality inbound links (backlinks) for our websites that show the search engines that we are both a reputable business and have a reputable website (both, sadly, do not always go hand in hand). But what if you link out to what you know is a reputable business but their website turns out to have employed black hat SEO techniques and is later penalised by Google?

It is not always obvious what is and isn’t a good quality website unless you have access to link profiles. It seems that some reputable businesses are engaging in unethical SEO tactics – I would like to think that many of them are not aware of this but are just using disreputable SEO agencies, but who knows?

I recently had a client who received a very threatening email from a (supposedly) reputable company – a big business in the same field – stating that it would “disavow” my client’s site with Google and this could potentially harm his site.

Here’s what the email said:

We have sent you a request on 9th May, 2014 regarding some links pointing to xxxxxxxx.com from your website. We have not received any replies / updates from your side. No replies to this second request would automatically place your domain in our Disavow list to Google which would affect your domain badly. Kindly reply back soon to avoid this action.

In fact my client’s site is a very reputable site that only uses ethical SEO techniques (I should know, as I manage it for him) but the other site that is now penalised had over 31,000 spammy links mostly from fake forums – I have, of course, now checked their link profile.

But let’s just clarify what would have happened if the other website had disavowed my client’s site. It might have resulted in a manual review by Google if lots of other disavow reports had been submitted, but a manual review would have revealed that it was a genuine website. In fact, John Mueller from Google said

Having URLs from your website submitted in a disavow file will not cause any problems for your website. One might assume that they are just trying to pressure you.

So the moral of this story is that you never know what other businesses are up to so be careful who you link to. Reputable businesses can have disreputable websites if they don’t take the time to understand what SEO techniques are being employed to improve their rankings.

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