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How To Clean Up Your Inbound Link Portfolio

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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.

Image: Cleaning Up by Shutterstock

 

About the Author

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of http://www.Brick Marketing.com/. With over 12 years of experience, Nick has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing, and internet marketing experience, Nick has successfully increased the 
online visibility and sales of clients in all industries. He spends his time working with clients, writing in his blog, publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter (read by over 130,000 opt-in subscribers!) and also finds time to write about SEO in some of the top other online publications,

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3 Comments

  1. So I'd like to offer a slightly different perspective. From 2006 - 2008 I created hundreds of contextual links per day for sites all over the country. This was pre panda/penguin even pre google slap down for this type of thing, at least in 2006 and most of 2007. The thing is websites were buying links like crazy, because they worked, then. Fast forward to 2012, I now receive about 1 request a week like the one you recommend in this article. They are garbage. :) Not trying to knock the article, it makes sense, but it misses a fundamental issue at best and possibly panders to the audience of the article at best. What's the pandering part? The concept that a competitor might have bought those links to take you down. yes that is theoretically possible and occasionally happened. However, in the 06-08 time frame, 99.9% of the time all the link building came direct from the site company themselves buying links wherever they could get them. Every recommendation or article I've read on how to fix panda/penguin problem always panders about this issue, instead of coming out and saying. You bought links, Google is penalizing you now, fix it. This is extremely important to recognize, otherwise following the suggestions of this article and any like it will be fatally flawed. What's the flaw? That the advertiser, the person that bought the links, the company that bought the links, did no wrong (at least in Google's universe). From Google's perspective, they did wrong. However, Google and search consultants will always shy away from saying that for fear of upsetting their clients or Adwords advertiser or worse. Then they send out one of these boiler plate emails asking for the removal of a link, and they get results that are usually only slightly better than terrible. Here's an example of an email I received today: Hello, You currently have a link on your site pointing to our OnlineWebSpamLandingPage.com website. We have recently received warning from Google that they are suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding this, and we want to make sure that you are taking the necessary precautionary measures so that your site is not adversely affected. We are requesting that you remove the link back to our site. The link on your page can be found at the URL below: http://oneofmysites.com/some-blog-article-from-2007/ Please let us know once the link has been removed. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Best regards, As the owner of oneofmysites.com this outgoing link is not my problem. They paid me to put that link there way back when. In fact the agreement required me to leave the link there for the life of the site. If I remove the link and they have not provided me permission to do so, I'm in breach of contract. Not to mention, as things went way back when, in the early days, I was paid a lot for links. As things rapidly raced to the bottom (think blog crack) prices went way way down, until ultimately, I quit and moved on to something else. Regardless, there is absolutely ZERO reason why I should remove this link today for some spammy website, that paid me a super low nominal fee 5 years ago to put it there. In the early days of receiving these ignorant email requests, I'd offer to clean up any links for a nominal fee of $20-$50a page (I experimented with prices). That was after speaking with a friend at an SEO firm in San Francisco that routinely offers $50 Amazon gift cards whenever they make their requests. In all cases, the person was not interested in paying for my time. So I posted their request, my answer, and their original link order on Matt Cutt's site and reported it directly to Google. I included my site holding the link, still to this day. You see, my site was penalized long long before panda/penguin. Advertiser sites have only recently started to feel the pain of their actions. Keep in mind, in my response, I never threatened the nuclear option of reporting things to Cutts and Google. I'm not interested in blackmail. Quite to the contrary, several of the responses I received, threatened to turn me into Google for requesting payment for my time in trouble. Well, it was no trouble for me to come clean with their actions and turn myself and them into Google. In fact, it is relatively liberating. :) So before you send out some email requesting some site or blogger or forum owner to go digging around in their archives, find some old post or article and edit it or delete it. First, consider what your role in things was. How did you get in what Google later made a bad neighborhood? (redlining the internet to make up for a flawed algorithm ) Second, Will your request make things better or make things worse? What tone will you use? Are you letting sleeping dogs lye or are you threatening them with a stick? Are you offering them a snack, a steak? Third, How much will increasing your ranking increase your ROI? Do you expect to get something for nothing? Back in 2006, 07, 08 I know that I made a lot of sites a whole lot of money boosting their ranking. I received a one time piece work fee. Not a percentage of the profits, not a yearly retainer, not even a text-link-ads recurring monthly fee. Most bloggers that engaged in this activity are in the same boat. Most of us have moved on to many other things, and frankly don't have the time to waste with any of this anymore. If you do expect to get something for nothing, then you are a fool that will likely soon be parted with their ranking.

  2. Albert Ross

    I am curious to know how one can remove a "bad link" from Google. Bing has a disavowal method and Google announced they were developing one back in June and then not much or have I missed something.

  3. Fred Waters

    From what I have been seeing no one is recovering from the Google penalties and that cleaning up links is a waste of time. If you were manually penalized or was penalized by the Penguin update you are in Google Hell. There are countless stories of individuals who received a notice and were told to get "expert" advice from the Google forum. They spent countless time and money (sites are charging to remove links), and it is all proving to be a futile. What is aggravating is that Google is not providing clear cut guidelines. Some may argue that point. I got penalized on 4/24. I've had a "professional" SEO firm analyze my site and I still do not know if the penalty is from "unnatural" links (Really, is there such a thing as natural links in niche markets). Or have I overoptimzed my site. I've worked on both and have seen no impact. And what is furstrating is that Google is penalizing sites for practise they were rewarding for years. After the first Panda update I dropped in the rankings. I would do a backlink check on PageRank on my competitors and Google was listing bogus directory links, links in blog rolls, worthless blog posts and countless other unnatural links as trusted sites. So guess what, I had to get similar links to continue to rank. So now we are told that you have to get natural links, and of course there are countless companies that will charge you big bucks to get these "natural" links. What the hell is a natural link. It is a link that you got without any asking. Any other link is "Unnatural" by nature. And the bottomline in all this insanity is that at least in my niche the quality of the results have tanked. In fact, you have a good chance of ranking if you have a web site that is in barely comprehendable english with a bunch of links that are from blogs that is a bunch of jibberish. One person suggested that Google had a minor illness and instead of taking a couple of cold tablets they did open heart surgery, which resulted in further complications.