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Is charging for link removal blackmail?

Gareth Cartman

Many years ago, a client of ours was with an SEO company who did the old article marketing tactic. And who can blame them, it worked.

However, today it’s a different story, and a manual penalty has been applied to the client. We sent an irate message to Google, explaining that hundreds of links had already been removed, and their reply was:

Ahhh, but you haven’t removed THESE THREE links have you? - http://craparticlelink.info - http://reallyshittyarticlelink... - http://appallinglybadarticlesi...

Ah well, you know, Google, you can’t remove every link. No.

But let’s have another go, shall we? So we contacted the three examples, as well as sending Google a list of the hundreds of links that have been removed. And here’s what we got back from the webmaster:

Hi Gareth, I’ve removed this article. Your client obviously had a paid link building campaign in place. There are still 36 articles with links to yourclient.co.uk. Normally I charge $5 per article for removal. This week I’m running a special and will only charge 1/2 that. So, 36 X $2.50 = $90 USD You can make your payment to “admin@myshittydomain.com“at PayPal.com. Use the Tab - “Send Money”. The rest is pretty simple. Thanks, Owner Of An Article Marketing Site

Aw, bless. He wants some money. And he’s running a “Special”. Wow... it really must be my lucky day.

Well, of course he wants some money. It’s not his fault that some SEO company decided to place 36 articles on the one site (and even back then, how was that a good idea?)

To be fair to him, it will take him time to remove these articles - potentially 5 minutes to get into the backend system, and another 5 minutes to find articles posted by this company and remove them. So that’s 10 minutes work - $90. Let’s give him another 5 for some coffee.

I can’t blame him for asking. I’d do the same. Time is money.

But we’re not paying. Instead, we’ve sent his e-mail to Google asking them whether, in their infinite wisdom, we should be paying people for removing links, or whether we should be using that budget for creating “great content”.

We’re being facetious of course. And Google won’t rise to the bait - they never do. But there’s a particularly valid point in regards to Google’s application of penalties here - how far back do you want to look when you’re applying penalties? If a company has long since stopped gaming the system, and has focused relentlessly for years on creating masses of helpful content, tools and resources, which are linked to from lots of authority websites, then should you still apply a penalty?

The answer, in any real world, is no. Despite all of Google’s talk about cracking down on spam, it still simply isn’t good enough at differentiating between persistent spam and historic spam.

Google still rewards companies who spin articles written by outsourced companies in Asia because it still doesn’t have a grip on webspam. I believe they’re only at about 10% of the potential of Penguin.

I believe one day it will do, but for now, Google doesn’t know what it’s doing. That’s great for black hats, and that’s great for the article marketers who are finally able to cash in on their ancient article marketing sites, even at half price.