President of Search Interactions, LLC
If your website’s organic traffic recently dropped, chances are you might have been penalized by Google. This may have been caused by unnatural links pointing to your website. How to clean up your inbound link profile is what this article will address.
If you have Google webmaster tools installed on your site, you might receive a message from Google warning you about the unnatural links pointing to your site. Check your messages in GWT. In some cases Google may include examples of the unnatural links within the warning message, but often this is not the case. This warning message may have been caused from an algorithm update, or your site was manually flagged by a member of Google’s web spam team.
In either case, rebuilding your website’s reputation will require you to examine your inbound link portfolio and remove the harmful inbound links.
Where to get your website backlink data? You can get a website’s backlink data from many places with different levels of accuracy. The first place to start is Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools, then you can look at other platforms like Open Site Explorer, MajesticSEO, LinkResearchTools and/or ahrefs.com.
When examining the backlinks on your website, there are many unnatural indicators to look out for. Here are some examples of unnatural linking behavior to look out for when doing a link audit:
• Paid links.
• Link farms/Content directories.
• Links that point to 404 errors.
• Majority of the links are pointing to websites homepage.
• Very little branded keywords.
• Many over-optimized anchor texts.
• Many of the same C-block IP addresses (links coming from similar IP addresses, check yours here).
• Anchor texts that are not related to the page it links to.
• Many site-wide links (lots of links from small amount of domains).
Some additional patterns to look at….
• Anchor frequency
• non-branded textlinks
• Article sites/spinning
• Sponsored posts
• Sponsored blogrolls
• Sponsored footer links
• Suspicious content page
• Suspicious domain
• Content mismatch
The idea is to identify patterns that stand out and look unnatural. For example, you might want to take a look at the title tags of the pages that link to your website, often this is an excellent indicator to determine if the pages linking to your website are relevant.
You have identified your bad links, now what? Try reaching out the webmaster of the websites that host your links and ask them to remove the unnatural links. This can be a very time-consuming process. Some website owners will even charge link removal fees. Alternatively, you can disavow the unnatural links by submitting a text document within Google Webmaster Tools. Be advised that once you disavow an unnatural link, there is no way to get it back, therefore, proceed with caution.
Look at this experience as an opportunity to optimize your inbound links, begin building natural links, and improve the algorithmic authority of your website.
Shimon Sandler is the President of Search Interactions, a digital agency that specializes in SEO and Social Media Marketing which is based in East Rutherford, NJ. Shimon is considered a thought leader in the field of SEO, and has been writing for the industry since 2004.
By Shimon Sandler