Backtracking on Backlinks

I appreciate comments, and, as you can see from my comment policy, I try to reward commenters. This is a DoFollow blog, I use plugins to provide backlinks to commenters, I reply to all comments, and once a month I compile a thank-you list of commenters.

As a result of a recent change in Google’s secret formulas, websites are being penalized for having too many links with perfect anchor text. Note that when someone leaves a comment, he or she determines the anchor text for their link. I have nothing to do with that choice, and in the thank-you list I use the title of the website or blog rather than anchor text. So I am not responsible for the perfect anchor text left with the comment. And, of course, a link or two from my little blog wouldn’t make any difference in a site’s  Google ranking.

But now websites and blogs with many backlinks from sites that aren’t relevant to their subject matter are being penalized for spammy backlinks. So I have received a number of requests (or in some cases demands) to remove the backlinks from my site. I recognize that Google’s rules change. A company may have hired someone to leave comments on blogs in the past for the backlinks, but now what they did in good faith at the time is hurting them with Google. So I am willing to remove links upon request, but I think it’s reasonable to expect two things from anyone requesting that links be removed: a courteous request that doesn’t accuse me of spam or copyright infringement and specific locations of the links to be removed.

Here are a couple of examples of emails I have received on this topic in the last few weeks:

Wow, more bad news from Google…

Apparently our website has fallen victim of a “negative SEO” campaign. Basically from what I understand is people build backlinks in large quantities so that Google thinks that you are trying to cheat them and thus penalize your website.

That’s basically all I understood about it but was told by our consultant that we’ll need to remove all of the backlinks created in the past few years so that we can file a reconsideration with Google.

Well, here’s to us trying to do that. If you can help us remove all backlinks pointed to it would help us a ton. From the tools we used to check backlinks we noticed backlinks on the following URLs of your website: <specific URLs detailed where comments were left>.

By removing the backlinks you’ll help us remove a penalty that was instituted because someone was trying to kill our Google rankings. We know this sounds crazy and we still are trying to figure out how this happened.

I was happy to remove these links quickly and cheerfully. This webmaster is bewildered by Google’s penalty because he or she obviously was not intentionally engaging in “black hat” SEO practices. He or she politely asked me to remove the links and told me exactly where they were.

Contrast that with this demand sent to my web host and copied to me. Note that I have changed the URLs for privacy:

We own the copyright: ( A website that your company hosts (according to WHOIS information) is infringing on at least one copyright.
A comment was copied onto your servers without permission. The original comment(s), to which we own the URL copyright to, can be found at:
The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at: To find the exact instance, you can search the source code of that specific page using “buy-our-junk-today” to find the comment using our URL/Website Address.

This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.

This was followed by several paragraphs of legalese explaining to my web host that they had to make sure I removed the infringing material…blah, blah, blah.

Of course, I immediately removed the link as I certainly don’t want to link to anyone who doesn’t want the link. Yet being accused of copyright infringement for approving a comment with anchor text provided by the commenter kept me from doing it cheerfully and made the whole situation unpleasant. There was no reason to get legalistic, complain to my web host, and accuse me of copyright infringement. A polite request would have achieved the same result without ill feelings. You can bet that I will never buy-[his]-junk.

Have you fallen victim to Google’s recent policy change—either being accused of negative SEO or being asked to remove links that others left on your site with comments or guest posts? If so, how have you handled the situation?

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