If you have any experience with search engine optimization (SEO), then you probably know how vital it is for your website or blog to have backlinks. For search engines like Google and Bing, backlinks serve as proof that your website or blog contains reputable and useful content. Therefore, many website owners seek out backlinks, because backlinks increase page rank as well as rankings in search results.
However, not just any backlinks will do when it comes to search engine optimization. One must acquire quality backlinks from reputable, popular websites if they want to benefit. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of acquiring backlinks from anywhere, including spammy, blacklisted websites.
While backlinks are definitely useful, spam backlinks will give the exact opposite of the intended effect. These backlinks will decrease your website or blog’s ranking and search engines and a lot of spam backlinks may cause Google to blacklist your own blog or website.
Whether you made the mistake of acquiring spam backlinks, or had the unfortunate luck of purchasing a domain with many spam backlinks, there are things you can do in order to “clean up.” Here are five spam backlink cleanup tips from professionals that you should enforce to get your website or blog back on the good sides of search engines.
Your very first order of business should be to use a backlink checker. It’s pretty much impossible to effectively get rid of spam backlinks if you have no idea where they are coming from and how many your website or blog has. Fortunately, there are many free backlink checkers online that will provide you with a backlink profile.
Some excellent backlink checkers you should consider using are as follows: BackLinkWatch, Ahrefs, Analyze Backlinks, Majestic SEO, as well as Open Site Explorer. You can also use Google’s Webmaster Console in order to see all of your site’s backlinks.
Once you have a list of all your backlinks, you need to identify the low-quality ones, so you don’t end up removing backlinks that are actually helping your website or blog. Typically, spam backlinks come from domains that are very new, domains with little to no traffic, from pages that have many, many external links, from pages with many ads, and from websites that have a page rank of zero or N/A.
One thing you can do is visit every single backlink and find the contact information of the webmaster. With their contact information, you can send them a request to remove a backlink from their website. Ideally, you shouldn’t simply demand that they remove it, especially if you were the one who put the backlink there in the first place.
If there’s a spammy backlink in a comment and you weren’t the one who placed it there, mention that in your request. However, if you were the one who placed it there, you can mention that Google is penalizing websites (Sprint, for example) for spam comments. Also, if there website really does look spammy, you can mention that you’ll have to use the disavow tool for any backlinks that aren’t removed, which may end hurting their website.
Requesting for a link removal can be very tedious, especially if you have many, many spammy backlinks leading to your website or blog. If you have the money, you can go to a website like Odesk and outsource the task of requesting link removals. There are also programs that will aid you with the task, if you’re willing to buy them.
Fortunately, Google recognizes that spammy backlinks aren’t always to blame on the webmaster. If a backlink is hurting your website, and removing it is completely and utterly out of your power, you can use Google’s disavow tool.
One can use the disavow tool to request that Google not take low-quality backlinks into consideration when assessing a blog or website. However, ensure that you put in a lot of effort to remove low-quality backlinks before resorting to the disavow tool.
There is a chance that Google may give you a manual penalty if you use the disavow tool without any evidence of you actually trying to remove the spam backlinks yourself. Overall, just use the disavow tool as a last resort, and you’ll be fine.
If most of your spam backlinks aren’t linking to your site’s homepage but to a regular page, then consider deleting that page and moving the content to a new page or 404-ing the page. If a page becomes a 404 or 410, then the links to that page won’t be considered by Google at all.
However, there are two major drawbacks to this method. The first drawback is that you might not be able to afford to remove the page with many spammy backlinks, as you may actually want to rank the page in search results. Also, your website or blog won’t be very SEO friendly if it has 404/410 pages, which may defeat the entire purpose of 404/410-ing the page.
If you have thousands of spammy backlinks, it may be best to simply start a new website or blog on a new domain. While a hundred or so spammy backlinks are manageable, albeit tedious, thousands of spammy backlinks are not. You will waste countless hours of your time just to make a tiny dent in your website or blog’s recovery.
In such a case, it is better to abandon your website (perhaps temporarily) and start a new one on a new domain. However, don’t delete your old website as a Penguin refresh may revive your website in the future.
Of course, the number one way to deal with low quality backlinks is to have never had them in the first place. Typically, you can easily prevent spam backlinks by not placing them there yourself, because that is how most low quality backlinks are established in the first place.
Don’t link to websites that probably have a bad reputation, like illegal websites and porn sites. Avoid buying backlinks because search engines like Google only like natural backlinks. In fact, speaking of Google, the company made it crystal clear that they consider buying and selling backlinks as spam and that they will treat it as such.
Having backlinks from high page rank websites is obviously a good thing, but it isn’t the only thing you should be striving for. If a website or blog happens to only have backlinks from high quality websites, it won’t look authentic at all.
Another method of prevention you should enforce is checking the backlinks of a domain before buying it, especially if it’s a quality domain. It would be terrible to spend hundreds of hours on a website only to discover that its domain is plagued with spam backlinks.
As you can see, there is no reason to panic and lose hope immediately if your website happens to have many spammy back links, no matter if you are to blame or not. If you follow the above five spam backlink cleanup tips from professionals, your website or blog will most likely be on the road to recovery in no time.