SEO Competitor Sabotage Exhibit 1

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  • November 27, 2008

Competitor sabotage is something that website owners and SEO companies need to watch out for, we are developing software to track the problem for our clients but a lot of small companies are unprepared and totally unprotected.

A Blogstorm reader sent this email today, his competitor has hired an SEO company who appear to be deleting as many of his links as possible by pretending to be a web design company.

I can’t imagine sabotaging your competitors is legal, is it?

To whom it may concern,
We are working for a company called XXXXXXX of which they have a link from your site. We are currently undergoing a website redesign and this will extend to the site structure.

As we are going to be making changes to the relevant pages and their page names, we would kindly ask that you remove any links from your website as they may be out of date and could potentially have a negative effect on your own site.

I hope that this request shouldn’t be an issue but if you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me on this email address.

Kind Regards,
Senior Web Developer

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Daniel Mcskelly

    Does the domain they’re sending these from trace back to a Mailboxes Etc. in Minsk or are they actually sending them out under their own flag?

  • Gregor

    I don’t know why, but I find myself getting very angry as I read this. Outrageous behaviour! SEO is competitive but there are certain ways to behave and this definitely isn’t one of them.

    I hope that whoever it was that sent this email gets caught and punished. No doubt they’ll be on the receiving end of it one day but I hope this isn’t the sign of things to come!


  • Lee

    Then why not out them? Without some actual sites to see who’s behind this, all this really amounts to is linkbait on your part, theres nothing valid to see as it stands.

  • Affan Laghari

    Who do you want outed? The victim?
    I don’t think that the person who sent this email to Patrick can be 100% sure of WHICH competitor it was doing this sabotage (unless there is only 1 competitor).

  • Lee

    Clearly I don’t want the victim outed, no. I mean without proof of who was doing the dirty deed, this post is pretty much worthless.

    Big deal, someone, somewhere is doing something very shady with someone elses backlinks – not like something we’ve not all come across before. Without some info, this post is just a waste of everyones time, imo. It adds absolutely no value.

  • Don

    Hey Mate,

    I would be very interested in that tool. Maybe you could make it accessible on a subscription basis. SEOMOZ like :-)

  • fromtheold

    That’s a mean one. I dont think its illegal though.

  • Dom

    old news – this was featured in SEOmoz months ago….

  • Patrick Altoft

    I’m not going to name the sites involved because I personally can’t prove who it was. To out them without proof would be irresponsible.

    Those of you who think this is linkbait clearly misunderstand the word. I have more than enough links already.

  • David Bradley

    It would definitely be fraud/misrepresentation in the UK to pass-off as a rep for a company in this way.

  • Dom

    If you’re interested this tactic is originally discussed here –

  • Pingback: Link Building this Week (48.2008) |

  • Affan Laghari

    But the big question is how to deal with this problem.
    I guess the victim can just copy that email verbatim, trace the people linking to the sabotager (competitor) and send it to people linking to the competitor. And hopes the score remains equal.

  • MJ Ray

    To be clear, that isn’t the email I mentioned getting in comments on another post (which I still haven’t checked out or forwarded to anyone yet – it’s not a priority task for me) but it looks very similar.

    When the going gets tough, the dirty tactics get going?

  • Dom

    How to deal with this – tricky. How about running a monthly audit of all your in bound links using Linkscape or

    Compare month on month figures – if you notice significant drops then check the data & follow up with each web site where kinks have bee dropped. Bit of a chore, but you could use this data to go about optimising your inbound links.

  • Ritz

    As far as i know misrepresenting yourself in someone elses name ( which these guys are doing) is illegal. I can’t go to someones door and say “oh by the way, your gas company isn’t supplying you anymore I am, would you mind canceling your direct debit with your old company and signing up with us please”
    Certain this isn’t legal

  • SandyM

    You would have thought in a perfect world a webmaster would forward the email direct to site involved for verification.
    Anyhoo.. Thanks for the awareness.. I hope karma finds its way to the sneak!

  • Elliott

    I’m with David B @ 10.. I’d need to check for certain since it’s ages since I didn’t any law stuff so any lawyers, solicitors, members of her majesty’s constabulary et al do feel free to correct me…

    It’s a criminal and arrestable offence in UK law for anyone to use “a false instrument” (in the case the email) to gaining advantage for themselves or another (ie: client) and would count as deception + fraud (Section 2, 1983 Theft Act (IIRC; Use of a false instrument to obtain money, goods or services from another)

    Regardless of anything else and which law it is it’s an appalling way to behave. If you were rewriting a website structure surely you’d simply 301 redirect any links?


  • Jon

    As Don alluded… I wonder how long it will be before someone releases an automated tool to do this for you. Watch out for the adverts on DP!

    Cheers, Jon

  • Lee

    Lol @ “Those of you who think this is linkbait clearly misunderstand the word. I have more than enough links already.”

    Do you ever tell any prospective clients they have enough links already? 😉

  • Donovan

    Whats up with the links on the bottom of the page Patrick?

  • Alhan Keser

    That is terrible. I would seriously go kick their asses in person. Definitely not something I would do over email.

    The thing is that it’d probably be easy to get those links back if that actually happened.

  • Patrick Altoft

    Test to see if they pass anchor text to the homepage. So far they don’t.

  • Patti Fousek

    Wow! The things people will do to get ahead.

  • fromtheold

    What do you mean by passing the anchor text to the homepage?

  • Patrick Altoft
  • meh

    I was actually tempted to do this over the weekend with one evil client.

    Have two targeting the same niche – one which is trying to destroy my business and reputation.

    Take away the links and give to the other client?

  • Pete

    Re Meh: I would certainly look at your contracts first: In a typical agency/client relationship the work done during a project is the clients work – not the agencies, HOWEVER

    This is not a normal situation, and I would suggest any such activity outlined by Patrick – if not already illegal should certainly be considered as such (if it is indeed intentional and has not had the clients ok first)

  • meh

    Hmmm maybe I need to “adjust the contracts”….

    Thanks for your comment Pete.

  • dunnu

    hi everone thanks for SEO Info

  • Florian

    I can’t imagine it isn’t illegal, SEO is about beating your competitors by being better, not by ruining their work.

  • Adam

    Hilarious! I’m very tempted to give this a try, purely for fun.

    If only my SERPs competitors actually did some link building :(

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