| by Click Consult

A guide to link auditing and removal

A guide to link auditing and removalA guide to link auditing and removal

There used to be no such thing as a bad backlink. Website owners would employ automated tools to spam the web with links and super-charge their way up to the coveted top spots on google’s SERPs. It worked.

As a result, online searches would be littered with irrelevant, low-quality website pages.

With SERPs being Google’s most precious asset, the search engine set out to eliminate unnatural linking techniques as part of their perpetual mission to find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfil the searcher’s information needs.

On 24 April 2012, Google introduced its Penguin algorithm, which unveiled and devalued websites with unethical backlink profiles. Two years on, Penguin has changed the linking landscape forever. As well as eliminating spam from search results with Penguin, Google takes manual action on sites that employ unethical linking technique by demoting them in search rankings or, in serious cases, removing them from search results altogether.

While the search engine’s users have undoubtedly benefited from increasingly relevant search results, online businesses have been suffering. Luckily, there are strategies that can be implemented to identify, remove and recover from unnatural backlink initiatives.

What are backlinks?
Backlinks refer to incoming links to your website from other domains; they indicate to search engines that your site is valued by users. To detect the quality and relevance of a backlink, Google’s spiders analyse a number of factors, such as:

  • The authority of the linking site
  • Whether or not the link looks natural
  • The relevance of the link’s anchor text
  • The subject matter that appears on the linking page

Websites that have a healthy backlinkprofile are likely to be valued by users and it’s probable that they will ultimately befavoured in SERPs by Google, too. It shouldbe noted, though, that Google’s algorithmsalso consider a multitude of other factorswhendetermining your site’s position in SERPs, such as the quality of thecontenton its pages and how easily your site can benavigated.

What is a Goolge penalty?
In its simplest form, a Google penalty refers to a restriction placed upon a site which
prevents it from ranking highly in SERPs or, in serious cases, results in the site being removed from SERPs altogether. The offending site will be issued with a manual penalty or, the next time Google’s spiders crawl it, the site may automatically be demoted in SERPs by Penguin. This is commonly referred to as an 'algorithmic penalty'.

Regardless of the form of penalty your website has received though, even a small dip in traffic is bad news for companies operating within the competitive online sphere.

Manual penalty
A manual penalty is issued by Google. It places restrictions upon individual websites that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines.If you have been issued with this form ofpenalty, you may notice that one of yourwebsite’s pages – or a number of them – have stopped appearing in SERPs. This indicates that your site has been issued with a partial matchmanual penalty. If your website hasbeen eliminated from SERPs altogether, this suggests that you have been issued with asite-wide manual penalty. 

Algorithmic penalty
Unlike a manual penalty, an algorithmic penalty occurs naturally when Google’sspiders crawl a website and discover recentunnatural linking strategies. Google hasreleased various algorithms that unveil andpenalise different forms of spam; in terms of linking, it is Penguin’s rules that websitesmust conform to.

How could you get a penalty? 
Any links that have been created to manipulate a website’s place in SERPs may be considered part of a link scheme, which violates Google’s webmaster guidelines and could result in your site being demoted in search results, or extricated altogether.

Here are some examples: 

Bad neighbourhoods
A bad neighbourhood refers to a collection of interlinked websites or link directories that have been penalised in the past. Sharing your server with a large neighbourhood of websites that have a penalty history could put your site in jeopardy of being demoted, no matter how ethical your links are. Similarly, backlinks that point to your website from a bad neighbourhood can harm your site’s authority. 

Bought links
Buying links to manipulate your site’s position in SERPs includes exchanging goods or services for links and trading money for links. Such actions are classed as a defilement of Google’s guidelines.

Link networks
The phrase ‘link networks’ refers to multiple websites that operate with the sole intention of increasing the ranking of websites in SERPs. The content found on link networks is rarely high quality as, by their very nature, most link networks are built purposely to dupe Google.

Over-optimised anchor text
While most SEOs have understood the importance of natural anchor text for years now, Penguin has recently underscored how imperative it is to avoid over-optimising anchor text. When used excessively or irrelevantly, anchor text indicates to Google that you are attempting to manipulate your place in search rankings.

Link auditing
Removing a Google-imposed penalty is rarely an easy process and, if the link auditing and removal process is conducted incorrectly, it’s likely that Google won’t revoke the penalty. If you suspect that your website has been hit with a manual or algorithmic penalty as a result of unnatural links, you should conduct a link audit.

This will allow you to identify unnatural backlinks that point to your site from websites that break the rules set out in Google’s guidelines.While a link analysis can be executed manually, this is a time-consuming process. We recommend streamlining the link analysis procedure by utilising a trusted link analysis and cleansing tool.

Link removal
The backlink removal process involves contacting the owner of each site on your finalised list of URLs that need to be removed and asking for the links to be deleted.

Work through the list of URLs you compiled during the link audit process, contacting each webmaster to request removal of the offending backlinks. Some webmasters may not be contactable - keep a note of these.

Once you have requested link removalfrom each website a reasonable numberof times, create a document listing the websites that did not remove the links.Compile a separate list of websites that have honoured your link removal
requests. You can submit this with your reconsideration request to Google, to
illustrate your link removal efforts. Simply ‘disavowing your links’ without attempting to get them removed will probably result in your reconsideration request being rejected.

We can help
With a 100 per cent success rate in recovering penalised web sites, Click Consult can assist you with any element of the link auditing, removal and recovery process.

To download your free ‘Link Auditing, Removal & Recovery’ eBook, visit: www.click.co.uk/resources/ebooks/link-auditing-ebook/

Tel: 0845 366 7586
Email: hello@click.co.uk
Web: www.click.co.uk
Twitter: @ClickConsultLtd

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