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Cleaning Up Your Link Profile

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Webmasters around the world have been waking up to the unpleasant news that Google is doubling its efforts to prioritize quality in its search results by reclassifying inbound links and penalizing those with ‘poor links.’  It has sent thousands of emails since April alerting webmasters to the fact that their sites have garnered artificial or unnatural links, which it says are outside of its best practice guidelines. The emails encourage webmasters to clean up their link profile and if links that have been bought, are unnatural or the result of participation in link schemes can’t be removed, to list them in the site’s reconsideration request. Google has also gone on record as saying that those who don’t take heed of their link warnings will see their sites begin to slide down the rankings.

It isn’t possible to wield control over every domain that links to your website. For years, web publishers have posted content, sent out press releases, guest blogged and poured heart and soul into social media in order to get links. But when your news is published, your blog is used or your social media site goes viral, anyone can like and link. So how on earth do you go about building a link profile that Google won’t take issue with? And if they have sent a link profile warning, how do you go about the mammoth task of deciding what stays and what goes (providing you can control it in the first place)?

1.      Remove Poor Links

If you have used blog network or used link schemes, revisit the scene of the crime to remove those links. As a rule of thumb, any link that was created just for PageRank sake goes against Google guidelines. That doesn’t mean you need to remove all of your links though – use common sense, look at how many other links are on the page, is the linking page related to your topic, is there a justifiable reason it should link to you? If you spent a lot of money on directory submissions in the past, it’s a bitter pill to swallow that some of the listings will need to be jettisoned but again, be selective. Don’t remove the ones that are respected and relevant to your industry but do remove the ones with little or no value. Look for pages that group together hundreds of links and ones that mishmash link subject. Look for ones with poor or no PageRank as that could also be an indication that they have recently been penalized by Google also. The recent announcement of a “disavow link” option by Google can also help, but be sure to follow Google’s instructions on doing so very carefully, and be cautious in the application of this option.

2.      Target Better Links

A better link profile can be achieved by adding better quality links – targeting good quality links takes time but will bring up the overall quality of your link profile. Good quality links are much more powerful than poor so you need fewer of them to make a difference. There are a plethora of ways in which you can start to build good quality links including guest blogging, publishing whitepapers and sponsoring a relevant conference or seminar. Joining industry bodies such as the Better Business Bureau can also throw up link opportunities while providing great networking and customer engagement opportunities.

3.      Be Selective About Social Media

Social media likes and usage is now a ranking factor, making a powerful social media presence a good substitute for lots of links. Having a twitter page with lots of fans and retweets, that is full of useful article links, content and dialogue with other users is often enough to influence keyword rankings. Having a fruitful social media account that can take the place of lots of links isn’t possible if you spread resources too thinly as often there won’t be enough good material and time to go round. Be selective about social media and pick just one or two channels to focus on – Facebook and Pinterest or Twitter – and really take time to build a busy, interactive and on-topic profile.

Image: Linking by Shutterstock

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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