I recently took on a new website client. During my initial research, I ran their website through ahrefs. I discovered several dozen (maybe a little more) of spammy looking backlinks. Some dating back 2-4 years ago and some as recent as last month.

The bad links all have anchor text along the theme of "cheap nba jerseys" or nhl, or nfl, etc...

At first, I thought maybe they had infected their website with some sort of malicious script. The anchor text is completely unrelated to anything even remotely related to their industry.

Half the links point to their root domain, the rest point down a subdirectory path that does not exist on their website, so they 404.

But here's an additional component to this problem.

I ran the link profile for the website company who built their website (and who I'm pretty sure is hosting this client's current website) and their very own marketing site has hundreds and hundreds of these same dirty backlinks.

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I visited a few of the originating web pages and they're mostly all meaningless blog postings. Each post/page has several external links. From all the links I've inspected, they're all pointing to other local websites built by this same company.

I've Googled just about everything I can think of and I'm getting nowhere.

My operating assumption right now is that this website agency has been hacked and/or infected with some malicious scripts on their server.

So here are my questions:

Does anyone recognize this or KNOW what is going on? Is this a negative SEO attack? Is this intended to hurt the SEO value of the targeted websites? Is Google smart and helpful enough to ignore this without dealing out heavy penalties?

I'm at a loss.

Anyone have a clue what is happening and how to fix it or if it's anything even to be concerned with?

  • By the sounds of it, it appears that all the sites in question were compromised. You do not say, however, I am assuming you are working on a WordPress site. Make sure that the current site is up to date, cleaned, and infection free. Do not worry about the few links to your clients site, just make sure they are not linking out via some sort of infection. You can check the latest vulnerabilities of WP, themes, plug-ins, etc. here: web.nvd.nist.gov/view/vuln/search?execution=e2s1 Be sure to check the themes and plugins! Cheers!! – closetnoc Jan 27 '17 at 19:10
  • Thanks for chiming in @closetnoc! No, they are on a custom ruby built cms by the original company. I'll be overhauling and moving them to a clean wordpress install an onto a managed wp hosting provider. So, their site will be clean. – By Dan Jan 30 '17 at 15:16
  • I'm more curious to the problem for two reasons. I want to ensure that my client doesn't need to dedicate days and weeks to disavowing these junk backlinks, and once I understand what, why and how to remedy this issue, it's a tremendous selling opportunity against this local agency. The link history for this company is atrocious, some of these links first appeared up to 4 years ago and are others as recent as this month. Thanks again. – By Dan Jan 30 '17 at 15:21
  • It sounds like there was a vulnerability within their code that may have been easy to find and take advantage of. I would be moving your customers site as quickly as possible of course. (Duh!) As for the back links, you can disavow them, however, I generally warn not to. In this case, if the company is not willing to clean up their act, then I would think about disavowing them. If there is a reason to, this may be it. I would call the company. It could be they are just incompetent and would appreciate the help. Heck! It could be coding work for you. ;-0 Oooohhhh Nooooooo! Run away! – closetnoc Jan 30 '17 at 23:24
  • That's kinda what I've defaulted into, but it's good to get the feedback. Thanks @closetnoc. Much appreciated! – By Dan Jan 31 '17 at 23:58

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