Archive for January, 2013

Removing Bad Backlinks – New Year Resolution #1

January 7th, 2013
Backlinks2

Removing Bad Backlinks - Do It!

One of the most important website ranking factors is the number of backlinks you have.  A backlink is simply a link on another website to your website. In the past it seemed that he who had the most backlinks had the best rankings.  So, many questionable search engine optimization tactics included getting the most links you could – even if those links were basically spam.  This tactic seemed to work well for quite a while.  Then along came Google’s Penguin Update, which seeks to find spam and penalize those websites that rely upon it.  If you have questionable backlinks and have seemed to somehow skate by this update, consider yourself lucky – but beware.

A Case Study On Just What Might Happen If You Don’t Consider Removing Bad Backlinks

I had a client who was ranking very nicely for a well-searched keyword as a result of the services of their previous SEO company. They came to me because they also wanted to be found locally.  After reviewing their website, I was surprised that they were ranking so high as their site was not well optimized.  So I dug further and looked at their backlinks.  There lied the answer.  They had a tremendous number of backlinks, but 98% of them were spam.  Bad SEO practices were working.  I advised them that their backlinks were questionable at best and could pose problems in the future.  They decided, against my advice, to ride it out, not wanting to take the risk of a drop in rankings if the number of their backlinks dropped. So, I simply went ahead and optimized their site for the local markets, for which they also ended up having high rankings.

Those wonderful rankings lasted for 3 months!  In June, the Penguin Update caught up with them.  The client’s rankings tanked.  Nothing on their website changed.  No real new backlinks had been created.  No new competitor sites were launched.  I suggested that the decrease in rankings was Penguin related.  So, they retained me to get those backlinks removed.

How To Remove Backlinks

Unfortunately, there is no real quick fix. It is actually a very time consuming process, but one is this definitely necessary.  I started with a thorough backlink audit, identifying the good and bad links using a backlink check tool such as SEOMoz Open Site Explorer and good old hand done research.  I then went to each bad backlink website and manually requested that each of those bad backlinks be removed – either through contact boxes or direct email.  Unfortunately this is not as easy as you may think.  Some sites did not have contact information, so I had to do domain ownership searches.  I used a site called Domaintools.com.  To try and save time and money, I had the client reach out to their original SEO company for all of the contact information; however, the company insisted that they did nothing wrong and would not provide anything.  So I continued on.  When I finished I compiled an Excel spreadsheet highlighting the website address and date of my removal request.  I then used this information to file a reconsideration request with Google outlining all of my removal requests and any problems I had encountered.

The Benefit of Spending Time Removing Bad Backlinks

Wouldn’t you know it, within a single month the client’s rankings rose again – actually they were even better than they were before.  If you haven’t been hit by Penguin, lucky you.  If you are experiencing a drop in rankings, you may want to look into those backlinks.