A little over a month ago, we received an interesting email. A law firm from Austin, Texas (USA) contacted us regarding an image we used on our website.
Allegedly this photo have been created by an electrician company from australia and we would use it illegally (in the following the mentioned picture).
We ourselves had downloaded the image free of charge from the freely available image platform pixabay. It has long been advised not to use the images from image-platforms such as pixabay or unsplash or to use them only with the greatest care, as it is unclear whether the person posting the images is really the copyright holder. However, we ourselves had at least done research and looked to see whether the photographers of the images really exist and whether the images also appear on their other profiles. Although this is not 100% reliable, it does ensure a certain degree of safety.
To make sure that the law firm really existed and that this was not one of the typical spam letters, we had also checked the web presences, which were all present at the time and seemed serious.
But it gets much more exciting with the request: We are supposed to create a link to the mentioned electrician company from australia within 5 days below the picture or directly in the footer, otherwise a DMCA lawsuit would follow.
The demand sounds plausible at first, if there were not 3 serious inconsistencies:
- Why should an electrician company, which is specialized in house wiring, take pictures of the wiring of a server rack?
- Why would a law firm be hired if the only request is for a link (This should be quite expensive for a simple link)
- Why is the law firm located in Texas (USA) while the complaining company is located in australia?! Hiring a lawyer without any personal contact seems very dubious
Also the comparison with the photographer who has posted the photo at pixabay made us suspicious, as he is from Poland. According to this, the photographer has either not made the picture, or someone else is suing here.
A further search for the company address did not reveal a Google My Business entry for the law firm, which is supposed to have almost 20 employees. But Google My Business listings are actually very common in the U.S. now.
So we took the step and contacted the electrician company from Australia, because the whole thing seemed very strange to us, although the e-mail was very cleanly formulated (apart from certain legal phrases).
And this is where the unexpected happened. The owner of the company contacted us quite promptly and clarified the whole story in a certain way.
His company had received several e-mails from various companies regarding the lawyer's letter, which was not issued by him. He was not aware that such a letter was in circulation, he had probably only become aware of it through the increased number of e-mails.
In further communication, he then explained that he had hired someone on the well-known platform Fiverr to improve the SEO ranking of the site. This person had then apparently created the fake lawyer website, as well as set up the mail server for the domain and written to all users of a certain image with the same letter. Presumably, this could even be automated by using certain image comparison searches.
The most critical thing about this tactic is the damage that is done:
- Legal claims based on the fake lawyer's letter on behalf of the company.
- Damage caused by motley backlinks that contain a lot of nofollow and come from potentially a wide variety of industries and countries
- Critical jump in backlinks due to the demand to set the link within 5 days
- Potential penalization by Google's Penguin algorithm (penalization of purchased backlinks etc.)
In the end, it must be noted that this purchase from Fiverr in the worst case costs significantly more than the pure Fiverr package for SEO optimization. With such offers from platforms like Fiverr, which are offered at very low prices and usually guarantee rankings, should therefore always be cautious. A ranking can never be guaranteed, because too many factors influence the optimization. Faking the pure backlink profile may help in the short term, but in the long term it can lead to a downgrading of the ranking and thus possibly also to a loss of revenue.
Therefore, we always rely as much as possible on qualitative content and optimize the pages in terms of technical SEO. Google is now very well able to analyze the texts and also detect duplicates. Therefore, individual, detailed texts about your services and products can often bring much more than a simple backlink. With a well-managed blog, you also regularly bring new content, which can be helpful in many ways.
Thus, good blog posts on your topics will not only present you as an expert or someone with expertise, but they can also additionally improve your ranking, because these good articles are shared by real people. With a bit of luck, one of your articles will make it to another website and generate a relevant backlink there. In the end, this is also worth much more to you, because the user will probably follow it, since there is a relevant target for the user behind the link. With a photo link, you don't have this relevance.
We hope that we were able to bring this tactic a little bit into focus with this article, so that you as a website owner do not fall for the writing and you hopefully also question a purchase of SEO rankings via any marketplaces more closely.
Finally, we would like to thank the owner of the Australian electrician company, he allowed us to report on this story as long as we do not explicitly mention his company. Many thanks for that.