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I've been getting to many of these emails:

My name is John Doe web manager of www.somewebsite. This is our 3rd and final request to you to remove links from your website to ours. If we don't succeed in having this actioned we are left with no choice but to DISAVOW links from your site to ours via Google's Webmaster Tools platform and also at the same time advise Google of this in our reconsideration request to them. As I am sure you are aware this could potentially be detrimental to your website which we do not want to happen.

Because I have a lot of user generated content, I really can't handle such requests (too time consuming). Can this potentially hurt my rankings? Should I pay special attention to take care of these requests?

  • 12
    It could be worth adding rel="nofollow" to user-generated links be default. – Andrew Lott Nov 18 '14 at 13:51
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    Whilst using the nofollow link relationship for UGC is quite common/normal, in our experience, it won't stop the amount of people contacting them and demanding the link be removed. – zigojacko Nov 18 '14 at 14:06
  • That could be made into a nice "attack" model: aaa.com kindly asks bbb.com to mutually link so that each o fthem advertises for the other, gaining benefit for both. Then aaa.com secretly disavows links from bbb.com – Hagen von Eitzen Nov 18 '14 at 17:10
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    I answer these requests with a "since this is your fault for using nasty SEO tactics in the past to shit all over my website, I'm happy to fix your mess for you as requested for $100/hour". – ceejayoz Nov 18 '14 at 17:59
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    Are these links linking to whole pages from the other site, or select elements (e.g. videos)?. Because if it is the first, what's their problem? And if it is the second, they can prevent hot-linking on their end... – thkala Nov 19 '14 at 11:13
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I would say no. And this question has been asked on Google webmaster forums and the response was:

Having URLs from your website submitted in their disavow file will not cause any problems for your website. One might assume that they are just trying to pressure you. If the comment links they pointed to you are comment-spam that was left by them (or by someone working in their name) on your website, perhaps they are willing to help cover the work involved in cleaning their spam up?

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I really wouldn't worry. Google can't rely on the genuineness and accuracy of user generated disavow lists to blacklist/penalise domains on the internet. At present, if your domain ends up on a website's disavow list, this just tells Google that website does not trust (or can't vouch for) the link from your website to theirs and to subsequently not factor in the weight (whether positive or negative) when determining the value of links to your domain.

Whether Google does something further if a domain/URL ends up on X amount of disavow lists is another question though and I wouldn't doubt for one second that they'll issue a penalty of some nature if many website owners are disavowing the same source.

  • Well, the quote above "not cause any problem" from a Google employee should rule out the concern made in the second paragraph. The attack method I described in a comment to the question could easily be adjusted to such kind of penalty. – Hagen von Eitzen Nov 18 '14 at 17:12

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