This just disgusts me.
We have an internal page on one of our sites that's been doing a lot better in organic search since we did some work on it about seven or eight months ago, and in the last three months or so, it's been doing a lot better. I've been very pleased with the growth in traffic, the variety of queries bringing searchers to the page, and the number of conversions we've been getting there.
Someone apparently noticed that, and decided to try to hurt us by pointing a bunch of trashy directory links at the page. According to Majestic, the page had 100 backlinks as of July 9, and many of those were just internal links from our site. A week later, Majestic reported 218 links, and that number has continued to grow. As of this morning, it's 764 links from 189 domains on 29 referring IPs.
That last number is very telling. The vast majority of these links are coming from identical directories: same templates, same database, same listing for my page -- they're all even using backslashes in their snippets for the listing to escape an apostrophe in the meta description they're scraping.
They also have this in common: on every individual listing page, they include a PayPal button with the text
If you wish to remove this link. Please use above paypal button to pay $5 administration fee and link will be removed automatically once paid.
That appears to be the reason these directories exist -- to blackmail site owners into paying to have links from them removed. And if you're foolish enough to pay to have a listing taken down, there's nothing stopping them from replacing that one with 1000 more.