I have a problem similiar to this one - thousands of incoming links that go to nonexisting pages. The difference is that all of them include adult content of some sort in the URL. I am worried about search engines filtering our website based on this if I just redirect all of them with a 301. Is it possible?

All of the links are coming from a domain that belongs to a competitor of mine and I think he wants to discredit our company/service since we are very well placed in searches about our industry. Any suggestions what I should do? Can we take legal actions against this?

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    I would have said you certainly don't want to 301 these to a real page. IMO a 404 is preferable. These are sites that you don't want to be associated with. I'm not convinced that the advice given in the linked question is good, since it is only stated later in a comment that the inbound links are in fact from "dodgy sites", which seems to have been misinterpreted/overlooked?! You could also consider disavowing these links (the domain that they are originating from). – MrWhite Feb 24 '14 at 18:02
  • I second w3ds advice. A 301 tells search engines that these urls exist (so they will probably punishment, at least for duplicate content). If these are Urls to non-existant pages you should mark them as such (i.e. send a 404). – Eike Pierstorff Feb 24 '14 at 20:18
  • Bit of an aside, but... if they are really trying to discredit you, why aren't they linking to your actual content, rather than non-existent pages (URLs that have presumably never existed)? Also, the fact that they are linking from just a single domain, that you have determined they own would also seem to be a bit of a mistake on their part. (I'm sure that if you can easily determine the owner (and relationship) of the domain, so can Google.) – MrWhite Feb 24 '14 at 21:06

Domains change hands all the time, so links that are no longer able to be crawled will eventually be removed from search engine indexes, as Google indicates here:

Google updates its entire index regularly. When we crawl the web, we automatically find new pages, remove outdated links, and reflect updates to existing pages, keeping the Google index fresh and as up-to-date as possible.

You shouldn't use a 301 to redirect them however, since you'd be indicating to search engines that they permanently moved - lots of spammy working links pointing to your site might result in a penalty. Instead, you should return a 410 Gone to indicate that:

the resource requested is no longer available and will not be available again. This should be used when a resource has been intentionally removed and the resource should be purged. Upon receiving a 410 status code, the client should not request the resource again in the future. Clients such as search engines should remove the resource from their indices.

As Google indicates here, a 410 tells the Googlebot that the requested URL is invalid and won't be available again. URLs that don't return this may not fall out of their index until other pages stop linking to them (like you think your competitor might be doing).

You can also use the disavow links and webpage removal tools available through search engines, like this one from Google. As indicated there:

If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.

If you have a strong inkling that your competitor is indeed behind this, a diplomatically worded letter may be enough. If not, a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney would likely dissuade them from pursuing that further.

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    I have learned that a letter from an attorney is often the best first step if and when you know for a fact that bad behavior exists. Attorneys are tactful as a strategy. A letter from an attorney puts them on notice that a serious step has been taken and that a liability exists. – closetnoc Feb 25 '14 at 2:32

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