Websites with spam links should NOT be penalized by search engines due to the fact that just being on the search engines will overtime cause your website to be linked to by spammy low value webpages… You cannot protect yoursite from negative seo either, If google and other search engines continue to penalize site based on whether they have spam links pointing to there site we will carry on seeing a rise in negative seo but it isn’t just negative seo that webmasters should be worried about seo spam tools now have added features to add random urls scraped from the search engines and place them in random articles and spammy submissions to spam websites in attempt to make there spam look more natural to the search engines.. this means that even new sites that are just starting to rank or are quite far down in the search engines because they do not have many links yet and haven’t had a chance for people to find them will suddenly see a surge in spammy automatically created links which the webmasters of these sites have had no role in creating point to their sites… destroying there chances of ever getting to the top of search results. The same can be said by people hotlinking to your images and placing these hotlinks in bad spam webpages (another feature of seo tools nowadays). As you can see it doesnt have to be a webmasters fault at all yet search engines contnue to penalize sites based on something webmasters have no control over! The only websites to survive the natural accumulation of spam links are high pr authority websites with million and millions of links so the spam links dont really make much difference to their rankings.. however small buisnesses these links make all the difference and becuas esearch engines are the only effective strategy (You always have social media…. how ever social emdia is quite a rubbish way for businesses to prosper) for the small guys to hopefully get web visitors small businesses are doomed from the start. The sheffield seo expert seems to say the same kind of things as we do too.