Several weeks back we caught a website stealing 20% of our pages and placing them on his pages.
We found out later that this guy who owned this website was an expert blackhat SEO. The website he owned in which he placed our content on had nothing to do with his industry at all but everything to do with ours.
We found out a bit later the work he was doing on his website was for a major compeitior of ours. I thought this to be very odd that a competitor would allow this black hat SEO guy use duplicate content to promote his site.
We were forced to hire an attorney to take down the duplicate content.
Upon futher investigation using Google WMT we found that this black hat SEO guy who was working for our competitor was pointing about 45 hidden backlinks on his website to our main domain.
I believe there was a malicious attempt to hurt our rankings and take us down.
WMT confirms that the links did exist and I believe these links were used to hurt us. Because of this tactic on July 28th we were hit with a minus -50 penalty.
Here's what I think happened:
This guy purposely stole 20% of our pages and duplicated them on his website.
Then he placed hidden links on these pages pointing them to our main domain, knowing full well this is against Google webmaster guidelines.
Then I believe he reported us to Google that we were were using duplicate content and hidden backlinks.
Google has no way of knowing that we have no affilation with this website. All they can see is that there was high amounts of duplicate content found and hidden links pointing to our website did exist.
Everyone has always said that backlinks to your website can't hurt you because no one knows for sure who sent them and what the intent was, but this guy seems to have found a loophole in which these hidden backlinks and duplicate content pointing to our site seemed to have done the trick.
We have been setup, now how do I prove it to Google and get back in their good graces?