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Understanding Google and Negative SEO Against Attorneys

Table of Contents:

Learn about how blog networks will kill your rankings

Michael Ehline Speaks on Content Networks aka PBN’s.

By Michael Ehline – First, let me apologize for not posting anything new or exciting recently on the Circle of Legal Trust blog.  I have been swamped trying to thwart incessant negative SEO attacks against our law firm’s website. In the process, I believe we have come up with an approach for identifying who some of the/our attacker(s) is/are.  So now you have a chance to win the skirmishes and battles. All this is to prevent evil to your brand.

Unfortunately, the war can never truly be won until Google disallows bad actors from harming the search results for top ranking sites. Until then, there will always be an environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt for those accustomed to Google’s more stable algorithm of the past.

So for most lawyers like me, it is no accident that you fell on this aggressive attorney’s treatise on this more and more popular topic. A few bad votes from bad neighborhoods can easily cost your position on Google.

The Discussion and Test Site Will Be About https://ehlinlelaw.com/ A Statewide Personal Injury Firm Based In So Cal

The Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, is a personal injury attorney firm brand based in Los Angeles, CA. The domain has been live for about eight years on the www. Most of our clients are car accidents, cruise ship, and motorcycle injuries, victims. Primarily these customers live in the Northern and Southern California judicial districts.

When we lose a position for those above terms, it affects our ability to meet our bottom line. Since assisting seriously injured victims is what we do, we were ill-prepared for the havoc of post-April of 2012. As one of the first 5000 or so members of Google Plus, we were already engaging in social media.

So before Penguin broke, we had already created a brain trust of top-ranking attorneys on Google Plus. Eventually, the outcome of these efforts evolved into the Circle of Legal Trust. Now, our site and others are starting to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Penguin. Now enter the advent of aggressive, negative SEO.

Here, we will discuss the tools that your law firm should be using to find malicious linking to your right site. Then we get into obtaining contact information about the attackers (not always possible). Afterward, we look at spotting patterns, link spikes, and poor quality sites, both law-related and non-specific sites.

I will also cover how to get rid of the wrong links. Some you may have intentionally or unintentionally built to your law website.


I am also proposing the creation of an index of suspected negative SEO networks. So now we can have a blacklist to quickly identify bad links and bad link networks. (we will include a link to our current “Google Links Disavow List” at the bottom resources later today.)  So get me your disavow lists.  And let’s compare notes and share. That way, we attorneys can help each other take down these negative SEO networks.

So moving along. Any law firm that keeps getting loaded up with “exact match” anchors from “low-quality sites” needs to read this comprehensive treatise. Who knows, maybe Google will do something about this if enough of us legal beagles start spreading our tragic stories.

Why The Circle of Legal Trust?

The Circle of Legal Trust has different levels of membership. The attorneys in the highest levels are the ones who want to take control of their online presence, need to have their finger on the pulse of search, especially when it comes to an understanding the semantic web.

The attorneys at the top-level become mentors to the newer attorneys seeking to get the “Law Degree” in Attorney Search. Our terms of use and rules, among other things , mirror the Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Quality Guidelines.

A Loose Confederation of Lawyers

As a collective of lawyers, we can act as watchdogs both when it comes to what the search engines are up to, and help oversee each others’ websites when evildoers are attempting to manipulate Google’s constant changes to harm us. We don’t want people linking to our sites unless it is a legitimate vote, earned through a trusting relationship.

I know, for example, that when injury attorney, Anthony Castelli, links to my Gplus profile, or our firm site, that it was not a “guest post,” or some other artificial link. It was not an attempt to manipulate Google’s rankings. Still, instead, it was because he trusts me, he knows I understand attorney search and the quality guidelines and feels confident he is not linking out to a bad neighborhood.

Voluntary Linking?

He knows my firm, and I have an excellent reputation for recovering significant monetary verdicts and settlements. Yet, I still make time to strengthen the public perception of the legal profession by my volunteer work with the Circle of Legal Trust.

So if he wants to link to our law firm voluntarily, he chooses the topic and anchor text, not me, and all I do is just be me. It is a real vote, and I did not even need to campaign for it.  It was just me.

Light Years Ahead

Since COLT members are collectively light years ahead of most other attorneys in their web rankings, we all become unsuspecting [till now] targets of unsavory SEO companies. Often they may have clients (other attorneys we compete with). So those who lost a lot of rankings when Google got smarter about detecting bogus and manipulative links.

As we continuously improve, they do a few negative SEO attacks. And we disappear or lose rank. So the SEO people these firms may be paying, charge from $500. Or maybe even $10,000 per month.  To keep a windfall of money like that coming in, these SEO people need to show results to keep that unjust enrichment coming in.

Even the law firm’s in house SEO people have to find a way to recover from Penguin FAST. So they will be picketing a McDonald’s for a pay increase for flipping burgers lickety split. And since it is so hard to get a natural link on a contextually related, themed site, why not just spam people? So pay someone a few dollars to blast a bunch of wrong links to each competing site on page 1.


The Nixon doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.D.) is alive and well. Why is that? So for example, you scale your client’s site back onto page 1 using NSEO against your competitor. Sure, it will probably ignite a war of mutually assured destruction.

After all, every firm on page one will start firing back at the firm that took over page 1. But who cares, so long as you can show a flow chart that your firm’s site popped back up and keep that check coming in.

So while it is a blessing to rank well on Google, and have a group of trusted attorneys who have vetted each other giving each other a helping hand, many SEO companies exist and other bad actors.

And they would rather pay $5 bucks to someone to blast one of our sites with bad links from Xrumer, for example. So now, they can trash your site and pop up above your site. All this, rather than engage in proper online ranking strategies. Getting this so far? If you can knock out the first page firms, and you are at the top of page 2, you go back to page 1. Simple!

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Ranking on Google

So eternal vigilance in tracking your incoming links is now a mandatory, daily job, unless and until Google closes the negative SEO floodgate.  I, for one, as a Google stockholder, am extremely dissatisfied that Google allows quality sites to be destroyed by negative SEO essentially.

But at least Google has provided the ability for aggressive, vigilant attorneys to recover and defeat negative SEO. But only if you have the time, desire, and it is affordable. Or you may simply ego-driven to be the best, like me, you can stave off some of the effects of negative SEO.

Tough Choices

For now, many attorneys face two stark choices: (1) Watch your site like a hound and battle spam and malware attacks daily; (2) Invest more money into Pay Per Click and give up on the organic search altogether. For those of us who ignore PPC when we search Google, we strongly see the value in a powerful organic presence and brand and look at PPC as an adjunct to fill in the blanks if we don’ get what we want organically or via Google+.

Thinner Wallets

Unfortunately, now the money we would have spent on PPC is being used to pay off negative SEO sites that blackmail us. And other resources must now be used to pay dedicated staff members to locate bad links. So now our attorneys may eat up billable hours doing DMCA takedowns. Policing sites that are hurting, and scraping us isn’t something we should have to do.

So although PPC use does seem to increase when Google tweaks the organic algo, the bid prices are now so high, that we now must focus all our energies in getting back our organic rankings. We have to use our other resources as a mobile fire brigade.

Our PPC budget is now eaten up entirely – and some – by our efforts to eliminate or reduce the negative SEO. So this is a story I hear more and more from larger firms, and why I am writing this piece. So while I support getting rid of spam, etc., and I like PPC  (It is has doubled my stock values since Penguin was released :-).

Do I Want to Rely Upon PPC?

I do not want to rely 100% on it, nor do I solely rely upon organic search. But now I am seeing a mass exodus of attorneys in my circles, from Google PPC moving to Bing and Yahoo Paid Search! Stories range from “it looks like Google is trying to force us into PPC with these algo changes.”

Or it could be “with the increased bid prices, despite using Google PPC for 15 or more years, we could not afford it. And the leads were lower and lower quality” as PPC became more competitive and expensive.)

PPC as a Last Resort Till You’re Broke?

I could be wrong, but it seems like Penguin, in particular, has made Google PPC a churn and burn tool. I mean, firms are trying to save their Google ships from sinking. In the end, they spend whatever money they had left and felt that they had to give up or were being “Scroogled.”

Stock Prices are Going Up!

Whatever the reasons, numbers don’t lie, my Google stocks have doubled, and I am going to do whatever Google says to do, and go with the program.  Once I commit, I am in it for the long haul. Below is an example of how you can kill your competitors.

Example.  Attorney A, B, C rank ok in organic. As in number 1, B is number 3, and C is at the top of page 2. Attorney C knocks out A and B from organic SERPS with negative SEO and rises above their old slots and maybe takes slot 3, or 4.

Attorney C takes over the first-page organic slots and A and B, for what amounts to $45.00 worth of bad links. Attorney A and B are now forced to bid entirely all their marketing budget against thousands of other people who have Higher PPC Quality Scores, whose sites are specifically optimized for PPC conversions and placements.

A and B spend $50.00 per click for several months, and get low-quality calls and leads and are even bidding on negative keywords they didn’t want and have to block, and simultaneously risk blocking a word they wish to bid upon.

They Gave Up?

A and B scrap their web sites (just give up) and spend 50k a month for a few months on Google PPC, using up their entire yearly marketing budget in two months. The leads they do get from PPC are not at the same quality level as what they had gotten from organic, and they are starting to get angry.  They finally realize that they need to find another way to market online and that Yellow Pages and bus stops are no longer effective.

Many of my friends realized in about June of 2012 that they would, as a matter of budget, have to turn to Bing and Yahoo PPC combined, and are at least able to [still] get some business. They would rather use Google. But now only huge firms can afford PPC.

And SEO “experts” also can constantly attack PPC competitors with highly advanced PPC click farm attacks and control the first page of the organics and PPC.

Fighting Spam and Not Working?

So now you are spending an inordinate amount of time doing click disputes to Google. My attorneys who are active in running their marketing departments at the Circle of Legal Trust have relayed to me that both Yahoo! and Bing are MUCH more likely to honor a click fraud dispute than Google.

So for many of us, assuming we want to be recognized online, we cannot effectively do everything, and none of dare use or trust organic SEO or PPC click management services like Reach Local. In fact, I personally believe that I was deceived by their salespeople in an ongoing dispute, and have the documentation to prove it.

Stark Choices

So we have to make stark choices. I hope that Google will see my evidence below concerning the significant and continuous attacks on our law firms’ site. I hope they look at the actual IP addresses and email addresses, emails, and lists of black sites that are improperly trying to hurt and are hurting our law firm’s organic rankings.

We are also going to show you, the average solo attorney or a small firm with a shingle out, how to get rid of bad links. We know not whether we can demonstrate to Google how their new policies are forcing businesses in a tough economy to focus efforts on defeating attacks, rather than focusing their efforts on adding quality content and improving search results with fresh, quality content.

But we can help you protect yourself. We are just barely surviving, but remain confident. Negative SEO has become so prevalent against our site, and many other legal sites, our main thrust, and the focus of many law firms have gone from getting good links, to removing and stopping the bad links! My how times have changed.

So What is Negative SEO?

Back in January of 2013, I wrote a pretty comprehensive article about negative SEO and lawyers here.  For the purposes of this article, we will try and confine our discussion to bad links. But in reality, it can be achieved by malware attacks, hacking that redirects and cloaks, and any number of other methods discussed here at the bottom.

So for this article, Negative SEO is the process of building bad linking signals to a website, typically the website of a competitor that has risen above your site, for example, in the search engine results position (“SERPS”).

No One Can Harm You? Not Anymore?

Building exact match anchor branded, dirty, or naked anchor links from low-quality sites is the primary and cheapest method. So that is what most evildoers utilize to hurt your rankings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Although in the past (2006), Google had said a competitor couldn’t build bad links to your domain(s).

There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.

Our search results regularly change as we update our index. While we can’t guarantee that any page will consistently appear in our index or appear with a particular rank, we do offer guidelines for maintaining a “crawler-friendly” site. Following these recommendations may increase the likelihood that your site will show up consistently in the Google search results. (Read more here.)

As far as 2006, while although Google admitted that it was possible to take out a website with bad links. But they made clear that this is almost a non-issue. But then, a month or so before the first iteration of Google Penguin, in about March of 2012, Google silently changed its written policies. Now they say that it could now be MORE possible for a bad actor to harm your website.

Google Works Hard?

Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages. (Read more here.)

Penguin Give?

As an attorney, this new language tells me that Google was honest that there would be some more “give” with the new Penguin algo in April of 2012. Interestingly enough, it was right around this same time.

So our main site received a considerable link spike of exact match anchors for terms we already had been number one, page one for years. And these came from a vast network of Indian, Russian and Swiss-based directories and low-quality forums.

So it is almost as if someone on the inside at Google had tipped off some SEO webmasters of a shortcut to number one that was about to be unleashed.

Of course, back then, we didn’t even know about tools like ahrefs, majestic, or MOZ tools. And we rarely used WM tools, and frankly, it was a waste of time, since it does not tell you the individual pages and file extensions where the bad links are.

So we didn’t discover this information as to the dates the massive March 2012 link spikes occurred, until after the first release of Penguin when our site tanked, and desperately searched for, and located effective tools to help us identify negative SEO and bad links in general.

How Do I know If I Lost Organic Ranking

For you noobies, you may already know just by doing a Google search, or from your phone has stopped ringing. But there is an easy way to check your traffic, either by using Google WM Tools or by using any number of the paid tools we discuss in this treatise.

First, think like an attorney and do some reason and deduction. When was the last Penguin update? We know from Google that the last Penguin update was “Penguin 2.1 (#5)”, on October 4, 2013. So let’s look at our traffic flowchart and see what happened to our website here:

DMCA and other takedowns for Penguin

Screenshot of Ehline Law WM Tools

Ok. So from a traffic point of view, we lost about a thousand impressions starting on October 4-5 and lost about 30 real clicks a day, until about October 8, which saw a sharp increase in traffic and then in started to fluctuate. As of today, it is down down down, and that has coincided with a steady flow of exact match anchors from foreign language porn and Cialis sites. Unfortunately for us, the traffic we are now getting is not for what we are selling, but for our how to become a lawyer with no law school tutorial on our site.

You see, we have great content. And we get traffic from all over the place. (Social signals, past clients link to us from their blogs, Circle of Legal Trust interactions, etc.). So this chart by no means represents just organic search impressions for our valued terms to keep our business alive.

So any net increase in traffic displaced our keyword terms, and other tools like Serpfox, show we fell off the map for terms like ”

Los Angeles car accident attorneys

, “and ”

Los Angeles personal injury attorneys

” compared to where we were before (Page 1, Slot 1, to page 3.)

Based on the timing and history of the Negative SEO links to our site, we see a direct relationship. So using the WM tools chart is not an exclusive factor in making our determination that Penguin is hurting us big time. The sharp drop in business and money terms and timing of the releases say yes, it was Penguin.

Other Factors that May Explain Our Apparent, Sudden Bounce Back In Traffic But Not For Search Terms

As soon as we heard Penguin was released in 2012, my team went to work and watched our SERPS. We started reading articles about “link dilution.” Interestingly, we discovered that the various link detection tools were only being used by big SEO companies.

After using these excellent tools, we made the history of our domain. Next, we identified a massive spike in our BL profile for links containing the terms “accident” and “car accident.” And, using tools like SERPFOX, we were able to see that we lost rankings for all those same terms post-Penguin.

Giving Up To Get Back

So we stopped adding valuable content, stopped researching ways to make a PPC campaign more effective. And we even canceled client meetings. After that we went back to work on our site. We spent several days doing DMCA Takedowns. (and still are doing them almost weekly). And we began putting site owners and hosting companies on legal notice. And for all harmful sites pointing to our domain, we did a disavow, not just a DMCA.

With the most recent Penguin, we dipped again and spotted a new attack that almost would have been overlooked by us, had Eric Enge not told us about foreign language sites. We found that digger deeper into these sites, that although they look English, they are French, Russian, etc.

Doubling Efforts?

So we doubled our efforts. Amazingly, within a few weeks of doing this x 2, starting around October 29, 2013, it started working. Shockingly, we began to see our rankings return A LITTLE.

Eric Enge said in our Las Vegas seminar that we have to wait to recover, until the next Penguin update. My only theories are that Google recently changed their recovery policy to be more dynamic. So it went back to like it used to be in the happy times. But perhaps Penguin was still running. And maybe it noticed that many of these bad links had been shed during the algo run.

A Consistent, Unrelenting Negative SEO Attack is Akin to Plugging a Dam With Your Fingers

Plug it

Plug the dam – Not

The bottom line, since April of 2012, we have been in a constant battle with negative SEO. When we get links taken down, we move up. When a new attack begins, we go down. So we are probably not the best example site since there has not been a period where we have been bad link free. It is akin to plugging a dam with your fingers.

You plug one hole with your finger and a new leak springs in another area of the dam. But we are an example of a site that is spending time trying to defeat attacks. So rather than better our site (but isn’t cleaning bad links bettering your site?), we are defending NSEO assaults. So this is probably the best explanation as to why we have not disappeared altogether. Who knows?

So What is an Exact Match Anchor?

As you probably guessed from reading above, an exact match anchor is simply a string of keywords. So it could be: “Personal Injury Attorney,” “Car Accident Lawyer,” or some other set of words. The key is that searchers commonly use them to find an “injury lawyer,” for example, when they type a search query into Google.

But it could even be a single word like “Accident.” It used to be the case that the more exact match anchors you had to your site for the same term, the higher it would rank for that specific term. (See also “Google Bomb. “). But even as far back as 2006, it was known that a link from a blacklisted, or porn site, would probably hurt your site – but rarely did.

During the time, Google had been striving to give more credit to themed, contextually related external sites, and basically seemed to treat links from non-themed sites in more of a neutral fashion.

When Penguin was finally released in April of 2012, it sought, inter alia, to identify too many exact match anchors to your site as unnatural. And it reduced the rankings and value of both the sending and receiving site. It worked(s) in tandem with Panda.

Testing Doesn’t Lie

Based upon our testing, if your link is on an over-optimized site, even if it is NOT an exact match money term, you still get punished. Google says it is not a penalty, but an algorithm change from which you can recover.

In fact, Google even sent out notices via Webmaster Tools, informing many site owners that they had unnatural appearing links. So they could have a chance to restore their site’s value by getting the crappy links removed. But many people were unable to get many of these now “unnatural” links taken down.

Naturally Obtained

After all, they were naturally obtained. And the parties linking back either refused to remove them, or wanted to be paid, or simply did not respond to multiple removal requests.

There was no link disavowal tool yet for Google, and Bing already had one of their own, beating Google to the punch.  While Google debated internally on a disavow tool, Matt Cutts said that some webmasters might be better off trashing their poorly linked sites, and starting over!

If you’ve cleaned and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site, Matt Cutts said.

Reading some of the comments on the site link above containing that quote, webmasters and site owners were none too happy, and they almost universally and desperately called for a Google “links disavow tool,” and even for Matt Cutts’ very head.

Low Value Sites Taking Over?

In the meantime, Wikipedia and new, one or two-page sites with little to no links started to dominate the first page results for major keyword searches. And many businesses who relied upon their search presence went under or had to lay people off. So strategies had to be developed to get rid of bad links and recover.

Many started over from scratch. I am proud to say that Circle of Legal Trust led the Herculean effort at saving our members’ branded, time tested sites.

Google’s Official Position – Negative SEO is It’s “Rare”

Matt Cutts, Google’s representative, has said that negative SEO is “rare”. Considering there are millions of sites and only ten or so organic slots on page one, I agree. But I disagree that it is rare as to those previously top ranking sites that have been blasted to the back page of Google.

I have personally felt and am still feeling the effects of Negative SEO on our brand and our law firm. We have consistently been on page one for many key terms and phrases for at least seven (7) years, and even have maintained a PageRank Six (6), for several years.

It was not until these huge link spikes, and foreign blog networks started to blast us with exact match anchors in about March of 20012, that we suffered. We no longer enjoyed the “Glückliche Zeiten “.  Advances in spamming technology made it far more possible than ever for your boat to get sunk. And we have all seen many first page companies fall.

Even doing a cursory backlinks check on personal injury attorney websites that historically had used to be on page one, I have seen this same pattern.

Too Many Same Match Anchors?

Tons of exact match anchors were blasted to their sites starting right around March of 2012, right before Penguin, Panda, and Hoard hit. What surprised me more, is that it appeared that many of the sites that ended up taking over those ten slots on page one, emanated from legal blog networks, such as Findlaw’s Firmsites.

Enter the Negative SEO Industry

There are also numerous reports of other non attorney sites getting hit and disappearing, as well as documented tests proving how easy it is to destroy a high ranking website for $45.00. A whole new industry of negative SEO companies has arisen, using old directories and blog networks that used to do well in Google, to link out to your site to hurt you in Google.

They do it, so you will pay them to remove the links (aka blackmail/extortion). And this gets done to help your competitors hurt your site. They even will have a link to Paypal to remove the link on the “contact us” page. Genius! (I will show you some screenshots below along with an estimate on how much it has cost us to pay for removals of our links from sites we never asked to be in)

And of course, around that, a whole new industry of “link removal” has risen up like a phoenix. So if it is so rare, why does it cost me and others hundreds of thousands of dollars to deal with? How can you focus on building a quality site, when all your efforts are now focused on keeping what you have?

The Mantra?

The Google mantra became: Really good sites would get natural links and you should be fine.  But as Pot Pie Girl correctly pointed out, and I will prove in this article, beyond the intentional negative SEO, there is indirect negative SEO. “You get scraped, copied, syndicated, spammed, and so on and so on. Those perfect sites that linked to the original article and your post also get scraped, copied, syndicated, and spammed as well.” [Emphasis.] (View Source.)

So, in my opinion, negative SEO hurts Google’s reputation and bottom line, and it hurts primarily people who were on page one. Sure more people turn to PPC. But the keyword bid prices for law firms are so high, many stops using it soon after that.

In any event, why would somebody do negative SEO on a site that was on page 3 of Google? Of course, it’s “rare.” It can be the result of unintended acts, as well as intentional acts by third parties.

AND from a site owner intentionally spamming Google. The algo does not discriminate. So is it fair to let sites get wiped out from these attacks? Wiser legal minds than mine could answer that:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” (Sir William Blackstone.) Hopefully, Google will revisit what is happening once they read this comprehensive report on the disastrous effects of negative SEO on innocent lawyer websites.

Look for Exact Match Do-Follow When Cleaning Your External Links Profile, Unless You Built a Lot of Spammy No Follow Links

What is a do follow versus a rel=”no follow” link? Simple, a do-follow passes “link juice” (learn more), which directly affects ranking. A rel=” no follow” does not pass link juice and only indirectly effects SERPS (an example would be that a site with zero rel=” no-follow links” looks unnatural to Google.)
Matt Cutts has already made clear that no follow links will not hurt you unless you have a lot of spammy (eg, exact match anchors), links. Or links from obviously bad neighborhoods are also bad. (Defined as a web page that has been penalized by a search engine (most notably Google)) So these sites were using shady SEO tactics, such as hidden text or link farms. Now they are pointed at your site on a large scale!. (Learn more about rel=”no follow” here.)

How do I Tell if a Link is Rel=” No Follow” or Do-Follow?

Ok, how is a basically trained attorney going to identify these do-follow or no-follow links? Well, don’t be alarmed first of all. So to begin with, no tag or identifier exists that says rel=” do-follow.” All links are automatically do follow unless the landing page itself gets no-indexed. So unless the URL is set up as a rel=” no follow” link with attribution is do-follow. Incidentally, there are also attributes like rel=” vote for” and rel=” publisher.”

I am chuckling because you are still left holding the bag trying to locate them quickly, right? Wrong, ahrefs, and all the other tools have a feature that allows you to identify and even filter out no-follow versus do-follow links. You can also use your mouse and right-click view source and the to an edit “find” in your toolbar editor and type “follow” and look for the links on the page. Below is a screenshot of how to filter the search to locate only the do-follow links feature on “ahrefs.”

You would simply login to ahrefs, and enter your url in the explorer box, and then in the left under BACKLINKS, click “Anchors”.  This will cause all the referring anchors to display, At which point, you click “DOFOLLOW” (See below.)

re="no follow" screenshots

Helping lawyers find no follows

Of course, you can also keep the anchor link search at default “all”, shown above. And in that case, ahrefs will simply show you an anti box next to each link to your target site. Here is a screenshot:

Ahrefs no juice passedExample of a search on ahrefs for lawyers seeking no follows

In the example above, you can see the anchor text “www.ehlinelaw.com,” is just a naked anchor from Scoop.it, so you are ok.  No need to disavow or try and delete that one.  You may even get some traffic to your site. Cool!

How Do I Find the Offending Site Owners and Hosting Company(ies)?

Great question.  Most of the time, they are privately registered. If not, they are different sites. So make sure to use the Google Translation Tool when you send a takedown.  In any event, we like to use http://who.is

Just enter in the URL of the offending site, and you will generally get domain registrar info, hosting info, and SOMETIMES the actual email contact of the site admin and owner(s). Most of the time, these are bogus email addresses and a waste of time. Sometimes you get lucky and get a response, as you will see at the bottom of this report.

Enter LSI as a Game-Changer

Some people did trash their crusty old sites. So many started over with new sites, and in most cases, and for all intents and purposes, unintelligible LSI written legal pages became the new backlink for law sites. In effect, write a page like Carl Sagan, or William F. Buckley Jr. spoke, and you will rank high.Ok, now that you get that let’s get back to brass tacks.

Is It Really Negative SEO or Is It Bad Content?

Great question, right? I mean, after all, you don’t want to go removing all your link signals, if it is perhaps the Panda punishing your site for duplicate, thin, redundant, or semantically poor site.

I would say in many cases, and it is terrible content.  But think about this for a minute. See if the stuff linking back to you is written anything like an over-optimized site. If so, you got trouble, buddy. So as you read the articles and content in the link snippet area that connects back to your attorney site, what do you see?

Do you see constant, repetitive words like:

“If you became seriously injured in a Los Angeles bicycle accident, accident lawyer attorneys for crash law are here to help at 888 SPAM-MENOW.” This is called over-optimization, and it used to work VERY well to alert Google as to the nature and intent of your domain.

If you see stuff like that on your site, or the site linking to you, no matter what kind of link, be it naked, branded, or exact match, get that link taken down by hook or by crook! Rewrite your site using the same natural language that an intelligent lawyer would generally use. (yeah right – no write like William F. Buckley Jr.)

Use semantically related words and phrases. Make sure sites that link back to you do this as a matter of common practice, or don’t rush to get that link! Understanding this so far?

It Could Be Both Bad Links and Bad Content

As noted above, it is possible that your site got a double whammy. So obviously, you need to be very careful. You need to look at the sites that are beating you and look at their content, backlinks, and other user signals and reverse engineer this. So don’t go running out disavowing links. But DO remove duplicate copyrighted content! Especially if it has links pointing back to your site.

Effect of the Google Links Disavow Tool

So many misguided webmasters try and sell us lawyers on the concept of simply disavowing the bad links. After all, so far, there has been no downside. But not so fast.  As will be discussed infra, Google does not even guarantee they will ignore all the bad links, and they even encourage you to get them taken down yourself.  For this and other reasons, I have VERY little faith in this tool.

How to Find Exact Match Anchors on Your Legal Website

Where are These Exact Match Anchors Coming From?

  • Ezine Type Sites
  • Press Release Sites With Do Follow Exact Match Anchors
  • Lawyers.com or Findlaw Sites that Constantly Get Scraped
  • Do Follow Wiki Sites that Allow Public Edits
  • Social sites that get scraped
  • Do Follow Forums
  • Do Follow Blog Comments
  • Cialis and Viagra Sites
  • Other sources -Porn, Russian, Chinese and foreign language sites of all types
  • Site-wide Sidebar or Footer Links on ANY of the above sites are instant death.

Efforts at Mitigation Must Follow An Understanding of the Types Sites That Google Does Not Like

Ok. So first let’s wrap our brains around Google’s hammering of Ezine in 2012.  Google basically said that article republishing sites are really not themed, most people don’t go to an ezine to find, say a lawyer.

And they are really just used to manipulate the SERPS, while offering no real value when they flood non themed sites looking for content filler, with duplicate articles, on say, their pool cleaner site(s). Incidentally, knowing this, if you are a negative SEO company, this is the first place you go to try and hurt someone right?


Of course, if you used exact match anchors in your ezine author’s box, and your articles were shared across a blog network of dry cleaners, porn sites, and other garbage sites, that definitely hurt and is hurting you. Imagine having links like “personal injury attorney” from a pool cleaner site.

Especially links from a pool cleaner site that was probably exclusively created with scraped or shared articles is terrible. No thanks. Penguin would hurt both the sending and receiving sites.

Attenuated Relations?

The contextual relationships between both sending and receiving sites are too far attenuated. (Penguin FILTER!) Besides, it is merely a duplicate article. (no value at all.)

So for our law firm, to mitigate, we immediately, within days of chatter about Ezine getting hammered in 2012, deleted our article sharing accounts on ezines, and ArticlesBase, despite all the traffic and lead generation we got. We decided we could see where this was headed. And we would rather not argue.

Lucky for us, the few sites that did pick up our articles were mostly rel=no follow.  But the ones that left the links as do-follow were usually cooperative in removing our articles with no real hassle other than the time it took to contact the webmasters. We did this within weeks of Penguin breaking in 2012.

Lawyers.com and Findlaw

This is a huge problem that was addressed by Pot Pie Girl, supra. Authority sites get scraped constantly, along with the links.  So this means now you have the ezine effect, with potentially hundreds of websites copying and pasting your content ad infinitum into a never-ending supply of scraper sites. There are only a few ways to deal with this, as will be discussed, the big question will be whether you own the content, or not.

Sites like Chimyen copy and paste every lawyers.com article and blog post onto their sites along with your links. (of course, it is a privately registered site.) Google knows it is a BS site. So the links to your site from them hurt you now. Understood? Hello DMCA. And this is when you use the DMCA.

Wiki Sites

Lucky for you, most of these sites allow public edits.  Many are do follow, unfortunately. So the best thing to do is remove your links and ALSO disavow the site, just in case it comes back again. This is the same firm, we opine, as they are still spamming the term “accident.” I posted a screenshot of this link scam set up below. http://www.lsi.us.es/~wiki/dsdm/index.php?title=Evaluate_Car_Insurance_Quotes_United_Kingdom&oldid=1014194

Evaluate Car Insurance Quotes United Kingdom - RedDSDM 2013-12-11 16-16-57As you can clearly see in the example above, it looks like a decent article and would probably pass ezine community edits, etc. But it is on a foreign-language site. Obviously, to Google, this is spam, as an English article on a French or Spanish site, it adds no value whatsoever.


Besides that, the wiki site itself is pure BS. It is filled with a bunch of commercial links and scraped content.  Even after we created an account and tried to remove our link off of this garbage site, the “wiki edit history” keeps the link on the site. So all we can do is disavow and pray Google will ignore it. We get links every day from garbage sites like this, and it is hurting us.

Social Sites that Get Scraped

It is common to see articles and news clips get scraped onto crummy networks of news aggregators with your links. Disavow when you find me to be safe.

Do Follow Forums

For years, there were primarily Indian based companies trying to sell people links from forum comments. Paid programs exist where people can mass submit exact match anchors to multiple websites. You need to disavow and contact the site owner who was spammed with your links, and do whatever you have to to get them removed.

When these Indian companies had their networks outed as spam after Penguin, many converted their systems over to paid negative SEO machines. So they probably have not suffered much.

Do Follow Blog Comments

Same as forums.

Cialis and Viagra, PORN It has long been known by Google that Cialis, Viagra, and porn, are highly spammed topics.  So if a negative SEO company can get YOUR law firm’s exact match anchor onto a few of these sites, you are toast.  His client pops up above yours, and you disappear from the first page for that keyword unless you are very aggressive and get Google’s attention.

So if you see sidebar or blogroll links, or if the entire site or page itself is dedicated to these topics, contact the site owner right away, as he may have been hacked, or at least let him know you are going to disavow the site unless your links are removed. http://exthoughts.com/article.php?id=20657

Other Sites – Porn, Russian, Korean, Chinese and Foreign Language Sites

Identifying a Low Quality Site Using Tools

Ok, so now what Mike?  There are a lot of ways I can get hit, but how do I even know?  I am busy running a law practice and pay someone else. What do I do?  Well, for me, I want to do it myself, since it could be those very people you are hiring who are using bad tactics that got you here. Or maybe they are not as savvy and sophisticated as they need to be to get a clean site.

So you can hire Eric Enge, or you can learn how to protect your own brand and use Eric as a consultant till you learn.  The only other person I can recommend is Andre van Wyk.  But for those of you with brass balls like me, you learn. So keep on reading.

Ok. So Now I have Identified What Types of External Links Google Doesn’t Like But How Do I Find Out If This is Happening to Me?

I am glad you asked.  So first, as discussed, there are several tools out there, from Majestic SEO, ahrefs, Open Site Explorer and so on.  They all offer a pretty much worthless free link tool that shows you a few of the links they found, as well as the anchor text, in relation to your site. And they all offer much better paid link detection platforms.

None of them seem to find all your external links, as they all DO return a few examples that one other detection platform may not return.  Google WM tools also offers snapshot of your backlinks, but fails to show the actual landing page, or anchors of the links to your site, so it is pretty much worthless too IMHO.

We Use Ahrefs Paid Tools, So this is What We Will Use Here

So for this query, you create a paid account with ahrefs.com, and then type in your site url.  Now there are several ways you can crawl your site. You can set it up to crawl only the externals pointing to your landing page itself, or you can set it up to find links to all pages on your site.  So for purposes of this tutorial, we are going to crawl for all links to each child page and the home page of our site.

*.domain/* is what you would use: See image here below >>>

ahrefs domainDomain

So go ahead and enter the url of your site into the explorer bar. Then click “Search Links.” Next step is to click “Anchors” on the left column.

Other Examples of  Attacks Against Our Law Firm Web Site

So using the tool above, searching anchors, you can find all the sites and the terms they link to you with. Although Google asserts these attacks are rare, we beg to differ.  Our rankings virtually disappeared compared to what they were, after these concerted attacks.

Bad Neighborhood Blog Networks.

(Typically a network of multi purpose blogs that are now being used to hurt sites, instead of helping them. Could be your own scraped content, or just a sitewide link on a bunch of PR0 sites that are probably already de-indexed or filtered by Google)

Ex. It would be a company that charges approximately $5.00 to $500.00, to blast scraped or user even generated articles to hundreds of sites that all use the same template, content and backlink blogrolls.

Here is a screenshot from a link to a very spammy template page we successfully had taken down on hundreds of sites using the same template:  http://car-info.netne.net/Motorcycles/Protective_Gear_On_The_Rider_And_The_Bike__otorcycle_Awareness_3965.html << We are in the process of doing a DMCA on this site now but wanted to be able to do a screenshot first.

Automated Domain Farm

Example of a Domain Farm

As you can see, this is a non-themed site that probably made someone a lot of money from ranking different types of sites selling sidebar backlinks that use scraped content as “filler.” Probably made someone money before Penguin, but now acts like a boat anchor on the rankings sites that it links to. The articles to our firm website are versions of ours but have been slightly altered and filled with multiple exact match links to our site. Clearly not done by us, or at our behest, but Penguin sure would think it was ours.

By the way, this is day two editing this article, and here is the response from the sending site’s hosting company. Site taken down, Victory!

DMCA Takedown Notice (submitted from website)

Hosting24.com <abuse@hosting24.com>

11:58 PM (10 hours ago)

to me




************************Hello ,Listed abusive account has been terminated. Thank You for taking the time to report this.It has been my pleasure to assist you today. If you have any further questions or concerns feel free to contact us again.Best Wishes,

Jillian N.

Help Desk StaffBusiness Enterprise Hosting Media



********************You have 24 hours to remove our copyrighted content here:


The Blame Placing

Later, in our email screenshots with the owner or controller of this network, it is revealed that someone, anyone can blast anything they want on a network of hundreds of partner sites. He alleges that it was done by someone else, another law firm in another state. He even provided me with information about who he thinks may have done it, that I forwarded to Eric Enge and provided the screenshot below.

There are many other sites in this same network that all HAD the same exact article and links embedded on them with the same exact template.  Most have been taken down at the host level, due to our aggressive tactics in notifying hosting companies and threatening copyright actions. At the bottom are the email screenshots with a list of other links on this network that took us months to take down. And of the colloquy between the admitted owner of many of the above domains and me.

Other Examples:

(porn sites with membership, dry cleaners, and other wikis with old publishing platforms or compromised interfaces that allow public edits with or without user logins.) Typically, although many of these sites have zero PR, and are probably deindexed, Google still counts the links from them.  This is why I do not believe a DMCA is even enough to clean up your backlinks. Assuming Google counts links on deindexed sites, even a DMCA cannot help you!

You have to get the content and the links removed to have security and peace of mind. Here are some examples of some screenshots of nasty sites that are linking to us that we do not want in our backlinks profile for the term “accident,” a highly sought after the key term for a catastrophic injury law firm!

Directory Listings:

  • Here is one with broken contact info and private registration. http://www.linkcross.info/index.php?c=44&p=51 <<< Disavowed since that was all we could do.

Directory Networks. This is typically a network of old school PHP directories that are paid or scraped listings of lots of businesses. (They typically use exact match anchors. These are for terms you already rank for. And this is to try and hurt you and make you fall.)

Neg SEO people use mass submission programs. And typically they blast exact match links to thousands of directories all at once. And they do it for the same term. Obvioulsy, this will create a huge link spike.

This, of course, will simultaneously trigger a Google filter that hurts your rankings. There is a screenshot below of directory listings we do not want. We did not pay, or ask to be in any of them. And we have repeatedly contacted owners from the data in the whois web reports.

Scam Directories that Put Links Up and Then Demand Payment to Remove the Links

At the other extreme, are these directories that started adding links with terms you want to rank for. Typically, when you go to the Contact Us, it takes you right to a “Pay $20.00 to remove your link” form. I can attest that we have spent at least $15,000 doing that in the last year and a half.

Below are screenshots of the site’s “contact us” forms. Also is the demand for payment of just a few of these sites. And oh yeah, we DID NOT ask for these links. Nor did we pay or do any reciprocal campaign. These are PURE extortion sites.

Scraper Sites:

Here is an example of Chimyen, a very low-quality scraper site that hides all of its contact data on who.is. And that scrapes content from my lawyers.com blog posts and the anchor text. It was killing me—every time I do a DMCA takedown on one of my posts, ten more pop up. So I disavow the entire site. And I keep on trying to get the content removed.

Example of content scraped:


Scraper site

This is one of the many sites that duplicate links and content that Google probably thinks our firm has something to do with.  But here, the source was on lawyers.com. We went so far as to delete the article off of lawyers.com, but it is still on Chimyen, and there is no way to content the site owner. Trust me, and we have TRIED.

Advanced Negative SEO Is Designed to Appear to Google that You Definitely Put Up The Links

Here is an example on a POS Cialis site, that any manual reviewer would say we created. http://exthoughts.com/article.php?id=20657 You can see that this company is targeting our home page for “accident”.

Neg Seo Spam


In the example above, starting in about November 2013, a string of articles like this started popping up in a hrefs linking to us for the term “accident.” The article seems like it makes sense at first glance. But when you read it, you are left scratching your head as to why it is on a Viagra site. But even more confusing is why anyone would link to a lawyer’s home page for the term “accident.” It is not defined on the lawyer’s homepage. It just is too slick.

It doesn’t make sense. Accident, in connection with personal injury, is not the same as it would be in connection with drugs like Cialis. In any event, a dictionary definition would be a better page to link to for this search term.

And that link does not even need to be there anyway. So this is precisely the kind of reverse-engineered negative SEO that triggers as suspected spam. I am no dummy. But as far as these tactics go, the level of sophistication is impressive.

This individual made me look hard. I had to read the article and look at the theme of the site twice before I recognized it as an unnatural link.

Cloaked Doorway links.

Here is an example of a link to our site we did not request that is buried in a porno site. It appears the Negative SEO company has hacked into a porno website and cloaked our link underneath images. http://udycomidec.comeze.com/p-government-building-san-francisco.php

If you click view source, you will see our links embedded into the porno site: “<p><a target=”new” href=”http://ehlinelaw.com/” >Ehline Law Firm | Aggressive California Accident Lawyer | Los …</a><br/>Serving San Francisco, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Orange.”

Whether to Use the DMCA or Disavow Tool, or Both, Depends Upon Many Factors

The Domain Copyright Act, or DMCA, can be a very effective tool for eliminating your content that you own from the Google index. Many of this scraped content contains harmful links to your legal website. Also, it creates a duplicate content penalty issue for your site.

The question to ask:

If it is your stolen content and you can prove it? And if you can, this is the best way to have the content and links deindexed. Google also takes steps to notify webmaster who is in violation.

Google will explain to them that their page was just de-indexed. Next, they will typically have to respond to a ticket that the page was ultimately deleted by that webmaster. Then Google closes the ticket(s).

In other cases, we have heard reports that Google also notifies the hosting companies.  (which we recommend you do first before notifying Google, Bing, and Yahoo!)  Normally the host will take down the entire site until your content is removed.

But as I discussed above, Google does count links in other de-indexed content with respect to blog networks. So why would it not still follow links in a copyrighted article that has been de-indexed, but not removed?

Are you getting this? Disavow for good measure. But don’t take your eye off the ball. Get that content pulled down!


So obviously, the DMCA provides the optimal muscles to remove content with bad links. Whether or not your article or copyrighted works were scraped from your article the Findlaw blog network, or the Lawyers.com legal blog matters not. After all, there is a chance the hosting company will force the scraper network to permanently take down your content.

So that should pretty much cover the DMCA as a tool. Soon we will go into detail on our view of the proper use and effectiveness of the disavow tool for all the other links that suck. But what about compensation for all the money you are spending to maintain your site?

You Have No Legal Basis To Demand of Someone To Remove a Link in Most Cases Unless You Own the Content The Link is Embedded in, or Do You?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes it clear that merely linking to a website is not illegal. And that even bad, false and defamatory content posted by third parties on a first-party site such as Yelp, for example, affords Yelp! protection. (Source.)

Anonymous Lies Ok?

Even anonymous reviews are deemed protected as far as the site where info is posted goes. This seems true unless the owner of the site itself is the person doing the negative reviews and negative SEO links.

In fact, there is a process in place to sue the actual party who posted the information. So, assuming they are not hidden underneath proxies and tunnel servers, etc, you have a chance. (Read more.)

In any event, at least one court has ruled there is no cause of action for trademark dilution, infringement, or unfair competition in those cases. Good luck if that is your argument.

Below are some snippets taken from Out-Law.com that explain what you cannot sue for with respect to backlinking:

“…hyperlinks do not transmit a work, (to which they link) they merely provide the viewer with information as to the location of a page that the user can choose to access or not. There is thus no communication of the work.”  (source) … “Just as an improved search-engine that improves the ability of users to locate material for which they are searching should not be required to obtain permission as a matter of copyright law, so providing links or access to material already publicly available should not be regarded as an act that requires any authorization” (source) “… every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by learning the uniform resource locator (URL) the court held.

The hyperlink technique obviates the need to enter the URL manually and merely provides an easier and more convenient way to use the internet.” (source) “… Kranten.com successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgment.” (source) [Emphasis]

Other Arguments Creating a Potential Right of Action

Since negative SEO is a relatively new phenomenon that Google is allowing at a level it was not allowed at before, it stands to reason that a creative attorney could sue the company selling the negative SEO services, as well as any co-conspirator.

In fact, many negative SEO companies are selling you the right to destroy the business. And with it, you can ruin the business models of competing for law firms.

Unfair Business Practices – Tortious Interference With Business

In other words, this is probably an Unfair Business Practice Under California Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et. seq. And it remains such bad faith, it seems a court could easily find an exception to punish bad actors with unclean hands. For example, some NegSEO companies will cloak the external links to your law firm site, into a porn site.

For example, and try and make it appear as though you did it!  This can also damage a lawyers’ non-virtual reputation. And it could get him or her into trouble with the State Bar. Something has to give.

Identity Theft

Remember Google punishes negative SEO based upon the premise that YOU did it. You built these bad links to your site. And Google promises to even assist law enforcement in their case against you.

Identity theft across state lines would entail the FBI getting involved as well, would it not? There may even be a private attorney general’s statute for you to recover attorney’s fees against Google for allowing negative SEO to be prfitable, if you were a smart advocate.

Other Ideas to Sue Bad Actors for Bad Links

We are still on the fence whether or not other claims could. And this could be sued upon like intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent and intentional interference with business, and so on. Because a link is not a protected trademark, it’s more akin to a library index card. But that does not mean the so-called “library index” cannot be used as a tool to hurt someone’s website intentionally.

It’s easily done, reducing its ranking, and overall brand value. Most of all, we think negative SEO has opened up a test area for lawsuits. But this does not mean you should not mitigate.

Mitigation and Why the Links Disavowal Tool Is No Ace in the Hole

You can try and mitigate by disavowing the votes to your site using a special tool. Google has already said there is no guarantee they will ignore the bad links.

External Links Profile Mayhem

And to top it off, the links will still appear in your overall external links profile. So you never really can monitor your true ratios of types of links until those links are gone. (View Source.)

A copy of what a disavow chart should look like

Please note that www is actually a subdomain of http://mydomain.com. So when creating your disavow file for uploading, make sure and make BOTH domain:www.mydomain.com.  And also use domain:mydomain.com on the list.

Get it? If not, I will be including a link to our current disavow blacklist below.

Please note that some of these sites are no longer alive. Or they may have removed our links. But I am not risking taking these sites off the list. These are sites we feel are bad.

When All Else Fails Return a Hard 404 and Delete the Targeted Page From Your Site

A hard 404 error returns a page not found. Inherently, Penguin seeks to punish a page ONLY for the terms it overoptimized. Did your “car accident” child page lost rank after a Negative SEO attack?

So now it does not recover. What next? You can ask the people who linked to you with GOOD links to like to a new page on your site for “car accident.” Then you can delete the old page and return a 404 page not found. But NEG SEO people typically target the first page of your site.

And this is true since most sites rank their home page for most highly sought after searches. Obviously, you do not want to return a 404 error against your main page. So you cannot always use this doomsday approach.

Evidence of an Ongoing, Current Negative SEO Attack Against Our site for the term “Accident”

This particular attack that we think started around November of 2012 is part of the foreign language Cialis ring. And obviously, it’s being done by a pro. They use the same templates for the most part. But they also mix it up. And they throw stuff on any foreign site. So they look at sites with open code or security holes, or lack of administrators to clean up spam.

I am now able to recognize the writing style. It is probably German or Swiss, based upon the translations and way certain words are reversed. I only know this due to my experience in foreign languages regarding male and female, formal or informal.

They are Spun

On one of the articles, on one of their sites, you can tell it is a bunch of spun, scraped content, combining divorce law, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., all garbled and non-sensical with legal terms.  It also links to one of my friends, Emery Ledger, an attorney in Newport Beach, California, and to our firm’s website with the anchor text “accident” once again.

This is a very persistent negative SEO company, or in house SEO person. And I have actually been able to get his IP address(es) (assuming he is not using a proxy, etc.), and email(s) contact(s) from a few of the sites he has spammed with links pointing to us.


We believe we have traced this person and connected the dots to another lawyer who dislikes both Emery and me personally. And we are taking steps to deal with this at the California State Bar level.

operation payback

The screenshot above is blurry so here is a copy and paste.

“RE: Feedback from Attorney Michael Ehline

admin FLV <admin@flvhosting.com>

Nov 29 (12 days ago)

to Attorney


Thanks for pointing that out

Here is the email address



Good luck

We will be deleting all content from this user account and advising of security changes needed to make

Mike McGuinness


Help Desk



Skype flvhosting


From: Attorney Michael Ehline [mailto:michael@ehlinelaw.com]

Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2013 1:25 PM

To: admin@flvhosting.com

Subject: Feedback from Attorney Michael Ehline

Department: Violations

Message: There is a person spamming your site and mine who is scraping our content. This is pure commercial spam. If it is not deleted we will disavow the site and use the DMCA. Here is the offending account. We would appreciate it if you would give if the e mail contact of the spammer so we can sue them. http://www.urbantelevision.com/blog/10937/driving-in-my-car-beep-beep”
As seen above, we got an IP and email to the actual spammer.  Our research on sreymeixi@hotmail.com revealed accounts set up as a man, and woman with various user names on easy to access spam sites throughout Russia, Germany, and other European countries.

Now, I have no way of knowing if this is a false lead. But we believe that in conjunction with the other evidence, the source was reliable, and not in a conspiracy.  So we researched the IP further, and among other things, we discovered that the IP range has been blacklisted for spamming on at least 20 domains. Sound familiar?  Check it now here.

The Evidence

Here are a few shots of this spammer’s work against us on other sites. You can clearly see the level of sophistication of this spammer.  And this really makes our site backlink profile look like we are a bunch of semantic dirtbags. Of special interest, in this below example, we have contacted the webmaster of AliceOcean at least 6 times with zero response.

It is so far removed from anything personal injury related. Yet it again uses the term accident with our home page link embedded into it. What on earth does a law for have to do with making a “spa more inviting.” Again, this is clearly being done to hurt us. Then when you look at the site itself. It has a bunch of random commercial links for home remodeling.


Clearly not a topical or theme relevant site. Clearly goes against everything I have been teaching my COLT members to avoid for almost two years now. Exactly what Penguin seeks out. Check it out:

Alice Ocean Negative SEOAlice Ocean Negative SEO

Here below, is another example from the same negative SEO spammer and it is really a whopper.  It is a Korean Language site.  A church for crying out loud.  You really couldn’t go much further off-topic from a personal injury attorney than a church. I mean, are you kidding me? Does Matt Cutts or Eric Enge really think I would ever allow this kind of crap?

Korean Church Negative Seo

Notice that this site uses the same template and comment section as the Alice Ocean Negative SEO site above it? Me thinks we are zeroing in on a blog network. In fact, this guy is so smart; he is even placing our links on a mirror, clone rel=”no follow” sites for the same anchor term “accident” here:



Here is another one for a Los Angeles accident attorney that talks about Chicago and mentions Pennsylvania divorce law, and even mentions one of my friends in OC. So this has got to end.

exboard - Outlines For Rapid Programs Of Accident Attorney 2013-12-11 18-22-27

Compare and Contrast

So after seeing the above screenshots, and comparing the content on our site, blogs and history of links to our site we knew it. For one, we do not put out this kind of content historically.  So this is poorly written, is usually placed upon a porno site, dry cleaner site, Korean church, or some other Russian Language Site.

What is advanced about it, is that a manual reviewer would probably assume our firm is building these links. After all, they are an exact match; they are being built “slowly.”

So perhaps one poorly written, scraped article with bits and pieces of content from other legal sites is the method to fool Google and hurt others.


In essence, these articles here are a montage of legal websites all spun into one article. So it looks plausible that we built that. But in the words of President Obama, we “didn’t build that, someone else built that.” The proof is below.

The E-Mail Colloquy Screenshots

Below, per the advice of Eric Enge, I am presenting what I believe is an extreme case of a deliberate and insidious, multi-faceted attack against the Ehline Law Firm.

Fake Accounts on Article Sharing Sites

One big problem is the deep thought taken by bad negative SEO companies to hurt top ranking sites. As I will show later on, one-way SEO companies try and spoof Google into hurting your domain, is to make Google’s manual reviewer believe it is you doing it. They want Google’s people to see you as the building the exact match anchor texts to your site. How this was done to us is astounding. And it really hurt us.

How do we know it hurt us? Because once we contacted each article sharing site owne. After we got the scraped and stolen articles removed, we popped back up for terms we had lost. Those terms contained the anchors, or related anchors to those queries.  How can we prove they were not our firm or my accounts?

Simple, the site owners themselves verified in writing that someone else was doing this, and pretending to be ME! In a few cases, I got IP addresses and emails. So I am going to provide them below. And this is gathered not just for you. It’s also for Matt Cutts and the Google Anti Negative SEO Team.

More Proof – Article Sharing Accounts Were Set Up In Our Name By Use of Fraud and Deception – Identity Theft

So you still think we are the source of all these shared articles Google? Hear from the actual site owners and see what they said and didn’t say about these article sharing accounts that they deleted for us.

First we have the honest webmaster approach from ezinemark. Next we have the neutral response. Last, the blame the messenger. (The standard Findlaw response.)

EzineMark 2013-12-11 14-41-50

articles.al.lv Contact form: - Negative SEO Spam - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 14-25-26

Your People Did it Not Me Excuse?

Here is one guy who swears our law firm’s “SEO Agency” did it. But he refuses to give us the “results of his investigation.” And he said he was reporting us to Google as “spammers.” But he linked to us and stole our copy! All these threats and insults came after we demanded he stop stealing our copyrighted content. Finally, he did agree to remove our content.

He must have learned how to deny deny deny from Bill Clinton. Keep in mind; we have never hired anyone to submit articles on sharing sites.

If we had, we would be able to log in and edit. Simple common sense.


Here is the first e mail to the Hosting Company

DMCA Takedown Notice: http:::society.ezine9.com:ehline.htm - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 14-30-09

Slanderous Defenses

So despite the slanderous allegations of ezine9, it appears they were using the CYA approach.  So when a lawyer sends an email, I guess denial is the game one plays. If we had placed these articles, we would have simply logged in and deleted them.

To Catch a Thief?

Obviously, this is a scraper site. Lesson learned, people get angry when they are caught. So try and be as civil as you can when asking them to stop violating your property rights.

Here is our email back and forth between that site we suspect that responsible for all these bogus domains linking back to us with exact match money terms.

1 - Emails DMCA Takedown Notice - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 18-37-49

As you can see above, all of these links are to a bunch of PR0 sites. I know this is the guy who is running the pay to post as I contacted him via the pay to post form. This is the only method he would respond to. So it goes on below.

The Heated Replies

And it gets heated. First he directs me to an old article that reflected Google’s pre Penguin policies on negative SEO. And next he admits that it is not me or my firm blasting the stolen content, but some other person

3 - DMCA Takedown Notice - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 18-45-20

As you can see, finally we are getting somewhere. But he still hasn’t given me the contact info or IP address of the spammer. At least I can prove to Google that our firm is not responsible for this garbage. Now if they could only tell their algo that. In any event. We were able to knock out hundreds of these sites.  But we stand ready for the next attack.

The Pay to Remove Your Directory Link Scam

As discussed above, rather than get rid of low-quality directories, enterprising scumbags found a way to make far more money than were selling directory listings to spammers.

As I said, we were loaded up with over a thousand exact match directory listings in a HUGE link spike starting in about March of 2012. It just does not make sense that negative SEO would start so soon. After all, they changed their policy in March of 2012. And that was just a month before the first iteration of Penguin.

Example Site:


Dec 4 (8 days ago)

to me

Please use following page to get link removed:


As you can see above, in response to a link removal request, this site directs you to a file extension that leads to paypal.

Here is one that makes you wait 3-4 weeks to remove the link you never asked for, or pay to guarantee removal now!

CostDirectory.com Contact Form : Attorney Michael Ehline

Helen at HitTool.com <helen@hittool.com>

Nov 5

to Ehline
Images are not displayed. Display images below – Always display images from helen@hittool.com Hi Michael Ehline, We are working on remove link requests. Your link will be remove within 3 – 4 weeks, in the order it was received.If you need your link to be removed within 48 hours, then we can do the express removal for only $5 and payment can be made via PayPal.

Best Regards,
Customer Service

From: Ehline Law Firm issuethewrit@gmail.com

Date: November 4, 2013 2:20:47 PM UTC

To: Helen at HitTool.com <helen@hittool.com.
Subject: Re: CostDirectory.com Contact Form : Attorney Michael Ehline

Name: Attorney Michael Ehline
Email: michael@ehlinelaw.com


We will pay you right now to remove this outdated link and listing, or turn it to rel no follow. Otherwise, we will proceed to use the Google and Bing ”Disavow tool”.

Los Angeles Injury Lawyer – Ehline Law Firm

Ehline Law, Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, is not just a Los Angeles accident lawyer. We are elder abuse lawyers and tort law experts—dog bites.



Ehline Law, Injury Lawyer  <issuethewrit@gmail.com>

Nov 5

to Helen

What is your paypal? I will pay extra to get it done immediately.

Helen at HitTool.com

Nov 5

to Injury
Images are not displayed. Display images below – Always display images from helen@hittool.com

Hi Michael,You may send payment to our Paypal account at paypal@hittool.com . Please let us know if you need more info.

Best Regards,
Customer Service

I am still trying to locate some examples of screenshot of Paypal forms many of these directories have at “Contact Us,” directing you to pay $20.00 to get your link removed. Trust me; there are a ton of them. I will add some screenshots shortly.

Backdating Listings and Articles to Make it Look Like The Site Owner Did It

In any event these NSEO evildoers are smart, they will backdate the posts and listings to make it look like they were added years ago, and do anything else they can to make it look like YOU did this, that it is an old listing, and not them.

They want your BS links to look “natural” since the goal is confuse the algo into hurting you for gaming Google.  It is more believable if it looks old and manipulated. Get it?

Resources: Ehline Law Firm’s Link Disavowal Blacklist.

Why Attorney is Better than Lawyer for the SERPS?

Lawyer Defined:

A lawyer, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is “a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counselor solicitor; a person who

Anthnoy Castelli attorney

Anthony Castelli Attorney

And most of us who studied law know it is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs. Also, it is designed to maintain the stability of political and social authority, and deliver justice. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who retain (i.e., hire) lawyers to perform legal services.

Attorney Defined:

An attorney according to Black’s law dictionary in the most general sense, this term denotes an agent or substitute, or one who is appointed and authorized to act in the place or stead of another. In re Ricker, 60 N. H. 207, 29 Atl. 559, 24 L. R. A. 740; Eichelberger v. Sifford, 27 Md. 320. It is “an ancient English word, and signifieth one that is set in the turne, stead, or place of another; and of these some be private * * * and some be publike, as attorneys at law.” Co. Litt. 516, 128a; Britt 2856.

One who is appointed by another to do something in his absence, and who has the authority to act in the place and turn of him by whom he is delegated. When used with reference to the proceedings of courts, or the transaction of business in the courts, the term always means “attorney at law,” q. v. And see People v. May, 3 Mich. 605; Kelly v. Herb, 147 Pa. 503, 23 Atl. 889; Clark v. Morse, 16 La. 576.

What’s the Difference Anyways?

google trendsClick to Enlarge

Most people use the terms interchangeably. But what if you are trying to optimize these words for search engine results (SERP). So take a look at Google trends to find out what the most popular word is.

Also, please notice this graph shows 100 being the highest of the trends for the searches on the web. Next, the color coordination is attorney in blue, lawyer in red, lawyers in green and attorneys in yellow. So to state the obvious, the word of choice to optimize for is attorney.

Plus, in the United States, it is searched over twice as many times as the word lawyer. For some reason, the plurals of the word are inverse to the singular. Also, the trends for all four words stay about the same.

So if you take a look at Google’s keywords tool, it shows 11,100,000 local searches per month for an attorney and 7.480.000 local searches for a lawyer. Again many more searches for the word attorney vs. lawyer. So this seems to verify that the word most searched on between attorney and lawyer is an attorney. As a matter of fact, the plurals were even comparable.

However, not so fast, as the Google keywords tool allows you to query for broad match, exact match, and phrase. And in an exact match query, an attorney is searched for 40,500 times per month, and the lawyer is 49,500. So below is how Google defines broad, exact, and phrase match.

Broad: To begin with, the sum of the search volumes for the keyword, related grammatical forms, synonyms, and related words.

Exact: Next, the search volume for that specific keyword and close variants

Phrase: Last, the sum of search volumes that include the whole phrase or near variants of the entire phrase

What About the Terms “Personal Injury Lawyer v. Personal Injury Attorney”?

Also, I suggest you try this exercise with a personal injury lawyer and personal injury attorney if you are seeking personal injury cases. But unfortunately, in smaller markets adding a geo qualifier such as Cincinnati yields negligible results. Of course, geo qualifiers are critical.

And remember linking should be natural. Also, too many exact match anchor text links can now backfire. Last, anecdotal evidence suggests that branded links such as Anthony Castelli Attorney are critical.

By Anthony Castelli Attorney practicing Ohio injury law at 8170 Corporate Park Drive #220 Cincinnati, Ohio 45242 513-621-2345

And Here are Some Other articles of interest:

A J Kohn Keyword Match Ratio

And check this out: What is ATTORNEY? definition of ATTORNEY (Black’s Law Dictionary)

Legal Ramifications of Google Admitting Some Sites “Excepted” From Algorithm Changes

Muno Ehline

Michael Ehline of the Circle of Legal Trust (COLT)

By Michael P. Ehline, Esq. – Most of us who are members of the Circle of Legal Trust, are aware of the definition of a “Whitelist”. Many have questioned why some websites, regardless of their quality, never seem to lose organic rankings or get hit by algo shifts, such as Penguin and Panda. This treatise intends to point out “negative SEO” done and the search engine level. It’s called whitelisting. And it touches other damaging traps for the unwary that can shut your site off from Google and Bing. This really should come as no surprise to anyone. So the questions remain: Is claiming that the search engine “exception list” is not a “whitelist,” and vice versa, ethical, or legal? And is the previous denial of their existence and SERPS favoritism an unfair business practice?

We Rely Upon the Fundamental Fairness and Promises of the Engines to Not Rig the Results

The engines all say that buying Adwords won’t help your organic ranking and vice versa. They say that engaging in white hat SEO is the only way you can achieve a good ranking. They say “negative SEO” is virtually impossible. (I beg to differ and on many levels) And basically, they imply that the algo cannot and does not show favoritism, for lack of a better word. In

California, Business and Professions Code Sec. 17200 et seq, covers unfair business practices. And this includes things like false advertising, etc. So if a jury finds against Google in the pending European case, this could end up in California courts. And it could end up in any state that regulates false advertising.

So this is a huge issue for my favorite company. And I am a G stockholder. Most of all, I write this with great dissatisfaction of what this could do to my stock prices.

Is Fairness in the Algo What We See?

We see larger sites that employ lawyer “blog networks.” (and also have a rather large PPC spend). And we see the sites they control and optimize for attorneys, etc. And these are lawyers who keep on ranking, no matter what new penalty comes down the pike to switch up the algorithm. (read more.)

But when real attorneys who are outside these networks, and who also employ similar tactics, we see them disappear from the SERPS altogether. So what the heck is going on? Is this all a conspiracy theory, or hype, or just paranoia, or all of the above?

Sites on the “Exception List” Don’t Get Hit – CONFIRMED

Google and Bing reps both admitted at SMX West in San Jose that this has been going on since last week. And they have lists of websites that should not be hit by algorithms. They call this the “exception lists” And in more general terminology, they would normally be called Whitelists.

Did Google Accidentally Leak Discovery Relevant to an Ongoing Dispute at a Conference?

Several of my attorney friends think that someone screwed up. There is a legal battle overseas, where a major contention is that Google plays favorites with certain sites by excepting them. But this honest and apparent accidental disclosure, took a conference at SMX to reveal this.

I bet Google starts sending its engineers and speakers to a legal course from now on. Google is currently involved in a legal battle in Europe.  And while this unexpected revelation was not intended to be harmful (to Google), it just could be.

Also, the term “whitelists” has been used with the European corporate counsel, who complained about Google in 2006. When the complaint was filed, it involved how some vertical search engines. Some got hit, and others did not, which is now being handled by the commission.

Attorney Julia Holtz, Google European corporate counsel in Brussels, said, the company does not “blacklist or whitelist” any websites. This brings up the question, were they truthful then, or are they truthful now? Is an exception list different than a whitelist?

What is the Difference Between a Whitelist and an Exception List?

What Google will say, is that it is not a “whitelist,” but rather it is an “exception list.” And this equates to the same thing in my mind, with Google making exceptions for individual sites. And this it has admitted. Supposedly there is no list for the latest Panda updates. But it may be made for sites wrongly demoted, which was a mistake in the algorithm that caused the drop.

That sounds fair to me. But the underlying question is why play hide the ball? Why not just have the lawyers admit this in legal proceedings. Why has this come out at an SEO conference? Clearly, someone screwed up.

Do No Evil?

My guess is overreaching counsel made several strategic and tactical errors here. I wonder what their hourly rate is? Maybe Google should hire me? I bet they would never get taken down for being a monopoly if they retained a few lawyers and me from the Circle of Legal Trust. Anyways, one of the main things about the complaint made by the Foundem is about being “honest.”

The claim made by Foundem was that Google was “unfairly manipulating results.” But Google claimed they did not change results manually, ever. What Google said, was that they could not change the results for Foundem’s, due to the algorithm.

But that does not seem to be true since it seems like they can do this. And aren’t algorithms manually created? Also, didn’t they finally admit that the algo is manipulated to develop exceptions? If I was on the jury, that is what I would find.

Google might find that the recent admission may not help their case in Europe. A good attorney can put this latest admission from Google together with the manual changes. One of the remarks claimed the spam team “is willing to take action manually if we get a spam report of off-topic porn and things like that.

So the judge would see that there is at least reasonable doubt about Google’s claims that they are not manually changing results.

Did They Cut off Their Nose with Their Latest Admission?

Honestly, I don’t blame Google themselves. I blame their lawyers. I have seen how defense lawyers play hide the ball, tick off judges and juries, etc. And this is precisely how and why many great companies get nailed with antitrust lawsuits.

And unless their lawyers have at least as much experience living, eating and breathing the algo like myself, for example, they are JUST lawyers. So unless they are constantly testing, learning from non-Google personnel and sources (SEO Moz, etc.), their defense attorneys are at a distinct disadvantage. And it would be no different than a general practitioner handling a quadriplegia case IMHO. Think about it.





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