The search engines critique and rank websites based on many factors including the authority of the website. Authority is partially determined by the inbound link portfolio of the website. The search engines conclude that a website that has lots of inbound links must be providing something useful to web users. This is why white hat SEO link building is such an important part of an SEO strategy. As a site grows over time it will achieve more and more inbound links naturally. Natural links are great, but webmasters don’t have complete control over what kinds of links are pointing to their site. Since the quality of links now trumps quantity (especially after the Google Penguin algorithm update), webmasters need to be aware of what their inbound link portfolio looks like by conducting an inbound link audit on a regular basis.
It’s important to be on the lookout for any links that could be considered “unnatural”. These links can result in warnings and penalties. Bad inbound links can occur for many reasons. “Content farms” could be pulling your content and linking over to your site. Competitors could be attempting a negative SEO campaign by submitting your link to spammy sites. Or, maybe you previously thought that any link was a good link and were participating in link exchanges or paid for links and now realize that that was a bad approach. Now that you’re aware that these links exist, it’s important to take the following steps to try and remedy the situation:
Step 1: Contact the Webmaster
After making a list of all of the bad inbound links that you have, the first step is to reach out to the webmasters of those sites and request that the link be removed. Most sites should include contact information. Keep track of who you’ve contacted and when you’ve contacted them. It’s not uncommon for these requests to be ignored, so follow up as necessary. It’s important to be persistent.
Step 2: Report the Links to Google
Via Google Webmaster Tools, report the bad links. Google may or may not take any kind of action from these requests but it’s worth making the effort to make sure that all of your bases are covered.
Step 3: Build New Links
It’s almost impossible to get rid of all of your bad links. That’s the downside of the Internet. It’s uncontrollable. In this case, the best option is to dilute the bad links by creating good ones. Engage in white hat link building activities on a regular basis and create great content that people will want to share so that the keywords grow naturally over time.
What’s important to understand when analyzing an inbound link portfolio is that every website is bound to have some bad inbound links. It’s nearly unavoidable in the Internet space where everyone pretty much has free reign to do what they’d like. What’s mostly important is the ratio of good links to bad links. If the bad are only a small percentage, it’s not worth worrying too much about. As long as the majority of links are good, you are implementing a white hat SEO campaign, and your business is active with other marketing efforts you will be OK.
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