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The Complete Guide to Removing Unnatural Links Pointing at Your Site

google penalty traffic copy

Link building is vitally important in any SEO strategy, and over the course of time, some rather dodgy links could crop up in your link profile, and could eventually prove to be rather detrimental to your site. Also, unnatural links are particularly pertinent when you’re taking on a new client who has a rather… questionable history when it comes to acquiring links back to their site.

In this post, I’ll run through how unnatural, poor quality links can be detrimental to your website and it’s standing in the SERPs, and also how I go about analysing a link profile and diagnosing which links need to go, as well as the subsequent link removal process.

Unnatural Links Effects

Whilst some just fancy a bit of spring cleaning so to speak, the process of evaluating and pruning your link profile generally stems from these links having an effect on your site in the SERPs. As well as this, there’s a notice you may receive from our online overlords Google.

Now, there are two types of unnatural links message that you can receive from Google; one which is more of a piece of advice, and another which is an actual warning. The latter of which contains a warning sign in the message line, which lets you know that you’re in a bit of bother.

warning vs advisoryImage courtesy of Search Engine Land

Analysing Your Link Profile

If you’ve been contacted by Google regarding your link profile, and/or you’re certain that your link profile is proving to be detrimental, it’s time to go through your link profile with a fine-tooth comb. Whilst this may seem daunting, and possibly tedious, there are a plethora of tools out there willing to aid you in this process. Here are the tools which are used during the process which I use in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak:

Ahrefs

Google Webmaster Tools

MajesticSEO

Open Site Explorer

GWT certainly shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to the link removal process, considering that all of the links which you’ll find within your GWT CSV are definitely on Google’s books, so to speak.

With all of these tools, you can grab a CSV of all of the links on your website that these sites have found whilst crawling your site.

These tools all work similarly in the grand scheme of things, but using them in conjunction with one-another proves to be very fruitful when it comes to acquiring a link profile.

After you’ve got these together, you’ll definitely want to compile all of these within a master spreadsheet, just so that you have somewhat of an overall hub to work within.

Link Detox Tool

link detox tool

Here’s another tool which plays a massive part in my link removal process, the Link Detox tool provided by Link Research Tools.

With this, you can enter the targeted website, as well as the links which you’ve accrued from the aforementioned tools into the Link Detox tool, and it will provide an analysis for your link profile, with it highlighting which links are known as Toxic, sorting all of your links by the risk of the link’s effect on your website.

One last thing; I’ll add somewhat of a disclaimer for this tool. Whilst it serves as a great overview as to which links could be detrimental to your site, or toxic, there needs to be a bit of elbow grease involved here as well.

You shouldn’t just take this tool’s word as gospel and bin every link it tells you to, it’s definitely for the best if you use this as a guide, and sort the links yourself.

Link Removal Process

Now that we’ve gone through the ever-so-fun process of analysing a link profile and identifying which links will be placed on the proverbial chopping board, it’s time to remove the links.

When you’re definitely certain that you’ve picked out which links are having a negative effect on your site, there are a few courses of action which can be taken; contacting the webmasters, using certain tools to automate the process, and using the Google Disavow tool.

Now, the latter of which requires quite a bit of deliberation, and you’re warned by Google themselves about the potential troubles that could crop up if this tool is used incorrectly:

google-disavow-link-warning

I’ll speak about the disavow tool in more detail a little bit later on. In the mean time, the other option is to actually contact the webmasters themselves.

Now, the way you go about this is important, you’ll need to be tactful with the message that you send to the webmaster. Here’s an example of an outreach message which I’ve sent to webmasters in the past, and has proved successful:

link-removal-request-emailOf course, there are ways to automate/outsource this process (as there is with most things), as you can use different services such as Buzzstream or hire someone on oDesk in order to gather the contact information and actually send out the removal requests.

As I alluded to, there are plenty of tools out there which can help you in the general link removal process; from acquiring the contact details up to the submission of a link removal request, with such tools including Buzzstream and Rmoov. You can also delegate the link removal requests out to others via services such as oDesk and Fiverr.

Finally, there is the usage of the Google Disavow tool. In this process, this is to be used on any links which you know are having an ill-effect on your website, but haven’t been able to be removed over the course of previous processes, such as the site having no visible contact details.

Takeaways

  • Use several different tools in order to compile a list of the links towards your site.
  • Identify the low-quality links within your profile – do this through your own analysis as well as the helpful guidance of the Link Detox tool.
  • Contact webmasters (through whichever means you see fit) and ask them to remove the offending link.
  • Use the Google Disavow tool to sweep up any low-quality links which are still lingering within your link profile.

That’s the general process which I go through whenever I’m conducting a link removal process. I’ve mentioned a veritable feast of tools which help during this; are there any tools which you use when removing links from a link profile? Which other steps do you take during the overall process? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

About the author:
Liam McCarthy is an SEO Engineer at Wow Internet, a UK-based Digital Marketing agency. Liam has a lot of experience in working on Google penalty recovery projects and has done so for a whole host of websites across the world. You can get in touch with Liam on Twitter or through Google+.

Guest Author
 

  • Nice post, Liam. With the rise in websites that have incurred search engine penalties, it’s important not to just rush in and disavow everything (we’ve seen too many webmasters do this and it’s not the best way to approach it) – start getting links manually removed and it will hold you in good stead – plus, you don’t get skewed link analysis in the future like you do with disavowed links.

  • imo link detox is overpriced and doesnt really work – as they have no real connection to googles db.

    • I can’t say much because I haven’t really used it. But, manual evaluation generally works best for me.

  • Spook SEO

    Nice post. I think the outreach letter is too long though. Looking at the letter at a glance seems a handful to read. I also wouldn’t say “this could cause your site to be flagged”. To the wrong reader, this can be viewed as a threat.