If you’re not sure what a backlink is, it is simply a link to your website from another website. In previous years, it was common practice for ‘black hat’, and ill-informed ‘white hat’, SEO companies to attempt to boost a website’s traffic by posting thousands of backlinks on link farms and web directories. This led to Google re-examining their algorithm in order to remove any benefits from carrying out this SEO technique and, unfortunately, this has led to many legitimate website losing huge amounts of traffic. Thankfully though, there are several steps you can take in order to remove bad backlinks and stem the losses due to these updates.
What are good and bad backlinks?
Backlinks aren’t all created equally – there are good backlinks and bad backlinks. Good backlinks come in the form of organically generated links e.g. guest blog posts, social media activity etc. whilst bad backlinks are usually those found on so-called ‘link farms’ and directories. Good backlinks have a positive impact on your sites rankings and bad backlinks do exactly the opposite. This is why it’s important to understand and be able to tell the difference between the two, as you definitely don’t want to get rid of the good links. Taking a look at the URL of each link will give you a good idea of whether or not the link is one to keep or not.
Begin the removal process
You can find out all the backlinks pointing to your domain by using any of the free backlink checker tools available online. Once you have the list you should separate the good links from the bad links. Next, you need to contact the web master of the site where each link has been posted and ask them (nicely!) to remove them for you. It may take a while for them to comply or they may not respond at all but you need to gradually work your way through the list. To get in touch with each sites owner you can either use their contact form if they have one or you can use a whois search to find the admin info. If, once you’ve carried this step out, you still have bad backlinks pointing to your site, you can use Googles disavow tool. The Google disavow tool basically makes the backlinks appear as nofollow links meaning that they won’t impact your rankings any more.
To make use of the disavow tool you simply upload a text file with a list (one URL per line) of all the URLs you’d like to exclude from your site’s ranking metrics. You can either remove specific links e.g. www.url.com/link.htm or an entire domain e.g. www.url.com. If you want to include any comments in the submission, you can do so by prefacing it with #. Even after using the disavow tool, Google strongly suggests that site owners should make every effort to get the links permanently removed too though.
You won’t see results immediately by using the disavow tool and it can take several weeks for Google to work through them so you’ll have to wait and be patient before you’ll see any changes. You can find the disavow tool by visiting http://google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main.
Have you had experiences with bad backlinks pointing to your site? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below …