Brucie’s guide to manual link removal
Back in the day, getting lots of backlinks to your website was one of the most effective ways of boosting traffic to your site, and so improving your own Google ranking in turn. However, Google’s ever-moving goalposts now mean that what was a few years ago a standard approach used by SEO companies and have-a-go heroes alike is now a big no-no if you want to rank.
If you’ve been using backlinks to drive traffic or boost your ranking, and have recently found that your website’s traffic and Google ranking is dramatically down, chances are that you have fallen foul of one of Google’s newest algorithms or could have a manual penalty.
“Penguin,” released in 2012 and recently updated to Penguin 4, is one of Google’s many algorithms designed to weed out websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and identify those who use black hat SEO methods to manipulate the search engine rankings.
Creating unnatural links to improve your search engine ranking is frowned upon, to the extent that Google can and will penalise your website for doing so.
If you have backlinks pointing to your site that are not strictly relevant and reasonably exclusive, your website will get potentially red flagged and subsequently receive an algorithmic penalty. In addition, it is also possible that you could receive a manual penalty.
Sound familiar? If that is the case, then in order to get your site back on an even keel and appease the powers that be at Google, you will have to take steps to get these toxic links removed, which means going through the process of requesting the webmasters of the relevant websites, directories or link farms etc. to remove the links.
You can identify your problem links by looking at the anchor text of the links coming into your site. By examining these links, you can weed out the links that were placed for SEO purposes only, and target them for removal.
This may all sound pretty straightforward, and really it should be, but not all webmasters are keen to play ball, and sometimes you will have to go the extra mile.
This takes some effort and, of course, time, but the most effective way to do this can be completed in just a few basic steps, which we will outline below.
- First of all, you will need to audit all of your incoming links and sort through the good and the bad links. This can be done by identifying the websites that have been created for SEO benefit, which are often easy to pick out by the links anchor text.
- Next, find the contact details of the websites where the links appear, using tools such as Nominet or WhoIs if this information is not mentioned on the website in question itself.
- Make contact with the relevant webmasters and ask for removal of the links. Remember, getting off on the wrong foot early on is unlikely to pay off, so be personable, friendly and polite about it, and follow up on your request if you don’t get a reply within a week or so.
Some webmasters will expect payment or an incentive to remove links. Rather than telling them not to bother (or less polite words to this effect!), negotiate with the webmaster, and of course try to get a good deal and/or appeal to their better nature.
If you can make yourself stand out for the right reasons – make them laugh; personalise your message; draw an awesome doodle to accompany it etc. – you will usually find this the path of least resistance! As an example, we were asked to send a cupcake to one Webmaster, who following an in-depth negotiation accepted a unique piece of artwork based upon his childhood hero with the aforementioned cupcake.
Getting the links erased at source is of course the most effective way to resolve the problem, and will pay for itself in terms of your Google ranking and search visibility.
There is another way to work around the problem, by going directly to Google. This requires you to create what is known as a “Google Disavow File,” and this is a tool that Google created specifically to allow website owners to specify links that they do not want associated with their site, if you cannot convince the webmasters to remove them.
Once you have neutralised all of your toxic links using the steps above, it then becomes a waiting game whilst Google’s search algorithms and rankings catch up with the changes. Having webmasters remove the links directly is usually the fastest and simplest solution. Good luck!