After Cancellation Notice, Offshore SEO Company Threatens Negative Reputation Management Campaign

A company received a smear campaign threat from its outsourced SEO firm because the firm knows Google’s algorithm improperly ranks negative results, which Google claims helps to show an impartial view of the Web.

Reference this e-mail and tell me if you’d rather hire offshore to save a few dollars or go with a reputable SEO company that can provide you with skilled SEO link builders and an on-going professional relationship.

This is in response to a request to cancel services for a month-to-month service offering:

negative online reputation campaign

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The legal nature of these tactics is questionable in the United States, but hiring an offshore firm doesn’t provide you the same protection from a “Negative Reputation Campaign.”

It’s unbelievable that an SEO company would put its own reputation on the line with such an e-mail because a client has decided to go with another SEO firm. I’ve seen these tactics for more than a decade in both Web design/development and SEO, and its extremely unfortunate.

A couple weeks ago, Google tweaked their algorithm to penalize DecorMyEyes.com after the NY Times published an article discussing their alleged fraudulent business practices that resulted in supposed increased Google rankings.

Bottom line: Google took action! They need to continue that effort with sites like RipOffReport.com, ComplaintsBoard.com, Scam.com and other sites that obtain very high positions in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and seem to be favored by Google’s algorithm.

When searching for brand names, you often see negative complaints published on these URLs at the top of the SERPs. I would understand seeing these URLs with negative information showing up in the SERPs for searches like:

  • Brand name scam
  • Brand name sucks
  • Brand name complaints
  • Brand name problems
  • And other keyword combinations based around negative terms

But when a brand name is the sole keyword and a complaint site URL is showing up #2, there is most likely an imbalance of credibility with Google’s algorithm that gives the complaint site the advantage.

Keep in mind the backlink portfolio to the URLs listed do not warrant a #2 ranking, nor does Google agree that a similarly credible website should rank for every brand in the world with little more than a brand name displayed in a page title, header tag and content body. At least Google’s love affair with Wikipedia can be argued that Wikipedia’s deep pages obtain thousands of links individually and therefore deserve a top ranking.

What did I miss in this post and plea to Google to do the right thing? Please comment and share.



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17 Comments

  1. says

    Seriously? Sure seems like a waste of resources on the part of the offshore D-bags. It’s a serious threat, but it would cost money unnecessarily on their part to follow through. Any reports of SEO companies actually following through?

    • Ash Buckles says

      Agreed. I don’t think it’s about “wasting” resources to them. I believe it’s more about hoping to threaten clients into continuing to contract.

  2. says

    I am certain that 99% of offshore SEO firms do not use this type of force to keep clients, but you are correct that a US company using their services will have little to no recourse against such acts.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said “…tell me if you’d rather hire offshore to save a few dollars or go with a reputable SEO company…” I really want to know how much money they saved and whether it was worth the trouble that they’re now trying to avoid.

    • Ash Buckles says

      You’re right in that most offshore companies do not operate this way. I’ve personally worked with offshore contractors and had some great experiences.

      I can’t answer your question about how much was saved but the risk is greater than money saved. I wanted to share this experience so it can be (hopefully) avoided by others.

  3. Alan Bleiweiss says

    sure wish you’d left the details on that offshore company. Feel free to send that to me by email – or get it from the person who received it then send it to me… :-)

  4. Clark says

    I cannot agree more with the sentiment that Google needs to stop giving so much love to complaint sites–especially those with shady practices.

    While I agree with AJ that there’s probably not too much chance the unnamed company follows through with a full blown version of the threatened smear campaign, it doesn’t take too much time and effort to post a couple complaints that will almost immediately start being ranked.

    The scary thing about this is it isn’t just “offshore d-bags” that can engage in this type of nefarious activity. I’ve had to deal with smear campaigns from unscrupulous competitors in the past and even dishonest customers looking for a payoff. I’ve also heard of bitter employees who were fired or let go trying to take it out on their former employer by false whistle blowing or made up complaints on these sites.

    I have no problem with giving customers an avenue for legitimate complaints; in fact, I think it’s a great thing if done right (like the BBB). However, it cannot be completely one sided and it shouldn’t be given preference in SERPs. Many of these complaint sites know the power they have and try to use it to their advantage. In fact, after being the target of a competitor smear campaign on Rip-Off Report, a company I used to work for was contacted by Rip-Off report who let us know that if we participated in their “reputation management program,” they would remove the complaints. We really didn’t even have to do anything to prove the complaints were false. The catch? The reputation management program was an exorbitant amount of money.

    If that’s their business model, what’s to stop them from posting the complaints themselves? In fact, it’s been alleged that they have. I know this is a long comment, but having dealt with it in the past I’m passionate about this issue.

    If these sites are the self proclaimed corporate guard dogs, perhaps we need, like Roman poet Juvenal, to ask “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who will guard the guards themselves?). While it may not be fair to ask Google to play that role, I do think it’s fair to ask them to keep the playing field level in the SERPs. As long as it’s easier to rank for negative reputation terms, the market will remain open to the type of extortion and blackmail you point out in your article. C’mon Google, don’t be evil!

  5. Matt Saunders says

    This is unbelievable. The company probably cancelled the contract in the first place because the “SEO company” were completely useless. This isn’t even a tactic; I wonder how morons like this even manage to enter business in the first place, with such poor ideas.

    Hopefully Google will find a way around this, though I’m not sure how.

  6. Tommy Bussey says

    Hey Ash, in regards to your comment above, “Agreed. I don’t think it’s about “wasting” resources to them. I believe it’s more about hoping to threaten clients into continuing to contract.”

    I totally agree with you, and would like to add that there’s no way these cheap, desperate overseas workers would waste time with a smear campaign.

    This is an attempt at client-contractor cyber bullying that shouldn’t be ignored, but also not feared. IMHO

  7. Sher Singh says

    I think it is much better to go with professional SEO company and offshore companies are doing well in the field of SEO.

  8. Jan Smith says

    This sounds like a disgusting way to ‘win’ friends and influence people. Lawyers won’t do any good unless you pay a Kings ransom to them to try with little chance of success I fear.

    These websites should be named and shamed openly to warn others of their business philosophy and practice.

  9. says

    ridiculous!! they were probably a dumb SEO company. i run an SEO firm myself in india, we would never do such a silly thing.

    honestly, i would like the name of the company to be publicised, that way, people would keep away from them!

  10. says

    Like the other thread commenters I am supprised to say the least. What an outrageous position to put yourself in, I wonder if in this case the saying “all press is good press” still applies?

    Regards
    Isaac

  11. LF says

    This is very true!

    In fact we were considering joining ripoffreport (a cool $5000) just because SEO wise Google favored them.

    I understand the original gesture at trying to create a balance of opinions, but that’s an imbalance in itself.

    I agree that the name of such companies should be publicized. In fact we have had several issues with companies hacking other sites and posting fake pages with links to their sites from .edu sites!!!

    I sent emails to several webmasters about the hacking (there were 900!) and no action no reply!

    I think search engine optimization is a legitimate endeavor, and if search engines want to keep it that way they need to establish a valid enforcer which will respond to inquiries and complaints as they were illegal matters (in fact in their world it is!).

  12. says

    I am sure that Google’s algorithm was built to offer consumers a full view of the perspectives that people have about a particular company but, this is where Google goes too far.

    Rather than providing the most relevant content, Google defines what they feel SHOULD be relevant- in this case, they artificially boost negative sites.

    This goes beyond ‘best search experience’ and smacks of anti-business advocacy. I am sure that they have good intentions but perspective is relative and many users are getting an unfair perspective of an organization only because Google feels that the consumer MUST have this information.

    Again, they seem to have great intentions but this has created a scenario where sites with a dubious origination (rippoffreports.com et al) can promote questionable content from anonymous posters and be used as a tool by unscrupulous SEO companies to generate revenue through blackmail.

    In summary, the problems are:
    1) Online thugs (including ripoffreports, malicious but anonymous posters, bad corporations that deserve to be exposed, and creepy SEO’s).
    2) Google subsiding content to offer a contrary view to a search for an organization.

    The reality is that online thugs will never go away. Therefore, much the solution lies with Google (with the exception of the corporations that deserve to be exposed). In this case, a well intentioned portion of an algorithm is more about an agenda than it is about the best search experience.

  13. Ash Buckles says

    Wow. Thanks for all the comments while I was away on holiday. There seems to be a lot of frustration over this type of activity as I would expect. My purpose here is to warn of the possibilities but to avoid naming names.

  14. says

    Robert,

    I’m sorry to hear this. I wish it were more difficult to smear a reputation online but Google defends their stance on trying to “give users a variety of results.” It’s far too easy to associate a brand/name with negative keywords.

    You have a great looking site with information and credibility indicators. Building our your social profiles for your name & brand will be a great place to turn for continued reputation management.

    • Robert Olivier says

      Thanks Ash. You are right. Going to ignore it as much as I can and work on the positive. Honestly, i think if i would have kept them on as my seo company, they would have done just as much damage. I used to have a page rank of 5 and now I’m down to a 3. They blame google for changing the algorithm and keep referring to google panda or something.

      However when google webmaster tools tell me that there are 595 links comming from the same domain (jims-blog.com). Then it’s start becoming obvious who is to blame for my poor SEO performance. Or am i incorrect in assuming this? Ever since I cancelled my service with them the site jims-blog.com has gone dead. That doesn’t mean they damaged me.

      anyway. I’m still looking for good SEO work and I figured that using smart talent from abroad was the way to go. I guess you get what you pay for. sad :(

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