Not all inbound links are good from an SEO perspective. Within the last few years the search engines (Google, specifically) have been putting an emphasis on the quality of links over the quantity of links. Google wants webmasters to focus on building links of value rather than attempting to gain a link from anywhere just to try and achieve SEO success. In its attempt to curtail spamming practices and be more transparent about its ranking algorithm, Google now sends a notification to webmasters through their Google Webmaster Tools account alerting them when unnatural links are detected. The notification doesn’t necessarily mean that a penalty has occurred, but simply serves as an FYI. However, if you receive one of these warnings it’s important to keep an eye on your traffic. If there’s a significant dip, it could mean that a penalty occurred.
If you’ve received an unnatural links warning it is in your best interest to do the following:
1. Create a list of all inbound links
Depending on the age of your website and the kind of link building activities that you participated in, your site could have thousands of inbound links. Even if you’ve kept records of all of the links that you’ve built through the years, there are probably plenty of links pointing to your site that occurred naturally over time that you don’t have any record of. Pull a list of all of your inbound links in Google Webmaster Tools to start. Since each SEO reporting platform pulls data in a slightly different way, it’s also recommended to use a tool like SEOMoz and Majestic SEO to generate a more complete report.
2. Carefully analyze each link
Once you’ve collected all of your inbound link data, the next step is to go through the list and visit each website one by one in order to determine which ones are bad and causing the unnatural link warning from Google. Unfortunately this is a manual process that takes some time.
3. Remove the bad links
Once you’ve figured out which links may be the ones causing the issue, reach out to those website owners or bloggers and request that they remove the links pointing to your site. Removing links isn’t a high priority on the lists of website owners so this could take some time. Keep organized throughout the process and stay on top of which sites you’ve sent requests to and which links have been removed. In some cases, it may be helpful to utilize the Google Disavow Tool, but only extremely experienced webmasters should even think about this.
4. Focus on building good links
In some cases it’s nearly impossible to get rid of a bad link. This is why every website is bound to have at least a few of them. The search engines typically look at the link portfolio overall. If the good far outweigh the bad there really isn’t too much to be worried about. That’s why it’s so important to spend time researching link opportunities that are niche specific, network with others in the industry, get active in social media, and be on the lookout for guest blogging opportunities.
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