Recovering from Spammy and Bad Links

Humbolt Penguin at Whipsnade Zoo.

Humbolt Penguin at Whipsnade Zoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pandas and penguins used to conjure up memories of nice, interesting animals…but now – for the SEO minded people, those names are now code names for two of Google’s algorithm updates, which dramatically changed the answer to the question: how do I rank number one in Google?

When and How to fix Bad Links?

The Penguin update in particular (rolled out in 2012) hit those sites that presented an “unnatural” linking profile. Paid links, links from low-post blogs, meaningless directories, blog networks, or from unknown forums or rambling comments on blogs – with a vast majority with sharing an exact keyword match anchor text: Google took all this catalog of low quality backlinking techniques and made them useless in one fell swoop.

The result was a drop of ranking for many sites, with the inevitable consequences of huge loss of traffic and in turn a huge loss of  income.

What to do?

If you are one of those webmasters who saw their sites hit by Penguin or one of its updates, the first thing not to do it panic.  First make sure all your other tings are up to par – take our free SEO check, if you have questions about on page SEO to make sure.

Once you have identified the spammy links, the first tool you need to use is patience.  It will take time to get this “back to normal”.  Just like it took you a long time to get back into the upper ranks, you will not build a solid link profile in a day – recovering from spammy links will take weeks or months.

Even if you manage to clean most of the low quality links – it will be hard to climb back to the top, but at least you will start with a clean slate.

Phase 2:  Link Building

I know – right, that’s what got you into this mess.  Kind of…we’re talking real linking building – white hat links. This is something you should do anyway, and considering you might never get rid of all the bad links, then the good must outnumber the bad.

Link Undoing

Gather all the bad links and put them in a spreadsheet.  You want to try and ask for these links to be removed…send an email to each webmaster, asking to remove them. You will succeed, but you will also be ignored and even asked to pay money to have the link removed, but try and go through the whole list before you move on to the next step.  Even if it is a simple form letter – it will be better than nothing.

I hereby Disavow You

For all the links that you can’t get removed, we need to disavow, using the tool which was recently introduced by Google. With this tool, you are practically asking the search engine to consider that backlink as no-follow, a word of caution though – Google doesn’t like shortcuts and this is no exception.

Google has a strong warning – and this is very important to note when disavowing links:

This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.

On the page of the tool it says:

If you believe your site’s ranking is being harmed by low-quality links you do not control, you can ask Google not to take them into account when assessing your site. You should still make every effort to clean up unnatural links pointing to your site. Simply disavowing them isn’t enough.

This is why – back up in “Link Undoing” we ask you to do every effort you can to get them removed manually…it is just not always possible.  The words are chosen carefully and notice Google’s statement “you cannot just enter the bad links in the tool and consider it done, Google wants them removed from the internet” – they will be aggressively following up on the sites you identify, so be careful.

Conclusion

If you have a huge list of links you want removed, the email outreach route will be a long, probably mind-numbing task. Yet, it’s necessary to make sure that the next close encounters you will have with a penguin will only be at the zoo.  Good luck and let us know how it goes – what works and what doesn’t.

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