In today’s hyper-connected world, reputation is everything. The Internet, once just a nerdy pipe dream, is – and this is putting it mildly! – now impacts the lives of consumers, business people, journalists, and just about anyone else with an Internet connection. Of course, along with that influence comes some measure of control. One false step by a politician or their Twitter team can send their campaign into free-fall. One drunken Facebook picture can cost someone his or her dream job. And what of the humble blogger or other such person who uses the Internet to provide a service or entertainment without ever seeking any kind of celebrity status?
Well, as they themselves know all too well, the enemy is SPAM in general, and particularly SPAM backlinks. Obviously SPAM is a problem on every corner and in every nook and cranny of cyberspace, but government agencies and big-name journalism outfits tend to have the dedicated resources to screen for it, and / or the budget to remove those links, comments, and other SPAM that manages to slip through.
The question, then, is not “How do we stop it?”, because frankly, you can’t. Instead, the more relevant question is this: “What’s the best strategy to get SPAM backlinks and other junk removed?”. Read on to learn the answer.
SPAM is as old as the Internet itself, so most people will know what it is, at least in a general way, just from hearing the word in context. Still, not everyone is so Internet savvy, which is why it’s important to define exactly what a SPAM backlink is. To be succinct, SPAM backlinks are like fleas on the hide of your digital puppy (or the analogically challenged, the puppy is your, or indeed any, website). They take without giving anything in return, and are a major nuisance to anyone plagued by them.
SPAM backlinks usually manifest in the form of comments to blog posts, replies to forum threads, and so forth. The offending SPAM – which, by the way, is just another way of saying “junk” – will contain a backlink. Backlinks are like breadcrumbs or a signpost pointing from one site to someplace else (usually the spammer’s own site or its affiliate(s). The goal of such things is usually monetary, but it can vary. For instance, SPAM backlinks may also be created on behalf of one’s own website without the knowledge or consent of the owners or administrators. Wherever they point to in the end, these SPAM links will hog site resources, damage your site’s credibility (no one likes to read machine-generated gibberish!), and generally cause a lot of unwelcome maintenance / clean-up headaches for those affected.
Worst of all, if your website gets a reputation with Google for allowing, promoting, generating, or otherwise engaging in SPAM-based activities, they may just decide to de-index your website, which is a fancy way of saying “Now you see it, now you don’t”. De-indexed websites can obliterate years of hard work in a millisecond.
When it comes to the removal of SPAM backlinks, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know the proper way to proceed. In fact, it may even be of greater importance, given that the primary SPAM removal gimmick at the moment is a pay-for-removal setup. Do you have, for example, a link to your reputable, well-trafficked website which is clearly spammy and hosted on a site that deals in illegal items that happen to be related to your own site’s niche? Readers will be surprised to learn the above scenario is relatively common.
If the answer to the above hypothetical question is “yes”, what should a site owner beset by SPAM do to remedy the situation? Most people, Google support staff among them, will just say to contact the webmaster of the site which hosts the SPAM comment. That’s a good place to start, sure, but there’s just one problem: These administrators will happily remove the offending link(s) – if you’re willing to pay. Now, understand something. These folks can name any price. They have you over the proverbial barrel if you don’t know how to beat them (don’t worry, by the end of this article, you will!), and in reality, there’s no guarantee of their word being any good. They may just take your money and run.
The moral of the story, then, is this: Never pay for the removal of SPAM backlinks! You may as well use your money to make a paper airplane, for all the good it’ll do you.
For all the grimness imparted to the situation of SPAM removal by the above section, there is a way to triumph. Best of all, this method of removing SPAM backlinks is both free and easy. The only problem is that most people don’t know how to implement it.
If you find a link referencing your site, or worse yet, hosted on it, that makes “The Big G” a little testy, it doesn’t matter how it got there. Google wants it gone. Fail to comply, and they may slap you down in the SERPs or de-index you altogether. So first off, you need to do everything in your power to get your site’s administrator to manually remove the offending link(s). Sometimes, though, that’s not enough. What do you do then?
You disavow them! This, in simple English, is a a simultaneous notification to Google that advises them of the spammy nature of certain links, and a request to them to both ignore and remove said links. Anyone can make a claim for disavowal, but restraint is advised, in that improper use of this procedure and its associated tool can do more harm than good.
With that said, the most obvious and most expedient method of getting rid of SPAM backlinks and other material that Google detests is to quite literally go to Google themselves for support. According to their Knowledge Base / support section, the disavowal process is a two-step dance:
From there, Google will do the rest. Congratulations! No more SPAM!
It is important to note that due to the way Google indexes individual sites and analyzes the Internet as a whole, it can take anywhere from hours to an indeterminate amount of time to get your list of alleged SPAM backlinks and other material reviewed and dealt with. Still, once this process has been completed, users can rest assured that it is indeed being taken care of. Additionally, SPAM lists uploaded via this tool will overwrite previous versions, so be cautious in your use of this utility!
SPAM backlinks and related junk material can be anything from a mere annoyance, gravely malicious, or anything in between. It’s important to treat them like crabgrass or an aggressive hedge, and to be proactive in combatting the problem. When that becomes too big a job, though, it’s nice to know that Google has your back! Thanks for reading, and happy hunting!