If your rankings in Google aren’t what they used to be, it may be the result of unnatural back-linking. While building backlinks for a website used to be a legit way to get ahead in SEO, Google now penalizes such tactics through manual penalties and/or Penguin algorithmic punishment. Either way, one of the clear paths to recovery is to start removing those old links you’ve been building in order to get back into Google’s good graces. Today we’re here to help you get started with link removal.
Do you Have a Manual Action Penalty?
When your website’s rankings drop from page 1 to page 10 over night, it’s hard not to feel as though Google has singled you out. However, this may or may not be the case. To check if your website has an actual penalty, go to Google Webmaster Tools and look at the sidebar on the left. You should see a “Search Traffic” heading. Click that to reveal some new options and choose “Manual Actions.” If you don’t have a penalty, your screen will look like this:
If what you see differs from the screen capture above, then yes, you have been penalized by a member of Google’s web spam team, and you’ll have to decide whether you want to go through the link removal campaign necessary to get that penalty revoked.
Penalty or No Penalty: Does It Matter?
Depending upon the penalty, the impact on your rankings and traffic could be mild to severe. If your penalty was assigned due to your involvement in link schemes, and you decide that you want to have it removed, you’re going to have remove the links first.
Moreover, even if you don’t have a penalty, but your rankings are still sunk, you may also have to do link removal in order to avoid more algorithmic issues in the future and perhaps even get a bit of a pardon when Google refreshes its updates. Think of a link removal campaign as something that could benefit you in the long-term but don’t expect short term gains.
The elephant in the room here is that by removing your backlinks, you’re taking away the foundation of your rankings. Even if their ranking impact on your site has been drastically diminished, they are still what are propping you up in Google. Remove these links, and there may be further declines. Whether you want to remove the links or not is not an easy decision to make. Many have decided that it may be best to just start afresh with a brand new website. On the other hand, the dining and ditching approach to websites diminishes your brand identity. If you’re swapping websites all the time, you’re not going to appear to have as much authority as a competitor that has stayed the same for years.
How to Remove Links
So, you’ve decided to go forward with link removal, or you’re at least curious about how it’s done. First, you want to take a good, hard look at your backlinks. You can download a list of links to your site from Webmaster Tools.
Step 1. Identifying Unnatural Links
The next part of your link removal campaign involves looking them over one-by-one, deciding which ones look suspicious or spammy. The idea is that you want to avoid links that were obviously built by you (or someone hired by you). Backlinks, by Google’s definition, should be an editorial vote from one site to another. In other words, they should be a completely authentic and natural vote of quality, as opposed to a link that was created for the sole purpose of pushing up your website’s Google rankings. Be objective and thorough. Still not sure what to look for? Here’s a tip: If the link’s anchor text looks something like this “house painting milwaukee“, or in other words, it contains a ‘money’ phrase that you would ideally desire to rank well for, then it’s an unnatural link, and you should strongly consider removing it.
Step 2. Removing Unnatural Links
So, you’ve gathered together a list of links that you feel are hurting more than helping at this point. Now it’s time to get rid of them. There’s no fancy way of doing this. You just find the contact information of the webmasters who own the website that is backlinking to you, and you write them an email.
Try to be nice in your email. Don’t make any demands. Just tell the person that you would kindly prefer that their website does not link back to your own and thank them for their cooperation.
Send out these emails and then wait. You may receive some responses, you may not. Keep a document that details this sort of information. Wait a week or so, and any links that haven’t been removed can then be submitted to Google’s Disavow Tool. This is something Google provides that allows webmasters, such as yourself, to completely disassociate your website from other websites that are linking to it. A webmaster can submit links to this tool in form of a .txt file. Simply include a list of URLs or domains (formatted like so: domain:sketchywebsite.com) and upload to the tool. Google then handles the rest.
When trying to remove a penalty, Google is clear that their web spam team is more receptive to a reconsideration request when it’s clear that a genuine link removal campaign has preceded it. At this point, it seems pretty clear that you should not submit links to the disavow tool without having tried to get rid of them first through link removal.
Also, please note that Google warns that disavowing links is an advanced feature. One can potentially harm their own website’s performance in Google if they are not certain about the process and its ramifications. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you contact a professional for link removal services.
As always, leave a comment below if you have a question or suggestion in regards to your link removal campaign!