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Are links from article directories with relevant content OK?

Not that long ago – the main way to get more traffic to your website was using links…they were (and still are) the commodity of the web.  Now there are questions if you can still get/use without penalty links from relevant content in article directories and if that is seen as good or bad in Google’s eyes.

Matt Cutts talking about links from article directories:

Matt basically says the quality of the link directories has been on the decline.  I think Google’s ability to detect has just gotten better – many of these have been garbage for a long time.

“An article directory is basically where you write several hundred words of content and then you include a little bio or some information about you at bottom of the article, and you might have, say, three links with keyword rich anchor text at the bottom of that article. Then, you submit that to a bunch of what is know as ‘Article Directories’ which then anybody can download or pay to download them and they use them on their own website.”
Matt Cutts

These were a precursor to guest blogging, and people would search for keyworded content and if they found it – many use it or link to it on their site.  With all good things – it started out with good intentions and was essentially spammed away.

Google's Server Error page

Google’s Server Error page (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of the time – article directories are just poor man’s PR tools – where same amounts of copy and content are spread wildly over the internet.  Sometimes this was multiplied by auto-posting-bots which could literally post the article to thousands of blogs all over the world.

It appears Google has become wise to the auto-posters and it will be almost impossible to get SEO traction with ideas like these.  So – in conclusion, from a white hat perspective…probably a bad idea.

 

Recovering from SPAMMY links on your website

Google Earth penguin

Google Earth penguin (Photo credit: BoopBoopBoopBoop)

For people in the SEO industry, there was a time when names like panda and penguin only reminded of two harmless animals. The time of innocence is – alas – over and now these names are synonyms of the two algorithm updates, which dramatically changed the answer to the question: how do I rank number one in Google?  I need to be recovering from spammy links.

The Penguin update in particular (rolled out in 2012) hit those sites that presented an “unnatural” linking profile. Paid links, links from 5-post blogs, meaningless directories, blog networks, or from unknown forums or rambling comments on blogs, the vast majority with an exact keyword match anchor text:

Google took all this catalogue of rubbish 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 therefore income.

If you are one of those webmasters who saw their sites hit by Penguin or one of its updates, then hope is not lost, and in the SEO-sphere there are plenty of success stories of sites that started to climb the SERPS again.

Recovering from SPAMMY links:

  1. Once you have identified the spammy links, the first tool you need is patience: just like you won’t build a legit link profile in a day, recovering from a spammy one will take weeks, maybe months. And even if you manage to clean most of the dirt, you won’t necessarily jump back to the top, but at least you will start with a clean slate.
  2. Start earning white hat links. This is really something you should already be doing and considering that you might never get rid of all the bad links, then the good should outnumber the bad.  How?  Look for similar websites which you can link to and from.  This will build credibility.
  3. Now gather all the bad links in a spreadsheet and 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.
  4. For all the links that you won’t get removed, then you can use the google disavow tool, which was introduced by Google. With this tool, you are practically asking the search engine to consider that backlink as no-follow. One word of caution though: Google doesn’t like shortcuts and this is no exception. 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.

    Pay specific attention to the second and third sentence: you cannot just enter the bad links in the tool and consider it done, Google wants them removed from the internet.

That’s why sending email requests as first thing is so important to start recovering from spammy links and why the disavow tool should be used only when you cannot go any further. 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.

 

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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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