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I received an email through a clients web form, and - while I have no intention of complying, I am not sure what to make of it. Does anyone have any insights into this kind of spam? I'm curious because it seems to be targeting people with SEO knowledge, but surely those people will have the knowledge to check and disavow the backlinks? Are they trying to boost DOMAINTHEYWANT.TOPROMOTE (not the actual domain). Relatedly, even if you do comply they promise to "reward" you with a backling from a site which would be detrimental!

I do note that DOMAINTHEYWANT.TOPROMOTE and my clients website are entirely unrelated. The DOMAINTHEYWANTTO.PROMOTE does appear to be a crappy site in Japan which deals with money/loans (in both English and Japanese)

The email was as follows (it was a web form, so no meaningful header). For what little its worth the website log shows -

www.MYCLIENTS.DOMAIN:443 216.74.255.182 - - [21/Apr/2021:19:10:38 +1200] "GET /comments/feed/ HTTP/1.0" 200 4323 "https://www.biomineral.net/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/66.0.3359.117 Safari/537.36"
www.MYCLIENTS.DOMAINt:443 216.74.255.182 - - [21/Apr/2021:19:10:42 +1200] "GET /feed/ HTTP/1.0" 200 4397 "https://www.biomineral.net/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/66.0.3359.117 Safari/537.36"
www.MYCLIENTS.DOMAIN:443 216.74.255.182 - - [21/Apr/2021:19:11:44 +1200] "POST / HTTP/1.0" 200 14344 "https://www.biomineral.net/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/66.0.3359.117 Safari/537.36"

Email:

Good Morning

I am the PR manager for DOMAINTHEYWANT.TOPROMOTE which cover bank loans and is a profitable affiliate site based in Japan.

I am currently running a PR campaign for my client and I would like to request you to share our website DOMAINTHEYWANT.TOPROMOTE on your social media, bookmark it and give us a backlink on your blog MYCLIENTS.DOMAIN

I will check in a few days' time and if I do not see a backlink to our site and social signals, I will spam MYCLIENTS.DOMAIN with a whole load of toxic link farms that will inevitably drag your site down the rankings.

Just to show you that I am dead serious, please take a look at the backlink profile of this url and note all the spam links being created 24/7. The same destiny awaits your site:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/azithromycin-oral-tablet

Please do not try to report me or try any monkey business as this will only piss me off and increase the severity of spam going to MYCLIENTS.DOMAIN Should you comply, I will reward you with a link on our site.

Thanks in advance.

Kind regards

John Dignum PR manager for DOMAINTHEYWANT.TOPROMOTE

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  • I put the name of the site into Wayback Machine and it shows that the site has had a similar crappy look and feel (and most likely similar content - but its in Japanese and I don't read Japanese) going back at least 5 years.
    – davidgo
    Apr 21 at 9:27
  • If I were in your position I would feel that it's pretty safe to ignore, if that's what you're asking. Apr 21 at 20:33
  • @MaximillianLaumeister I am sure I can more-or-less ignore it (just check periodically for bad backlinks), but I'm trying to understand the real intent of the sender. I can't be the only person that has ever seen this.
    – davidgo
    Apr 21 at 21:16
  • It sounds to me like the intent of the sender is to cheaply scare you into giving them some quality backlinks which would push up their search engine rankings, no? For what it's worth, I get heaps and heaps of SEO spam (almost daily) and I've never received a threat like this. Apr 21 at 22:49
  • @MaximillianLaumeister On the face of it yes - but as my clients and their site have nothing in common so me linking to them would be a net negative for them. Surely they must realize this if they are threatening me with links from low quality sites? Of-course, if the site they are asking me to link to is a competitors, or if they are doing something dishonest like selling backlinks to people who don't know better that would kinda fit - in which case the best course of action is to reach out to the owner of the target site if I can find them.
    – davidgo
    Apr 22 at 1:21
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I would ignore this scam email.

If you do create links to this site, Google could penalize you for doing so. The risk of getting penalized for creating spammy links on your own site is higher than the risk of getting penalized for link spam created by a spammer.

You also don't want the promised "reward" of any sort of back links from this scam. Again, the link created by complying with this scammer's demands sound just as dangerous for your site as the spammy links you are being threatened with.

It feels to me like an empty threat. Other people are getting this email too. It isn't somebody specifically targeting your site, they are sending out mass emails in the hopes that somebody bites. There is no way they have the resources to launch mass spam links attacks on all the sites they are emailing.

If this spammer does create bad links to your site, Google will likely be able to detect them and ignore them automatically without penalizing you. Google ignores spammy links far more often than they hand out penalties.

If Google does manually penalize your site because of this spammer's links, there are ways to deal with that. You would:

  1. File a reconsideration request explaining the situation and citing this email.
  2. Use the disavow links tool to tell Google which back links were created by this spammer.

It says not to report this to Google, but that is probably the smartest thing you could do. The way to do so is explained here. There should be no way the spammer would know that you reported them, so it should be totally safe to do so.

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We just received a very similar email and I believe it's promoting medical articles on sites like healthline and medicalnewstoday.

There's a whole discussion about this on Reddit at: https://www.reddit.com/r/PublicRelations/comments/mq04jx/pr_extortion/

There are other instances of this email which can be found in WordPress blogs as comments and on school phishing notices.

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